About Me - Clive Sowry

My research experience spans over thirty years.
In the mid-1970s I began to research aspects of the history of film making in New Zealand. Because very little had been published on the subject, I had to seek out and make use of original sources such as surviving documents and contemporary reports in newspapers. The history of film making in New Zealand is an on-going interest and my research in this field continues.

In the mid-1980s I also turned my attention to my family history. As a child and young man growing up in New Zealand I had an interest in our history but because of family circumstances I knew little of the part my ancestors played in that history - where they fitted in, what they did, how they contributed to the development of the country and the nation.

It was only in quite recent years that I discovered that my grandfather had served at Gallipoli in the First World War. He served and suffered the hardships and horrors of warfare before he succumbed to illness and was invalided home. Unfit to return to his job as a miner, he worked on the railways until his early death in 1935.

My paternal grandfather also served in the First World War - in the trenches of France. He was shot in the head while taking water to his fellow soldiers in no-man's-land. Had the German sniper been more deadly in his aim, I would not be here to tell you this tale. My grandfather survived, returned to New Zealand, and married my grandmother, whose mother, in turn, although a New Zealand resident for more than forty years, was registered as an enemy alien, being of German birth. My story, (and this is only a small fragment of it), like the stories of many thousands of ordinary New Zealanders, could not have been told were it not for the written records preserved in the archives and libraries of New Zealand, and the research I have done to compile it.

Although personal and family records may have been lost through neglect or deliberate destruction, it is still possible to piece together fragments of a person's life from the records dutifully kept by government clerks and officials, in accordance with some statute, or as a record of debts incurred, or of personal rights and property. Or records may have been published in a gazette, newspaper, or magazine, reports of events - a marriage, a trial, an inquest or obituary - or notices of births or deaths.

And the resources are richest in our national institutions in Wellington - the National Library and Archives New Zealand, the home of the records of government administration. They are public institutions, open to all, but not everyone is able to visit (particularly those whose home is distant from Wellington) and relatively few people have developed the research skills to find and use the resources effectively. Skills developed researching one's own family history, or local history, or subject interest, can be put to use assisting others to do the same. This is the service I offer.