The Three Lives of John Christmas UNDERWOOD/Christopher Christmas BERRY, Part 3, New Zealand 1839 – 1851

Under review September 2021.

Foreword: It cannot be said that researching Christopher Christmas (UNDERWOOD) BERRY does not have its own rather unique sets of challenges and complications. It soon becomes apparent that our subject has a past which, for some unknown reason he has chosen neither to disclose nor share, and within that possibly uncertainties of his own related to his birth and origin.

This sad situation is exacerbated by the lack of verifiable family information because of his and Harriet Felsted’s relatively early demise in New Zealand in 1851, leaving orphaned children ranging in age from 10 years (Christopher David BERRY) down to 1 year and 11 months (Charles BERRY – my Great Grandfather). However there exists a  huge volume of family oral history some of which cannot be verified and has grown with the telling. With much of this there is a tiny grain of truth but some divergence from fact and with great missing pieces. I shall relate a few of those situations in the hope that other researchers might be able to add fact to the slightly fictitious that the family has lived with, and on, for over 150 years.

Arrival in New Zealand: As explained in the conclusion to Part 2, my research as to Christopher and his new family’s passage to New Zealand has not revealed any positive information. Anne Bromell in her book Tracing Family History in New Zealandstates that “Christopher, Harriet and the three daughters of Harriet’s first marriage arrived in the Bay of Islands in 1839 on the ship the Rectus. The eight metre long, one-masted cutter was registered in Port Phillip, Australia, in February 1839 as being owned and skippered by Christopher Christmas BERRY. In fact he built the Rectus and another smaller cutter, Victoria, also registered in Melbourne.

These dates do not relate to the last substantiated presence of the Rectus at Western Port 12 May 1840 and the Shipping Intelligence which shows his departure from Hobart to the “sealing grounds” 21 March 1840 on the “cutter Rectus with sundries”.

However these records which have been established by Rebecca FERGUSON/BERRYherself may be considered as reliable:
“Lander, Mrs. J., nee Rebecca Ann Berry, 1829- 1906 arriving on Rectus at Kororareka 1839” in the Centennial Memorial Publication “Roll of Early Settlers and Descendants in the Auckland Province Prior to the end of 1852” and in the Roll of Pioneer Settlers who arrived in New Zealand prior to 1843  (Source: New Zealand Herald, 10 October 1892. List created by J.J.Craig.)

The “ALPHABETICAL of DISCOVERERS, VISITORS, WHALERS, TRADERS and EARLY RESIDENTS FROM 1642 TO THE END OF 1839 after which date New Zealand became a British colony” contains a puzzling entry: “BERRY Rebecca Venturess Bay of Islands 1837“. This of course conflicts with Anne Bromell’s information and I cannot find anything to verify the entry, not even the arrival of the Venturess, let alone the fact that Rebecca would have been only 8 years of age at that time.

Of interest, the List also has an entry “LANDER John Aquillain Bay of Islands 1836”. John was Rebecca’s Husband to be.

There is however a suggestion that CCB could have returned to Australia from the Bay of Islands, with the Rectus, and visited Western Port and Launceston from whence he set out for the “Sealing Grounds” on 21 March 1840. I have used this table of dates to establish possibilities for the return journeys:

5 January 1839 – To C. Berry, repairs to Customs boat 2 11 0 and To C. Berry, repairs to R. C. Ranger boats 12 0 0
6 May 1839 – Rectus & Victoria offered for sale
8 May 1839 – Cutter Victoria to Launceston
20 May 1839 – Victoria Launceston to Port Phillip arriving 24 May
17 July 1839 – Port Phillip for Marriage of Bennet/Heard – both CCB and Harriet
Oct 1839 Request for Pilot service.
11 September 1839 – Unclaimed letter
22 October 1839 – Proposal to offer Pilot services
25 January 1840 – Rectus Port Phillip to Western Port in ballast
21 March 1840 – Rectus Departs Launceston for “sealing grounds
12 May 1840 At Western Port – with the Count. Mention only of Mr Berry, no family
2 July 1840 – “Mr Berry” arrives Bay of Islands on Brig Transfer.
6 August 1841 – Rectus departs Auckland “Coastwise”.

