It was after I started researching the legend of the man with a long white beard who rode a white horse in Macraes Flat, Otago, New Zealand, that I discovered he was my GG Grandfather Robert Harcus from a tiny island called Eday, in the Orkney Isles, situated not far from County Caithness, in Northern Scotland. He was selected for 'assisted immigration' and travelled on a sailing ship, the Nelson, from Glasgow to Port Chalmers, Dunedin in 1874. The colony NZ, needed labourers, farmers and families and many thousands of immigrants came to NZ in those days. His story once he arrived in NZ is one of courage, tragedy and love. To read more, please go to RootsRoutes My Story

The Nelson  sailing ship brought Robert Harcus and family and many immigrants to NZ in 1874.

The Nelson sailing ship brought Robert Harcus and family and many immigrants to NZ in 1874.




New Information on Earliest 'Law' Ancestors in Co. Antrim, Ulster

Evidence was found in Valuation Revision Books for Glenwhirry, the oldest Parish land valuation records 1828-40. A John Law was identified owning a house and grazing animals in 1835 in the Jockeys Quarter Townland in Lower Antrim. It therefore places him and Thomas Law, GGG GF living and working in the same area around the time Thomas married in 1842. They may well have been related.  


Many protestant settlers from Scotland and England went to live and work the land in Northern Ireland in the 17th and 18th Centuries during the 'Plantation of Ulster'. Find out more in the new 'Law Story Goes Irish' and discover some of the reasons why Law Ancestors went to Antrim, Northern Ireland, where they lived and why they returned to Scotland about 1850. Please let me have any comments or questions. I hope you enjoy!

The Panama Canal Today

The Panama Canal has not changed for a hundred years i.e. since its construction was completed by the USA in 1914.  This waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and greatly shortened the journey time our ancestors made to NZ or Australia as ships could bypass the long journey around the tip of South America. The 50 mile long passage taking 8-10 hours, is based on a system of three Locks (Gatun, Pedro Miguel, Miraflores) which raises ships 85 feet above sea level. It was the largest engineering project of its time and over 25,000 men died during its construction due to rampant tropical diseases, heat and challenging terrain. Currently the canal is being expanded to allow larger than Panamax vessels to transit the canal and work should be completed in 2016.  See also RootsRoutes History section.

Transit through Canal from Panama Miraflores Locks - November 2015

Transit through Canal from Panama Miraflores Locks - November 2015

Sea Journeys by Ancestors

The Remuera, operated by the New Zealand Shipping Company was the first Passenger Steam ship to pass through the Panama Canal on it's return from New Zealand to London in 1916. Prior to this, the route went via Tenerife (Canary Islands), Cape Town, Hobart then on to NZ Ports. Journey time was dramatically reduced using the Panama Canal. It is likely, ancestor Margaret (Law) Gardner, the sister of GGF Thomas Law, emigrated from London to NZ on the Remuera in 1912.

Remuera, Passenger Steam Ship

Remuera, Passenger Steam Ship

Attic Treasures

Hidden away for over 20 years in the corner of my mother's house in Dunedin was a small brown box containing original Family History documents dating back to 1919. Lesson learnt, never stop looking folks!!

My brother and nephew found the 'treasure' by chance just before the house was sold and shared the info with me. The documents included my 'Law' grandmother's Death Certificate, Margaret Dryden, died 1 Feb 1973 and confirmed her parents names, George Dryden and Annie Thomson. The other documents were evidence my grandfather, James Knox Law was raised to 'Master Mason' on 21 Oct. 1919 (after his apprenticeship in the Lodge of St. Clair of Dysart No. 250, part of the Grand Lodge of Scotland) and then on 11 March 1920, a further document confirmed he was admitted as a 'Mark Master'. He had also signed both documents as James K Law. These predated a certificate I had for his enrolment as a 'Life Member' to the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, 23 Nov. 1920.

It was more evidence my Grandfather was using the surname Law in 1919 before he came to NZ in 1922. If anyone has further documents they would like to share on any member of the family who came to NZ please get in touch or comment on this Post.


My Ancestral DNA test Results

I hoped by taking an autosomal DNA test which covers both paternal and maternal lines, I would discover more about distant family origins in Ireland. DNA can help predict where our ancestors once lived as our DNA travels with us. A 'genetic signature' of the regions we came from around the world can be found and used to predict our 'ethnicity'. The test I took indicated Ireland and Great Britain could be identified which was of particular interest.

Results estimated my ethnicity as: 47% Ireland, 39% Europe West, 7% GB, 4% other.

I got very excited to see 47% Ireland (as the Laws' lived in Ireland many generations ago and came back to Scotland around 1850) but when I looked further, Ireland was described as a 'Region' which included Ireland/Wales/Scotland so I could not definitively say I was 47% Irish. It felt like this test had redefined the map and confused matters but the migration of populations across Western Europe to the British Isles needs to be understood. These people originated in central Europe, as far back as the Iron Age, 500 BC and the many tribes, collectively known as the 'Celts', expanded via France to England, Ireland, Scotland. The Region of Ireland to this day, remains one of the last holdouts of the unique Celtic people and ancient Celtic languages.

I now knew I was mainly Celtic which made sense but a further Y-chromosome ancestral DNA test from a male 'Law' family member could help to estimate male paternal ethnicity and narrow down our ancient Law DNA ethnic origins.

More will follow on the Law DNA story! Please comment on this Post and I will be delighted to receive any suggestions or questions.  

Another Theory - Surname Change to Knox

A descendent from Thomas Law (son of GGF Thomas) and Christine Beall who married in New Zealand suggested that when they left Ireland after the potato famine and worked in the mines of Scotland, the Irish were not favoured and they may have taken their mother's surname, Knox, as it sounded more Irish? Results of my Ancestral DNA Ethnicity tests may also help to prove or disprove Irish origins. See more discussion of this theory in My Story > Mysteries, Motives and a Lawless Past (Theory Five).

Latest Theory on Surname Change to 'Knox'

The second eldest living relative of Elizabeth MacKay and John Law (first son of my GGF Thomas) confirmed that Thomas (GGF) was a deserter and remained in Scotland, when home on leave, to marry Janet Myles who was pregnant. This line of the family firmly believe that this was when the name change to 'Knox' occurred. It is a valuable clue and gives a possible time-point for desertion prior to the wedding of Thomas and Janet in August 1892. See more information and discussion in My Story > Mysteries, Motives and a Lawless Past (Theory Four)

Launch of 'Law Story' on RootsRoutes website

It's taken years but I am finally getting somewhere after the launch of the 'Law Story' in December 2014. The 'Law' family history began in Scotland and Ireland and travelled to New Zealand. There have been lots of mysteries to solve and I would like to thank everyone for their help so far. Please continue to send comments and I will post new information in the Journal section.