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Williams Family Papers, 1783 - 1963

documentary heritage
  • Description

    The Williams Family Papers are the largest of Auckland Museum's holdings of Williams family material. The collections’ primary authors are Henry and William Williams, brothers who immigrated to New Zealand in the early 1820s to further the mission established in Northland by Samuel Marsden. The collection is particularly special, however, because it reflects multiple perspectives.

    Alongside the breadth of correspondence between missionary men are 126 letters written by twenty-five women, and ten letters written in te reo Maori, six of which were penned by tangata whenua. Most notably, the letters written by Marianne and Jane Williams from the 1820s to the 1880s are a wealth of information about early missionary life in New Zealand. Chronicling their work in education, nursing, and gardening, as well as the milieu of their daily lives, relationships with Maori, religious and spiritual matters, and the politics of the day. It includes a series of ‘crossed letters’ which have been painstakingly transcribed. Together this original correspondence is an irreplaceable primary source from this early contact period, providing many first-hand accounts of complex cross-cultural interactions, exchanges, and negotiations, that took place between missionaries and their families, the colonial government, and tangata whenua. All items relative to Henry Williams dismissal from the Church Missionary Society, due to his reluctance to acknowledged the supposed illegality of his Land Grants issued under Governor Fitzroy, are most easily found using 'Land Question' as a primary search term. This term has been taken directly from Henry Williams correspondence on the matter.

    Collection also contains the nine journals of William Williams, 1825-1855. (see Box 10, MS-1991-75-1190 - MS-1991-75-1199)

  • Other Id

    MS-1991-75 (Reference Number)

    696 (Presto content ID)

    M 705 (DBTextworks system ID)

    MS-335 (Legacy number)

    1991/75 (Registration number)

  • Department

Images and documents



  • Object Type
  • Name/Title
    Williams Family Papers, 1783 - 1963
  • Primary Maker
  • Date
  • Physical Description

    3 x Hinged lid boxes + 9 x London boxes + 1 x Hollinger box + 8 Outsized items

  • Collection
  • Level of Current Record
  • Member Object

    1277 items in this collection. View all items.

  • Related Object Notes
    MS-1991-76; MS-1991-78; MS-1991-79; MS-1991-80; MS-1992-1; MS-1992-2; MS-1992-3; MS-1992-4; MS-1992-5; MS-1992-6; MS-1993-128; MS-1993-129; MS-1993-131; MS-1995-41.
  • Content
    Boxes 1 - 4 - Correspondence and Papers (series A(i)(a) in inventory)
    Boxes 5 - 9 - Volumes of Correspondence and Papers (series A(i)(b) in inventory)
    Boxes 9 - 10 - Journals, Diaries, Daybooks (series A(ii) in inventory)
    Boxes 11 - 13 - Other Materials, Printed Materials, Materials relating to the collection (series A(iii), B(ii), B(iii), C(i), and C(x) in inventory)
  • Public Access Text

    Comprises Series A - C (inclusive) of the superseded MS-335.

    Inventory sequence B(i) Printed materials Books, pamphlets, and broadsides, [Box 12 Items 1 - 56] transferred to Paula Legal, Associate Curator Heritage Publications.

  • Subject Notes
    Henry Williams (1792-1867) immigrated to New Zealand in 1823, in order to further the mission effort established by Samuel Marsden and the Church Missionary Society. He was stationed primarily in Northland, and during his tenure in the Bay of Islands built New Zealand’s first church at Paihia. In 1840, Henry Williams and his son Edward Williams translated the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi into Te Reo Maori, and subsequently travelled throughout the North Island explaining the document and persuading Maori to sign. In 1844, he was installed as Archdeacon at Te Waimate. He used this position during the tumultuous periods of war to advocate for and negotiate peaceful solutions amongst Iwi. However, when the Government blamed the ignition of the Flagstaff War on the missionary’s purchase of land, Williams’s position in the Church Missionary Society was revoked. From 1850-1854, Williams and his wife Marianne retired to Pakaraka. At the end of Governor Grey’s first term in office, he was reinstated to the Archdeaconate, a position he held until his death in 1867. [Further reading: Faith and Farming: The Legacy of Henry Williams and William Williams, pg. 21 ; Robin Fisher. 'Williams, Henry', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 March 2018)] -- William Williams (1800-1878) was the younger brother of Archdeacon Henry Williams, whom he followed into the service of the Church Missionary Society and to New Zealand. William trained as a surgeons apprentice before entering Magdalen Hall, Oxford, in 1822 as a candidate for CMS training. In 1824, the same year that he received his Bachelors in Classics, he was ordained deacon and later priest. In that same year he also met and married his wife, Jane Williams. When the pair immigrated to New Zealand, William and his family were initially stationed at Paihia, where he was charged with the English boys' school and having completed a surgeon’s apprenticeship, he also acted as the mission doctor. William occupied the Waimate Mission for five years before establishing the Turanga, Poverty Bay mission Kaupapa in 1840. Bishop George Selwyn appointed William Archdeacon of the East Cape diocese, and he was later consecrated first Bishop of Waiapu a post he held until 1876 when he suffered a major stroke. He died in Napier on February 9, 1878. Williams was active throughout the Flagstaff war, Taranaki wars, and Kingitanga movement. William had proficiency for Te reo Maori and used this skill to communicate the unease demonstrated by Maori over the manner in which the Government was purchasing land. He also published a pamphlet in 1847 that defended the role of the Church Missionary Society in the years leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – Te Tiriti o Waitangi. [Further reading: Faith and Farming: The Legacy of Henry Williams and William Williams, pg. 275 ; Frances Porter. 'Williams, William', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, (accessed 20 March 2018)]
  • Copyright
    No known copyright restrictions
  • Last Update
    07 Jun 2024
The development of the Auckland War Memorial Museum online collection is an ongoing process; updates, new images and records are added weekly. In some cases, records have yet to be confirmed by Museum staff, and there could be mistakes or omissions in the information provided.

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