The window of opportunity for a first journey Australia to NZ, with Harriet and her 3 Daughters, Mary Ann, Rebecca and Sarah Ferguson, lies between July 1839  when CCB and Harriet witnessed the Marriage of  Francis Bennet and Mary Heard and 22 October 1839 and when the application was made offering Pilot services for Port Phillip. 

The recording of the Rectus, 25 January 1840, leaving Port Phillip to Western Port in ballast and then departing Launceston for “the sealing grounds” on 21 March 1840 confirms a possible return to Australia.  However it gets a little less obvious as to whether CCB did indeed sail for the sealing grounds. 

On 12 May 1840 we find CCB back at Western Port hosting Count Strzelecki, a Polish explorer, geologist[4] and philanthropist. “Whilst making their way to Settlement Point they stumbled on Berry’s tent, and after taking of some food, moved to Anderson and Massies Station…here they rested and recuperated for several days, being entertained with much kindness.”  Source: Sydney Herald, 26 June 1840. Note: there is no mention of  Berry family.

All we can assume is that CCB arrived back in New Zealand on Rectus sometime after 12 May 1840. The paucity of Shipping Intelligence regarding the Rectus in  New Zealand can be explained. The only source of this information for the Bay of Islands in 1840 was the New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette which was published in Kororareka from June to December 1840. The 6 August 1840 edition contained this content: We would be exceedingly glad if Captains of vessels would forward to us intelligence of their arrival, with such particulars as may be inmportant to the Public. We would readily furnish every Captain with a copy of our Paper, If it were pracicable to get the information we require – At present, as there are neither Signals nor Port Officer, it is impossible for us to know, with certainty, any of the vessels which do not anchor in the Harbour of Kororareka.” 

There is however a “wild card” as we have come to expect in respect of the ubiquity of our man. On 2 July 1840 we have a “Mr Berry” arriving Bay of Islands from Sydney on the Brig Transfer. Source: Shipping Intelligence entry in the New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette, 9 July 1840 informing that on 2 July 1840 the “Brig Transfer, Captain Munro, from Sydney, destined, we believe, for Hokianga, She landed some goods here and the following passengers – Mr. and Mrs. Abertine and three children, Mr. and Mrs. Morley and Mr. Berry”. 

At first glance I thought this must have been CCB’s arrival back in New Zealand to reconnect with his new family. The only problem is that it does not include the Rectus. I pondered this in some depth including the possibility that CCB may have returned to Australia for the third time per courtesy of the Revenue Cutter Ranger which he repaired for the Government while in Port Phillip. However dates don’t fit with the vessel very occupied in the Colony with  Lieutenant Governor William Hobson “exploring shores of Auckland and the North”  April to November 1840.

What happened to Christopher’s Waka, the Rectus? I have spent a number of years looking for the answer to this question, and now find (September 2021) that the answer has been staring me in the face for all of that time.

In brief, it was sold to Hōri Pōkai Te Ruinga, Chief of Ngāti Maru and Ngāti Paoa descent from Thames and Waiheke Island. 

Because CCB had died intestate the winding up of his estate was administered by Thomas Outhwhaite who had the challenge of recovering money from Ruinga.  The Rectus, a cutter , 17 tons, 28 feet had been sold for £150 of which £100 was owing at the time of CCB’s death.

The Daily Southern Cross newspaper on February 21, 1854, Vol XI, Issue 694 at page 3 contained an article of significant interest in the winding up of the Berry Estate. In an editorial attacking the Government’s alleged lack of purchases of land “adequate to the growing necessities of the Northern settlers” reference was made to The Native Land Purchase Ordinance which precluded the direct purchase of land from the natives and “As a pregnant example of the oppressive workings of the existing land system ……… cannot possibly do better than cite the following case, which was tried last week in the Resident Magistrate’s Court.” The case was “Administrator of Berry’s Estate v. Ruinga”, an action brought to recover the sum of £100 part payment for Ruinga’s purchase of a small vessel from CCB on 16 November 1850. 
The “small vessel” was undoubtedly the Rectus”.

