About Patrick O’Neill


My interest in family history was sparked in 1973, at great-uncle Jock’s funeral in Ranfurly, where I wondered not only who ‘Uncle Jock’ was, but also who all the other people at the funeral were.
In mid-1975, on top of Mum and Dad’s wardrobe, I came across their ringbinder file of drawings, school reports etc for each of their ten kids. Among these papers were notes Dad had written in 1967 about my great-grandparents, most of whom emigrated from Ireland to New Zealand in the 1870s-80s. Dad’s notes included the ship and year of his grandfather John O’Neill’s voyage to New Zealand: ‘John N. Fleming, abt 1877’. [ToBeConfirmed] From this moment, I was hooked by the family-history bug—though I had no idea I would still be at it 40 years later!
Probably at Dad’s suggestion, my first act as a genealogist was to approach the Otago Harbour Board, in August 1975. They provided me with an extract from Henry Brett’s 1924 book White Wings, correcting the ship’s name to James Nicol Fleming and confirming the 1877 date in Dad’s notes. For the passenger list, they referred me to the Otago Early Settlers’ Association, who in turn referred me to the Latter Day Saints Library in Hamilton. I have always been amazed at the generosity of the response—a specially typed copy of the complete passenger list, provided entirely free of charge, even if it took six or so months to arrive.
So in April 1976, just before my 14th birthday, I made the coup that confirmed me as a genealogist. This was a few weeks before Grandad O’Neill’s death, and I remember talking about the passenger list at the Good Friday Stations of the Cross at Holy Cross College, where I was later a seminarian. Dad, or maybe Grandad, had recognised the Cassidy passengers as uncle and aunt of John O’Neill, which gave me my next task: what had happened to that family? It was easy enough to find Mrs Cassidy’s death, and then her daughter Margaret’s, but it took months to locate the grave in Dunedin’s Southern Cemetery, …
Meanwhile, someone (again Dad ?) had suggested a family reunion to mark the centenary of the ship’s arrival…

Rita O'Neill, Jack Devereux and Patrick O'Neill discuss the 1877 voyage of the James Nicol Fleming, and its O'Neill and Dysart passengers

My first genealogy photo: Rita O’Neill, Jack Devereux and Patrick O’Neill discuss the 1877 voyage of the James Nicol Fleming, and its O’Neill and Dysart passengers, Dunedin NZ, October 1977

Last updated 23 December 2016–sorry, haven’t finished this page!

  One Response to “About Patrick O’Neill”

  1. Je n’ai pas beaucoup compris mais quel travail !!!

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