The Family Songbook

We present 31 letters and memoir extracts from members of the Harris family in Plymouth, England, and New Plymouth, New Zealand, written after Edwin and Sarah Harris emigrated to Taranaki on the Plymouth Company’s first vessel, the barque William Bryan, in 1840. A letter written by Mary Mountjoy Paddon in 1922 explains the provenance of Sarah Harris’s letters to her father and sisters in England and appears as a coda.

The letters and memoir extracts were transcribed and edited by Michele Leggott, Fredrika Van Elburg, Makyla Curtis, Betty Davis and Brianna Vincent at the University of Auckland. They come from the Puke Ariki Heritage Collection, New Plymouth, the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, and from the collections of Roseanne Cranstone and Godfrey Briant who are New Zealand Harris descendants. We are grateful to Owen Jones, a Harris descendant in England whose family research brought to light copies of Edwin and Sarah’s letters. The three memoir extracts and 18 of the letters are original MSS. Eight letters are MS copies and a further three are TS transcripts of MS originals.

Editors’ note
We have inserted some punctuation and made a new paragraph when there is a long dash or when the subject is obviously changed. Since spelling mistakes may have come from the writer or (in the case of MS or TS copies) from the copyist we have made some silent corrections. Square brackets indicate material added by us, usually a correction or a guess at an illegible word. Spelling of Māori words and placenames has been retained, with modern spelling added in square brackets.

Contextual notes appear with each letter. We would like to acknowledge the dedication of Puke Ariki research staff in helping track down Taranaki references. Information services Officer Kathryn Mercer is a contributing researcher to The Family songbook, answering our questions with unflagging patience and bringing more of Edwin and Sarah Harris’s new Plymouth into view than we could have imagined possible. Thanks also to University of Auckland researcher Susannah Whaley, whose searches at Puke Ariki summer 2017-18 were key to understanding the extent of the museum’s holdings.

Michele Leggott
March 2019

  1. Sarah Harris, A brief account of my life for my dear children. Nelson, 1871
  2. James Meadows Rendel to Captain William Hobson. Plymouth, 28 October 1840
  3. Sarah Harris to father William Hill and sisters. Off the shores of Taranaki, 20 April 1841
  4. Sarah Harris to father William Hill and sisters. New Plymouth, May 1841
  5. Sarah Harris to sisters and friends. New Plymouth, May 1841
  6. Sarah Harris to father William Hill. New Plymouth, 13 November 1841
  7. Ellen Harris to brother and sister-in-law Edwin and Sarah Harris. Plymouth, 17 January 1842
  8. Catherine Jane Rendel to brother Edwin Harris. London, [Jan 1842]
  9. Sarah Harris to sisters. New Plymouth, [1842]
  10. Sarah Harris to father William Hill. New Plymouth, 6 and 18 January 1843
  11. Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. New Plymouth, [January 1843]
  12. Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. New Plymouth, undated
  13. Edwin Harris to father James Pascoe Harris. Weekeston, New Plymouth, 16 March 1844
  14. Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. Weekeston, New Plymouth, 2 May 1844
  15. Sarah Harris to sister-in-law Augusta Dobson. Weekeston, New Plymouth, 29 October 1844
  16. Edwin Harris to father James Pascoe Harris. New Plymouth, 1 December 1845
  17. Augusta Dobson to brother Edwin Harris. Plymouth, 28 April [1846]
  18. Edwin Harris to father and mother James and Mary Harris. New Plymouth, 7 November 1846
  19. Edwin Harris to sister Augusta Dobson. New Plymouth, 25 November 1846
  20. Emily Cumming Harris, Notes on Frances Emma Harris. Nelson, 12 June 1898 (1)
  21. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 27 May 1847
  22. Catherine Jane Rendel to brother Edwin Harris. London, 10 July [1847]
  23. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 9 Aug 1847
  24. Edwin Harris to sister Catherine Jane Rendel. New Plymouth, 10 January 1848
  25. Emily Cumming Harris, Notes on Frances Emma Harris. Nelson, 12 June 1898 (2)
  26. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 14 April 1849
  27. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 18 November 1850
  28. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 26 May 1851
  29. Edwin Harris to Donald McLean. New Plymouth, 16 June 1851
  30. Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. New Plymouth, [1852 or later]
  31. Sarah Harris to sister Emma Jane Hill. Woodville, New Plymouth, [1853]
  32. coda Mary Mountjoy Paddon to unknown recipient. Aisholt, Watford Heath, Hereford, 24 Dec 1922

Bibliography to The Family Songbook