I started my family research in 1999, as well as using the more traditional method of research such as purchasing Birth, Marriage and Death certificates I signed up to Ancestry.co.uk and began building a family tree database, I would also visit my great aunt Sheila Pearson (nee Bolt) daughter of my 3x great grandfather Mr. Robert Thornton Bolt Esq. Aunty Sheila was a little eccentric, but in a good way. Over the years I was shown hundreds of photos, newspaper cuttings and other family memorabilia. One day way back in July, 2000 whilst sifting through old shoe boxes filled with photos and newspaper cutting I came across a frail carbon copy of a letter first written in 1891 which was signed W M Bolt. Who was W M Bolt? Where was Dunedin? My aunt knew very little, I had no information about this person in my family tree.

An extract from the 1891 letter “after leaving Sandness and after drifting about the World for some years I at length stranded on the coast of New Zealand in the year I think of 1863. About 3 months after arrival I got a situation in a Wholesale Drapery House I have stuck in that place ever since. The 'House' consisted of two small rooms it is now one of the largest in the Colony - I have seen the Colony pass from the stage bordering on its infancy when it was comparatively a small body of Europeans barely able to hold their homes against a fierce and warlock savage race until now it has magnificent cities and Harbours along its coast and over 700 miles of State railways running through the land. Dunedin is changed from being an insignificant village to a beautiful and substantially built city, and my family - I bet you - have grown from one to nine - I am not counting Grandchildren. Do you know the reason why, because I have not got any”.

I forwarded a copy of the letter to my cousin Gareth; who I had only recently made contact with, via the internet. Gareth and his wife Lucy were members of the Shetland family History Society, they posted a message containing extracts from the letter on a couple of forums and within three hours they had received a message from a person in New Zealand who was related to W M Bolt. Since then, the New Zealand connection has grown. To explore our connections click on the menu tabs above.

The history of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture centred on kinship links and land.

The first European explorer to sight New Zealand was Abel Janszoon Tasman on 13 December 1642. Captain James Cook, who reached New Zealand in October 1769 on the first of his three voyages, was the first European explorer to circumnavigate and map New Zealand. From the late 18th century, the country was regularly visited by explorers and other sailors, missionaries, traders and adventurers.

In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Māori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Māori "equal rights" with British citizens. There was extensive British settlement throughout the rest of the century. War and the imposition of a European economic and legal system led to most of New Zealand's land passing from Māori to Pākehā (European) ownership, and most Māori subsequently became impoverished. From the 1890s the New Zealand parliament enacted a number of progressive initiatives, including women's suffrage and old age pensions. The country remained an enthusiastic member of the British Empire, and 110,000 men fought in World War I (see New Zealand Expeditionary Force). After the war New Zealand signed the Treaty of Versailles (1919) joined the League of Nations and pursued an independent foreign policy, while its defence was still controlled by Britain. When World War II broke out in 1939, New Zealanders saw their proper role as defending their proud place in the British Empire. It contributed some 120,000 troops. From the 1930s the economy was highly regulated and an extensive welfare state was developed. Meanwhile, Māori culture underwent a renaissance, and from the 1950s Māori began moving to the cities in large numbers. This led to the development of a Māori protest movement which in turn led to greater recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi in the late 20th century.

The country's economy suffered in the aftermath of the 1973 global energy crisis, the loss of New Zealand's biggest export market upon Britain's entry to the European Economic Community, and rampant inflation. In the 1980s the economy was largely deregulated and a number of socially liberal policies, such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, were put in place. Foreign policy involved support for Britain in the world wars, and close relations after 1940 with the United States and Australia. Foreign policy after 1980 became more independent especially in pushing for a nuclear-free region. Subsequent governments have generally maintained these policies, although tempering the free market ethos somewhat. In 1984, the Fourth Labour government was elected amid a constitutional and economic crisis. The economic reforms were led by finance minister Roger Douglas (finance minister (1984-1988), who enacted fundamental, radically neo-liberal and unexpectedly pro-free market reforms known as Rogernomics. The Fifth Labour government led by Helen Clark elected in 1999 was replaced by the Fifth National government led by John Key in 2008.