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Thames 150 years

14 February 2017

The Thames Heritage Festival is the precusor this year to the Thames 150 Year Goldfields anniversary starting in August. With up to 150 individual events planned or in development from August, there promises to be something for everyone at the Thames 150 Goldfields event.

Thames 150 banner

My Great, Great Grandfather was a goldminer

The unfathomable hardships, the hope and excitement of creating a new and prosperous life through the discovery of gold is the true tale of many New Zealanders’ ancestors.

A Thames woman is helping reconnect people with their goldmining heritage as part of this year's 150th commemorations since the Thames Goldfields first opened.

Kae Lewis became so engrossed in researching the tale of her Great, Great Grandfather’s arrival to the Thames Goldfields 150 years ago, that she set up a website and has now written an accompanying book on the subject of goldmining in Thames.

A Thames holiday home owner, Kae has volunteered for The Treasury in Thames for many years and is the organisation's webmaster.

After discovering more of her own family history she launched her website to help others with  searches on goldminers.

“My ancestors went to Tapu which opened in the second year and there was a mini rush. In those days they called it Hastings, and my Great, great Grandfather was born there in 1870."
Kae's website holds the names of 50,000 goldminers from all the goldrushes of New Zealand spanning the years 1861 – 1872, drawn from Kae's voluntary work transcribing goldminer's records from Archives New Zealand. includes stories of miners, descriptions of the various goldfields, the conditions the miners found when they arrived and the equipment they used to find and recover the gold. Kae says anyone with an ancestor's goldmining story to tell is welcome to contact her through the website to contribute to the Journal online.

“If you suspect you have had an ancestor who was a goldminer, you can put the name in the search box. This will search through the database which contains the names of 90% of the miners who were in Thames or Tapu in the first two yars of gold discovery," explains Kae.

There are 30,000 Thames miners in the website database. Many of the diggers came from Otago and West Coast goldfields that boomed just before Thames.

With the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Thames Goldfield in August, Kae has written a book Goldrush to the Thames New Zealand 1867-1869  as a companion to the website, and there will be an initial print run of just 100 copies available.

The book documents the work of James Mackay and his friend Chief Taipari who together opened the goldfield to the first flush of goldminers arriving to look for gold.

"I don't think many people appreciate that there were thousands of diggers in hills behind Thames in the first year or two of the goldrush. In these early days, the diggers didn't work for a mine or a company. They took out a miner's right, went up in to the ranges and gullies behind Thames and started to dig, searching for the veins of goldbearing quartz that ran deep underground."

"Another important aspect of the book is that it documents the history of most of the small claims held by individual diggers in the first few years of the goldrush. Using the webpage combined with this companion book, you will eventually be able to discover not only the names of the diggers but of their claims too."

The database is being expanded to make it possible to find the name of a digger and his claim name, then using the book, to find out the history and location of many of the Thames claims - whether they were ultimately bonanzas or duffers.

Much of Kae’s research is based on reports of correspondents working for the Daily Southern Cross, which was very much the workingman's newspaper in Auckland during the 1860s.

“The book acknowledges the work of these talented journalists who went up into the ranges on a daily basis, observing and interviewing all the diggers they could find. I've also documented the hardships faced by the goldminers themselves, the methods they used to find the gold, and the sheer determination needed to overcome the obstacles faced in their way."

Goldrush to the Thames New Zealand 1867 to 1869 will be launched during the Thames Heritage Festival in March, which is being used to promote events of the Thames 150 Year Goldfields Celebrations starting in August.

Kae is speaking at The Treasury "The Way We Were" series on Wednesday March 15 at 1.00pm and again on Thursday 16 March at 1.00pm at the Thames Public Library. "The Way We Were" lunchtime presentations are held on Monday 13th, Wednesday 15th and Friday 17th March at 1.00pm and The Treasury is open every day during the Heritage Festival from 11.00am until 3.00pm.

Venue: The Treasury, 705 Queen Street, Thames

Price: Adult $5.00, Children under 12 Free

Contact: The Treasury  Ph: 07 8688827  Email:

Kae will have copies of the book for sale at both functions. 

Kae Lewis

Author Kae Lewis with her new book Goldrush to the Thames New Zealand 1867 to 1869.

Might you have a goldmining ancestor?

Join experienced genealogists and researchers Marise Morrion and Robyn Revell on Wednesday 15th March from 6.00pm until 7.30pm at the Treasury at 705 Queen St in Thames. They will help you get started with your family history using resources at the Treasury, and the event is particularly targeted at the beginner researcher. 

Venue: The Treasury, Queen Street, Thames

Price: Adults $10.00, Children under 12 yrs Free

Contact: The Treasury  Ph: 07.8688827 Email:

Full programmes at

The Thames Heritage Festival is the precusor this year to the Thames 150 Year Goldfields anniversary starting in August. With up to 150 individual events planned or in development from August, there promises to be something for everyone at the Thames 150 Goldfields event.

The programme officially opens with an all-important ceremony to be organised by Ngati Maru, whose tribe and lives were forever changed with the coming of the Pakeha to Hauraki upon the discovery of gold.

Visit for an up to date programme of events for the 150th and this year's Thames Heritage Festival in March.