Early Polish Settlers


What made families in the 1870s move from central Europe to the other side of the world? Why did they choose to make new lives in a British colony they had little information about, and where they did not speak the official language? In whom did they trust to help them make their decisions?

The first story on this page, the conundrum of nationality, attempts to put into context some of the dilemmas faced by those early settlers—mostly born in Prussian-occupied Poland at a time when Poland did not exist on maps. Although Polish in spirit and speech, when they arrived in New Zealand, they were often defined as German or Prussian. Their tenacity and determination helped them overcome the hardships of living in new settlements with little or no infrastructure, a new official language, and seasons and countryside completely different from what they knew in old Europe.

polish anchors 1872-1876 recounts stories of the first large groups of Polish settlers in New Zealand. The list of early polish settlers is self-explanatory. We know the list is not complete—and probably never will be thanks to the corruption in names. We encourage people to contact us if they know of any omissions, different spellings or maiden names that would help connect families. The marshland pages give a flavour of life in Christchurch in the late 1800s. jackson’s bay 1874-1879, resolutely untamed uses an 1879 Commission of Inquiry to highlight some of the hardships settlers endured in this remote West Coast region of the South Island.

Thank you to all who have already contributed to our family stories pages. It has been a privilege to get to know these courageous, stubborn, hard-working and honest people who did not let swamps, forests or bigotry hamper their dreams. I look forward to finding out more about them.

Get in touch with us through the link on our home page.

—Barbara Scrivens