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Chisholm Emigrants

The Clan Chisholm, a small clan coming originally from a remote yet beautiful area of the northern Scottish Highlands, has spread across the world, so now there are Chisholms in every country where British influence once held sway. Along the way, the name Chisholm has evolved until there are now several ways of spelling the name: Chisholme, Chism, Chisolm, Chisum, etc.

Immigration to New Zealand: An Introduction

By Audrey Barney, New Zealand Branch Historian

The establishment of New Zealand as a British colony was much later than British efforts to colonise in other parts of the world. It is therefore not surprising that the arrival of the Chisholms in New Zealand, in the second half of the 19th century, was from a much more dispersed Chisholm family, geographically, than in other colonies, with no arrivals directly from Strathglass, though from the Highlands, from the newly emerging cities of the Scottish lowlands, from the Borders, and from all parts of England and Australia. Their arrivals, numberwise, very much mirrored the pattern of general European settlement.

Before 1840, when the British Crown annexed New Zealand and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed with the Maori chiefs, it was estimated that there were only about 2000 Europeans in the whole of New Zealand. They were a grand mix of missionaries, traders, whalers and runaway convicts from Australia, and amongst the first non missionary residents known to be there was a Chisholm! He was J. M. Chisholm, one of a small group of four "Scotch mechanics" employed in 1826 to "saw planks" at Kororareka in the Bay of Islands, to enable repair of trading boats and whalers. His background is, as yet not verified, but it does appear his time in New Zealand was short lived.

After the signing of the Treaty, till 1853, whilst New Zealand was governed from Auckland, it was the New Zealand Company that mostly was responsible for assisting settlers to come to New Zealand. Conditions in Britain were such, that many were prepared to give up their homes and families, and travel under cramped and stressful conditions for three to four months to make a better life for themselves in a new country.

But of Chisholms, there were only two single men as yet known to take advantage of these schemes. One of them, Adam Chisholm, (c.1810 -1873) who arrived in Auckland in 1841, is well known as one of Auckland's first butchers, a great judge of cattle, and as a prominent land buyer during the short time the British Government permitted Europeans to buy land directly from the Maoris. He was to fight for his right to this land for 15 years, and when eventually he was able to legally claim it, he was penniless, in debt and died soon after, a broken man.

Between 1853, when the capital moved to Wellington and provincial government was established, and 1880, when gold was found, wide ranging immigration schemes developed, and new settlers were encouraged to buy land at cheap rates. The numbers of both unassisted and assisted new pioneers coming from Britain, where social and economic conditions were still difficult for many, increased rapidly.

It has been estimated that in the decade 1871-1880 over 112,000 new migrants from Britain were assisted to come to New Zealand. This period was the chief time for Chisholm migration, with the majority coming as assisted immigrants, from rural and unskilled backgrounds. About 43% of Chisholms who arrived at this time came from north of a line between Glasgow and Edinburgh (though not Strathglass); another 29% came from Edinburgh,Glasgow or the Borders, whilst 14% came from England with a similar number from Australia.

The period of rapid migration began to taper off in the late 1870's and till the end of the century there was a period of depression for the New Zealand farming industry, with few new folk arriving, and many leaving for greener pastures. There were a few Chisholms in both categories.

Please select one of the regions below for more information on their early Chisholm settlers:

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