Sleuth finds home truths

By André Hueber

Unravelling the history of your home has become as easy as the click of a mouse, and property detective Lisa Truttman is giving talks throughout Auckland about how to do it.

President of the Avondale Waterview Historical Society and star of reality television show, My House My Castle, she says there has been a renewed interest in things historical since genealogy sites proliferated on the internet 10 years ago.

At the same time,  government agencies and local-body authorities have been digitising their records and making them more easily available.

In a talk for Auckland's Heritage Festival at Avondale Library, Truttman referred to a historical villa in Avondale's Canal Rd as an example of what could be discovered.

She began by visiting the Auckland Council's website and doing a free rates and property search.

Armed with a legal description of the property and a Certificate of Title, she took the information to Land Information New Zealand's website and worked  through the titles.

The site showed when the first Crown grant was given -  the first transfer of the property from  Crown to private ownership.

It revealed that the property was first owned and subdivided in the 1880s by the man who gave Avondale its name, John Bollard.

"Richard Beck had the first certificate of title and was the first owner of the land from 1884 to 1899," she said.

"I searched his name on Papers Past and an obituary showed he didn't live at the property, he lived in Mt Albert."

The next title-holder was  Albert Knight. A substantial rates valuation increase by 1906  suggested there had been improvements to the property - most likely the construction of a house. Newspaper records showed Knight grew kumara at the property from 1896 to 1907.

The owner after Knight was a man called Frances Ohmones. His property title listed him as "master mariner", so Truttman searched for his name in archives at the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum.

She found he owned a number of vessels in his wife's  name. An obituary said he came from Lisbon in Portugal and was naturalised as a British citizen.

He died in the 1920s  so it was likely that his wife, Alice, remained there until her death in the 1934 - when the house was sold.

Truttman said the area would have been surrounded by market gardens and paddocks between 1880 and 1930. The roads would have been made of clay and it would have taken all day to get to the CBD and back by horse and cart. The Avondale resident says more  people are realising the importance of knowing the story of the area where they live.

"It makes us learn more about the fabric of the place, not just within space but within time.

"You don't need a degree or oodles of experience, just the ability to turn on a computer."

Auckland Council

Auckland Council Archives


Archives New Zealand - Archway

Papers Past

Timespanner (Lisa Truttman's blog)

Lisa Truttman is happy to give advice. She can be contacted at


Other Sources:

Aperture Card collection (survey plans), Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Library

Postal directories: Wises, Leightons, Cleaves. Central Auckland Research Centre, Auckland War Memorial Museum Library have volumes and microfiche.

Valuation rolls, some held in Council archives, most in Archives NZ

Local historical societies, local histories, names and cemetery databases

Historic photographs: Sir George Grey Special Collections, National Library in Wellington, Auckland War Memorial Museum Library.



- The Aucklander

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