Finding out who someone is after death - and especially after many years - is part detective work and part guess work.
You might have to take a leap of faith or you might get lucky. At Genealogy Investigations we are constantly surprised at how little things add up. This is a great story of how doing just that led to the discovery of who an earthquake victim was.
Sister Ignatious died in the collapse of a building at the St Joseph’s convent in Hawke’s Bay’s 1931 earthquake but no one knew who she really was.
Initially only identified by the name she took on joining the Catholic religious order, little was known about her other than her father was a farmer in Dannevirke called Mr Walsh.
In 2016 Ancestry began a project using every scrap of archives, records and previous research done to look at who the earthquake victims were.
Detective work by the Ancestry project bringing together genealogists and historians uncovered a local girl whose parents were settlers in Hawke’s Bay.
They found Sister Ignatious’ name but not who she was.
With just two small pieces of information - a last name and a location they began the hunt.
A Barbara Walsh, buried in the Dannevirke Settler’s Cemetery, was a possible clue.
They used a technique we also use. Sometimes you have to go back before going forward.
Barbara Walsh was born Barbara Lumsden Pratt in 1851 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland to James and Isabella Pratt.
By 1901, records showed she married James Walsh in St Patrick’s Church in Masterton and in 1907, on January 15, she had a daughter Mary Deeley Walsh.
Sadly, just two years later Barbara died, leaving her young daughter and husband.
Researchers scoured records but could find nothing to suggest Mary Walsh ever married or died.
With few public records to go on, they reached out to the Catholic Archives who referred them to the Religious Order of Our Lady of the Missions who usually undertook to educate women and children around the world.
It had been four Mission sisters who arrived in Napier to begin the Mission’s work in New Zealand.
They did know about Sister Ignatious but little about Mary Walsh herself. Crucially they knew her date of birth - January 15, 1907 matching rural girl Mary Walsh - with Sister Ignatious.
She is buried in the Taradale Cemetery under the name Mary Ignatious Walsh.
Her father, who survived her by seven years, is buried in Mangatera cemetery.