Family History Network – 7 July 2022

The next online meeting of the Family History Network on Thursday 7 July from 12-1pm.

Zoom link: 

PHANZA member Helen Leggatt will present, followed by a group discussion. Helen’s presentation details are:  

Burning God’s Own: A Prosopographical Approach to the Early Adoption of Cremation in New Zealand (1874-1946)

Historians and sociologists have long debated individual motivations underlying the transition from earth burial to cremation that began in late-nineteenth-century Europe and spread throughout the Western world. Interpretations focus on the roles of broader social movements such as secularisation and modernity, and on elite or exceptional individuals who chose cremation. Significantly, no demographic analysis of individuals who were cremated has been conducted in New Zealand, or elsewhere in the Anglosphere.  As such, existing narratives of the ‘why’ and ‘who’ of the cremated are problematised. By employing a prosopographical approach, systematic analysis of cremated individuals in aggregate can be conducted to reveal the collective and normal. Early results challenge existing narratives of status, secularisation, and modernity as drivers of cremation in New Zealand. Instead, choice of cremation over burial is associated with pragmatic yet intimate concerns across a broad demographic focussed on maintaining post-mortem familial and geographical links.  

Helen Leggatt is a PhD candidate in History at the University of Canterbury. Her research interests include nineteenth century deathways with an emphasis on New Zealand. Her thesis explores modern cremation in New Zealand (1874-1946) and focuses on the technology’s reception in colonial society through testamentary evidence and prosopographical analysis.