My Grandfather, John Wright was born on 27 May 1863 at Whangaroa, Northland, New Zealand. From his Birth Certificate, his parents were Charles Wright, Labourer and Allacia MacAvoy.

In the 19th century, Northland was prized for its Kauri timber and Kauri gum, similar to amber. Forests were felled and the logs floated down the rivers to the Whangaroa and Hokianga harbours where the mills were sited.

John Wright was nearly 11 when his father, Charles, was killed in the bush and my father tells the story of John being sent to work in the bush aged 12. When the men saddled up to ride into town for the weekend, he was expected to stay and look after the camp. Instead he ran all the way to town, never losing sight of the horses. John Wright became a skilled saw doctor, maintaining the saws in saw mills until he was nearly 70.

Charles Wright, aged 41, was killed in the bush on 9th April 1874, one year before his death certificate needed to record his place of birth and parent's names. His will states, "I leave all I have both real and personal to Alice MacAvoy with whom I have been living". So they were not married and the will, dated two days before his death, was necessary to ensure his widow gained possession of the house in which they lived in Kaeo, Northland. The house was being lived in, 100 years later when I visited in 1974, and still standing, quite derelict now,when I last visited the area in 2013.

All attempts to discover whether Charles was born in New Zealand or was an immigrant have been unsuccessful, however there was a John Wright, blacksmith living in nearby Hokianga in 1846, married with four children. Charles could have been one of these children. John appears in various Electoral Rolls for Hokianga from 1836 to at least 1857. Ref:- Hokianga History

On my most recent trip to the Hokianga, I have found the spot where this John Wright had his blacksmith's business. It was 10 acres 1 rood, called Otarahiko and was situated on the East bank of the Mangamuka River bounded by the Piri Creek and the Waihou River.

DNA testing (see DNA page), shows I have the DNA similar to O'Brien, Hogan and Kennedy of Ireland. There is a possibility that this John Wright may in fact be John O'Brien, a convict from Waterford, Ireland, who aged 19, escaped from Sydney in 1827 and was never captured. Did he make his way to Northland by jumping ship and then change his name? Was he the father of my Charles Wright?

In the 1820s and 1830s, Northland was a lawless place with only whalers, sealers and loggers living there. Travel was by ship as there were few roads through the heavily forested hills. It was not until 1840 that New Zealand became a Dominion and seperated from New South Wales. It would have been a great place for a convict to hide out.