Thursday, May 14, 2009

William Marsters, Palmerston Island, Cook Islands - a family hero ?

From an early age, my interest was captured by the mystery surrounding the origins of our esteemed ancestor – a Englishman who had originally travelled around the Pacific as a trader and general seaman until he was eventually dropped off on an isolated little atoll in the Pacific specifically to gather copra and beche de mer for a Tahitian trader, John Brander.

The record of William Marsters and his adventures in the Pacific were related mainly by word of mouth among the family and to researchers who travelled to the island to seek out information about this man who eventually established a dynasty on a tiny island in the Cook Islands.
Depending on the informant and from what has been revealed of him in my family history research, the stories that were told of him were somewhat embellished to make him a little larger than life. Ironically, the one photograph we have of the old gentleman was of him seated on the beach with a background of island palms. He appears to have been small in stature.

If we were looking for a hero in the family, you have to admit that his origins took on a heroic bent when we learned from the old people that he had left England and travelled to the South Pacific via the California goldfields. He married the daughter of a chief and took her and their children on his travels around the Pacific. Sadly his eldest daughters died during these travels. One daughter, Ann, died in Samoa and the other, Elizabeth, on a copra development venture on another isolated island - Manuae in the Cook Islands.

He is supposed to have arrived in the Pacific with gold in his possession but this does not seem probable because he ended up being rescued from Manuae, impoverished and needing work which is apparently how he ended up on Palmerston Island.

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  1. My name is Mareta Maoate (nee Marsters/Upokomanu) a great grand daughter of William & Tepou Marsters. My mother is Marion daughter of Carryme Kare & Kaiei Marsters. In 1983 at the age of 14 I had the privilege of visiting Palmerston with my uncle Pastor Richard Marsters who is my mother's brother, the first born of Carryme & Kaiei. We stayed on Palmerston for 2 months and we stayed in the main house that was built by William Marsters himself. Carryme being the last born of William & Tepou inherited the house from William and that house is the inheritance of Carryme's descendents and remains the birthright of Carryme's descendents up to this day. Now, because Carrymes descendents do not reside on Palmerston the house has been left in the care of Mama Martha's children. This clearly shows that Tepou is the middle family.

    I can see in your family tree that Martha is the 3rd youngest daughter of Carryme, before Marion. Martha is the daughter of Carryme's sister but he and his good wife took her and raised her as one of their own.

    After some trips that William made to Aitutaki, he decided to look for a young Aitutakian woman for Carryme. On his last trip he brought my grandfather Carryme to Aitutaki with the intent to have my grandfather meet and marry an Aitutakian woman, so that he wouldn't marry into his own relatives on Palmerston. My mother has always wanted to visit Palmerston, but my grandfather told her, that he didn't want to go to Palmerston again, because if he did, he would not return.

    My grandmother Kaiei died on Makongai in Fiji in 1939 when my mother was only 6 years old and uncle Joe was 3. Doctors mis-diagnosed her for leprosy. They got the news that Kaiei was coming home. A day before she was to return home to Aitutaki, she climbed the mataoi tree to pick some flowers for her ei, and fell off the tree. After she fell, the tree was to be chopped to the ground. I dont know how "tabu" spirit believers were back then, but, my mum told us, a Fijian woman asked to wait till my grandmother boarded the ship and sail out, then chop the tree. But it was chopped on the day, that night, she died. My grandfather Carryme never remarried. He cared and raised his 2 youngest children all on his own. I was born on the 4th Dec 1969, my grandfather died 10 days later.

  2. Kia orana,

    My name is Tiare Eliu and I am the neice of the above blogger Aunty Mareta. She is the youngest sister of my mum Merion.

    I noticed that you mentioned on the Marsters Family Tree website that you spoke to the last remaining grandchild of William Marster, Ann. I just want to confirm that, Ann is not the last grandchild. My grandmother Marioni and her brother Pastor John Tuapikepike Marsters are also grandchildren of William Marsters who are still alive today. They are the children of the Mama Kaiei and Papa Rapahua Carryme Kare Marsters. At a family meeting we had Pastor John did tell us that he and my grandmother were the last grandchildren of William Marsters and once they were gone that generation would have ended and the generation of great-grandchildren will continue and so forth. He went on to share stories about his grandfather William and his father Carryme that I believe is relevant to the history of the William Marsters dynasty. There were actualy 3 of them left but my granduncle Repaio Marsters passed away last month. So if you manage to find anymore grandchildren of William Marster it would be good to gather information from that generation before its gone.
    In my family I am the 5th generation of William Marsters. It is;
    1. William Marsters & Mama Tepou
    (my great great-grandparents)
    2. Rapahua Carryme Kare & Kaiei Marsters
    (my great grandparents)
    3. Marioni Marster-Upokomanu & Tukua Upokomanu
    (my grandparents)
    4. Merion & Upokoina Eliu
    (my parents)
    5. Tetiare Eliu
    I also have children which would make their line the 6th generation from William Marsters and Im sure will continue to grow.
    Lastly, I would just like to thank you for all your hardwork and research into this ever-increasing family of ours and I look forward to more information you may gather on your journey into family historys. Once again thank you.

    Na te Atua koe e tiaki!
    Kia Orana e Kia Manuia!.

  3. Kia Orana

    My father Rubena Marsters son of Taenga (Alfred), grandson of William Marsters and Matavia is also still very much alive today. He is the youngest sibling and is now the last living sibling in his family. With sadness we lost my uncle, his brother Maihia (George) in January this year at the age of 99. My father is to celebrate his 85 birthday next month, so if he is anything like his brother we will be blessed with his company for many years to come.

  4. one of William's decendants said...
    In reference to the Fish Market in William Marsters made references to when conveying stories to his decendents, I found this article in the History of Leicester. -

    Maybe this is the Fish Market we have been looking for???