Ruinga confessed judgement and it was stated that he was the proprietor of considerable tracts of land who had always expressed his willingness to pay, if permitted to raise the money by sale of his land. The article makes very interesting reading and the issue is one of great importance and significance in the history of New Zealand. Indeed the issue reached a high level as evidenced by an impassioned debate in the General Assembly, House of Representatives on 5 June 1854 as reported in The Daily Southern Cross, Vol XI, Issue 727, 16 June 1854 on the matter of “Responsible Government” and “Ministerial Responsibility”. In addressing the House, the Member for the Bay of Islands, Hugh Carleton , in arguing that “almost every difficulty with the natives has originated with the government” made references to it being “the government that organised and led the fatal expedition to the Wairau”, “ordered the silly, but mischevious bravadoing at Tauranga”, “quarrelled with Heke in the North”, “caused the first murder at the Hutt”, and “provoked the Wanganui war by hanging a Wanganui native – a prisoner of war at Porirua”. He then said “Would it be credited, elsewhere than in New Zealand, that a native, owing money to an European, able and willing to pay in real property, but not able to pay in coin, is liable to be cast into jail? I am not putting a fancy case: if the hon. member for the suburbs were in his place, he could depose to what has taken place with regard to Ruinga, of Waiheki. But the honourable member for the northern division objects to Ministerial Responsibility because forsooth, it would relieve the natives from such guardianship as this’.

The entry for Christopher in the publication “Roll of Early Settlers and Descendants in the Auckland Province  prior to the end of 1852″ shows only a first known place of residence “Auckland 1843″ and a Life Period “1809-1850″ although the Auckland City Library has annotated the entry to record Death “6/1/51” and  Place of Residence “Auckland 1843” and a life period of “1809-1850” and Arrival “Waihapu 1841 1842?”.

The first record of substance following arrival of the family in New Zealand is the baptism of the first child of the partnership of Christopher Christmas and Harriet FERGUSON/FELSTED – Christopher David BERRY at Wahapu, 31 January 1841. Wahapu is an Inlet approximately 4 kilometres south of Russell, known in those days as Kororareka.

Residence: The first record of a place of residence is contained in the Auckland Police Census 1841-1846 in which Christopher is recorded as being located in 1842 at Windsor Terrace. This could very well have been one of the first wooden houses in Parnell, Auckland, cited as the birthplace of James George the third child of the family as recorded in “Days to remember in the lives of James and Mary Berry”  held by the Te Awamutu and District Museum.

Fort (Fore) Street, close to Auckland’s waterfront is the most frequent address used for the family. This was most likely the scene of CCB’s commercial operations which included limeburning.

Occupation: CCB’s primary occupation in Auckland changed from the sea to the land and lime burning, although a part of this work could in the earlier days have involved lightering the prepared lime across the Harbour from the North Shore. The National Archives reference A1, 1842/268 has a letter dated 15 February 1842 from Christopher to the Colonial Secretary seeking permission to use land on the North Shore for the purpose of burning lime and bricks.

I have found no evidence of Christopher’s lime burning operations on the North Shore but in the New Zealander, Volume 3, Issue 147, 27 October 1847, Page 4 (Papers Past) a copy of a Return tabled in Parliament on 14 October 1847 by the Colonial Secretary, Andrew Sinclair. This indicates that at from at least 1847, Christopher’s lime burning was based on the Southern (Auckland) side of the Harbour. We find him here in Fort Street with his lime for sale advertised in the New Zealander from December 1847 through to at least October 1848.

Further information from newspapers (Papers Past)

  • 1843 – Mechanics Bay – Presented lime for building of St Paul’s Church (Auckland Chronicle 1843, 25 January, p1)
  • 1843 – Mr Christopher Berry presented 50 bushels of lime towards the completion of St Paul’s Church (N.Z. Journal,
  • 8 July 1843, (p177) 1844 – Supplies lime to build St Pauls Church. New Zealander, Volume 4, Issue 313,

Death: Christopher Christmas BERRY died 6 January 1851 at Fort Street. His Death Certificate (Folio No. 1848/299, Ref No. S-0181150) records his age as 51, Profession as Mariner and Cause of Death “Inflamation in the Bowels.” He was buried 8 January 1851 at Symonds Street. This is recorded in the Anglican St Paul’s Register.

