Grave Discoveries

by Amy Boswell-Hore

August is Family History Month! To inspire our future family historians, we want to show you some of the tools you can use to start creating your family tree. All of these are either free or can be accessed using your local library. 

Graves and their related materials are a wonderful way to get basic information about people in your family tree. Such as full name, birth and death dates, people’s ages at death, and potentially the names of other family members.

Let us see what we can find out about one of the people buried in the St James Churchyard next to Lower Hutt’s War Memorial Library: William Arthur Grace.

Gravestone of John, Anna Maria, and William Arthur Grace at St James Churchyard in the Main Section – 5 – B – Plot 74.
Hutt City Libraries collection.

The inscription reads: “In loving remembrance of John Grace who died May 15, 1886 aged 78. And of Anna Maria, his wife, who died October 21, 1886, in the 75th year of her age. Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom. William Arthur Grace, died 13th July 1932, aged 87.”

Hutt City Council’s Cemeteries Search

If you want to find a grave of a relative that lived in Lower Hutt, but are unsure where they are buried, you can use HCC’s Cemeteries Search. This database was created by the Council Archives and 27 Lower Hutt cemetery sites are included.

A burial register entry may contain:

  • Name, address, age, and occupation of the deceased
  • Dates of birth, death and of the service
  • Location of the grave
  • Religious group and minister performing the service.
  • Funeral provider.

But it is important to note that these records only include what was recorded at the time and may, therefore, have blank sections. It is also possible that some information is incorrect as it was provided by family, friends, or even strangers in some cases.

Searching the website you will want to enter as many details as possible to narrow down the cemetery records. For instance, if we just searched the surname “Smith”, we would get 26 pages of results to sift through but adding the first name “John” narrows that down to 11 results total.  

Hutt City Council’s Cemeteries Search on William Arthur Grace

William Arthur Grace’s entry does not give any more detail than what was already on his gravestone.

  • His full name was William Arthur Grace        
  • He died on 13 July 1932
  • He was buried, rather than cremated, at St James Churchyard in the Main Section-5-B-Plot 74
  • At his death he was 87 years old, meaning he was born in 1845 or 1846.

We can, however, investigate his parents records as well as they were buried in the same plot and the records may reveal more information. Their records include their funeral dates and cultural preferences; in other words, the type of funeral they had. Both John and Anna Maria had an Anglican service, which makes sense as St James is an Anglican church.

Records of William Arthur Grace and both of his parents from HCC Cemeteries Search.

Billion Graves

If your family was not buried in Lower Hutt, you have other options to explore. The first is Billion Graves. Billion Graves is a world wide collaborative website where people can upload photos and descriptions of individual graves in their area. So far, 111,805 graves have been recorded in Lower Hutt including ones from as late as the 2000s. You can create a free account and if you pay a subscription you get greater access.

There are also links to potential records on the person related to the gravestone; however, be cautious with these. Most of these records are from the United Kingdom or United States of America, rather than New Zealand and you may be misled.

Billion Graves on William Grace

William’s grave has been recorded in detail, including photos, the epitaph, description, and links to pages for other people buried in this plot. This information would be particularly useful for people who do not have immediate access to the gravestone and are researching from afar.

Find a Grave

Like Billion Graves, Find a Grave is another universal collaborative site that works in a similar way. You can create a free account and log in and find over 31,000 graves listed in Lower Hutt over 18 cemeteries. Or you can log into the Library edition of the database that links through to the Find a Grave site. There are over 220,000 mentions of deaths or burials in Lower Hutt covering all time frames.

If you are looking for a certain gravestone that has not already been put onto the website, you can log in and ask a volunteer to take a photo of it for you. This is another way to learn about ancestors from afar.

This website also links people to potential family members of the deceased, but take these with a grain of salt as they are user uploaded and sources are not required.

Find a Grave on William Grace

This time, there is a photo and basic information of William’s grave listed on the website.

Along with his parent’s profiles, William has four siblings recorded as potential family members, but “Anna Grace” and “Anna Marie Grace” appear to be the same person with slightly different birth dates. Therefore, it is more likely that William had three siblings rather than four.   I suggest further research.

The results for William Arthur Grace on Find a Grave. Library edition

Using Hutt City Council Library computers or your own devices in any of Hutt City Council Libraries you can access the library edition of the database Hutt City Libraries eResources Family History and search for information on family members.

Here you can get more in-depth information on your family member, such as electoral rolls, census information, military information and more grave records.

Hutt City Libraries eResources Family History

William Grace on Library edition

Searching William Arthur Grace you will find more information about his burial as well as electoral rolls which we can use to trace his life. The electoral rolls reveal that he spent much of his life in the Wairapapa and Wainuiomata as a farmer, but also lived in Palmerston North working as a joiner in the mid- to late-1890s. In the 1920s he retired to Seatoun, but still classed himself as a farmer on the electoral roll.

The results for William Arthur Grace on the Library edition of

Papers Past (NZ)

Another tool to get information on your family members is the website created by the National Library of NZ, Papers Past. Papers Past is a collection of digitised historical content from New Zealand, including newspapers, magazines, and letters.  The newspaper section is a great place to find obituaries and newspaper articles.

Papers Past on William Grace

By searching William’s full name and death year this is what is found.

His death announcement in the Dominion gives his death date, address at the time, and confirms his age at death as 87.

His obituary gives more detail about his life: where he was born and when, how he came to New Zealand and his life as a farmer. 

His death announcement in the Wairarapa Daily Times highlights that he was one of Wairarapa’s early settlers.

Who was William Grace?

William Arthur Grace – born September 29, 1844, in Northumberland, England – moved to the Wairarapa with his family when he was 6 years old. They sailed on the Northfleet in about 1850.

The Northfleet later sank in the English Channel in January 1873 after being hit by another boat.

His parents were John (died May 15, 1886, aged 78) and Anna Maria Grace (died October 21, 1886, aged 75).

These people are named as his siblings:  Anna Marie Grace (1837 or 1838-1877), John Laybourne Grace (1838-1890), and Nathaniel Grace (1840–1904). William was the youngest and the longest- lived. 

William worked mostly as a farmer, but sometimes as a joiner, living in various places; Otaki, Whanganui, Wainuiomata and Palmerston North. He retired to Seatoun.

During his lifetime, he was a founding member of the Seatoun Bowling Club, as well as a member of the Wellington Racing Club, Wairarapa Racing Club and the Petone Rifle Club.

William died on July 13, 1932, at the age of 87 at 20 Pinnacle Street, Seatoun. He was buried with his parents at St James Churchyard in the Main Section – 5 – B – Plot 74.

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