Why emigrate in 1877 or 1878? (General)

by jhopkins @, Saturday, March 31, 2018, 00:37 (624 days ago) @ Mike Pinchin

Thank goodness my great grandparents came to NZ in 1860 (and four of my great grandfather's siblings came out during a short period of time thereafter). They were therefore spared the conditions described earlier in this thread.

There are no family stories left about why my forebears migrated, but my guess is that conditions in 1860 weren't a whole lot better.

Quite a few years ago I found a book in a NZ library (I have never been able to rediscover the book). The thesis of the book was that NZ was an Arcadia for the first European-origin settlers. There was a concept in the mid 19th century of a "competence". A competence was a plot of land of adequate size on which to build a simple house and grow sufficient fruit and vegetables and maintain livestock (sheep, cattle, chooks etc) to feed the family.

The land had not been over-grazed or over-planted, so stock and food crops thrived in ways that had not been seen in the "Old Country" within living memory. The book stated that early settlers were amazed by the fertility of the soil, and the size and flavour of the fruit and vegetables they were able to grow. As I recall, there were comments recorded about the size of cabbages and orchard fruits that would amaze us today.

For those Forest economic migrants, this must have seemed like a paradise in comparison with what they had experienced in their original home. My great grandparents were quickly able to buy a farm and build a two storey home; in the Forest he had been an iron miner with no land of his own.

Similar stories could be told of my great great grandparents on my mother's side, who emigrated from Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland in 1852. From being a landless ploughman he became a landowner and farmer near Dunedin. I am sure that "good news" stories got back to Britain from people like my forebears, encouraging many relatives to fly the coop in the hope of escaping poverty.


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