Children of Christopher Christmas BERRY and Harriet Eliza FELSTED

  • Christopher David BERRY – Baptised 31 January 1841 at Wahapu (Kororareka Anglican Church Registry). For Family Chart please see:
    Christopher David BERRY the eldest of the children of Christopher Christmas BERRY and Harriet Eliza FELSTED (FERGUSON) opened his working life on the Thames Coast. Among his enterprises we find that he was an hotel keeper at Tararu (adjudged bankrupt in September 1870 – see Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVI, Issue 4081, 20 September 1870, Page 2).
    In June 1871 he was granted a mining lease, 12 acres for 15 years, situated on the Moanataiari Creek and on the Kuranui Spur; bounded on the north by the Berkeley Castle and Harbour View, on the east by the Great Britain. See Daily Southern Cross, Volume XXVII, Issue 4306, 2 June 1871, Page 3.
    Some time just prior to 1874 he moved to Gisborne and worked as a contractor. The 1874 date is taken from an objection lodged in Thames challenging his entitlement to be retained on the Electoral List for the District of Thames.
    His must have been a busy life with many interests outside of his vocation. The Poverty Bay Herald and Hawkes Bay Herald c1881 – 1877 carries items relating to:
    1. Ownership of the Ormond Sawmills (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VII, Issue 1066, 8 April 1880, Page 2
    2. Acceptance of his tender to float the Lochnagar (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VII, Issue 1171, 13 November 1880, Page 2)
    3. Discharge from Bankruptcy proceedings (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume X, Issue 1821, 15 January 1883, Page 2)
    4. His entry of the “Gertrude” in a sailing race under the auspices of the Gisborne Yacht and Sailing Club (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume IX, Issue 1800, 18 December 1882, Page 2) Note: his boat was possibly named for his daughter Gertrude Helen. “Gertrude” also has a connection with Gertrude the name of the ship on which her Grandfather Richard Bach arrived in New Zealand.
    5. Holding office (Superintendent) with the South Pacific Petroleum Company registered under the No Liability Act of New South Wales. There are accounts of a Parafin lead and oil flows from a bore. (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VIII, Issue 1429, 19 September 1881, Page 2 and Poverty Bay Herald, Volume VIII, Issue 1461, 26 October 1881, Page 2)
    6. Destruction of the Karaka Sawmill by fire. It is recorded that “the property was in dispute between Mr Sayers and Mr C D Berry, and was uninsured.”
    7. “A most interesting and pleasant entertainment” at the Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition including a vocal duet “Hearts and Homes” by Mr and Mrs C D Berry “encore duet “Home to our Mountains”.
    8. A member of the Gisborne Borough Council (Poverty Bay Herald, Volume IX, Issue 1808, 29 December 1882, Page 2)
    9. Numerous references to his involvement in Racing as an owner. The Hawkes Bay Herald June 1877 contains a story of a larceny trial in the Supreme Court with 2 of his employees “indicted that they pretended to be owners of a certain mare and sold her to John Hardie ANDERSON & Christopher David BERRY”. They were found not guilty.
    10. The Hawkes Bay Herald February 1877 notifies the award of a contract to C D Berry for the “Napier Swamp Works”.
    Other Children of Christopher Christmas Berry. Please regard this as a work in progress as I research and write of their families.
  • Emma Amelia BERRY – Born 9 August 1842, Auckland. Baptised 11 September 1842 – For Family Chart please go to
  • James George BERRY – Born 8 September 1844, Auckland. Baptised 29 September 1844 – For Family Chart please go to
  • Julia BERRY – Born 28 December 1846, Auckland. Baptised 31 January 1847 – for family Chart please go to
  • Charles BERRY – Born 21 February 1849, Auckland. Baptised 13 May 1849 – for Family Chart please go to

Bob Vine Lower Hutt, New Zealand