Being Anglo-Indian in NZ
Frederica's story

As I was beginning this research, a Facebook post made it into my newsfeed: it told of the 1869 arrival of Mrs Frederica Hay to Dunedin, with her husband, Robert Hay.
Old photo of Frederika

Frederica Hay arrived in New Zealand in 1869, making her one of the earliest Anglo-Indian arrivals to New Zealand that Andrews has come across during her research

They had just married in St Paul’s Cathedral, Calcutta (now Kolkata). Frederica was the daughter of an English lieutenant colonel who served in India and an Indian woman. So Frederica was Anglo-Indian by the current definition.

They settled in Dunedin and had a family of ten children. In 1906-07, Frederica took a European Tour, making the most of the occasion of one of her daughters marrying in Ireland.

Frederica’s story came as something of a surprise to me as it indicated that Anglo-Indians were here very early. I subsequently met the families of others who arrived within the same decade as she did, some possibly even earlier.

Over the course of hearing about Frederica, I became interested in her wider family. As I met descendants of Frederica: great-granddaughters Lynne, Tina and Jennifer and Frederica’s great-great-granddaughter Kirsten, I learned of their pull towards India, and how strongly they identified with Frederica.

One of the great grandchildren, Lynne, recalls when she first heard about her Indian heritage: "…my mother had just made me a brand new dress, and it was a little bit ethnic looking. It was unusual fabric and she tried it on me and said “You look like an Indian Princess. Did you know your great grandmother was an Indian Princess!” Adding that, "My mother told me not to tell anyone, which I did not understand at the time. Because it sounded so exciting to me, as a seven year old. Of course our generation thinks it is the most interesting part of our family ancestry."

It is likely that Frederica had experienced social ostracism that came with xenophobic and miscegenation-fuelled prejudices at that time in New Zealand.

Any sense of stigma Frederica may have felt because of her mixed ancestery certainly isn't shared by her great-grandaugters, who say they have always been interested in this part of their genealogical history.

In 2008, they began to do the serious work of finding out more about their Indian great-grandmother. While Tina went to Dunedin’s Early Settlers Museum, their London-based second cousin Kirsten was able to visit the British India Office.

There are many areas that are a mystery to the family, but they have gathered a huge amount of information. In my last visit to Kolkata, I endeavoured to add to that through visits to church records offices.

The great-granddaughters say they always mention their Indian side when anyone asks about ethnicity. One told me she had recently enrolled in a night school class and had written Anglo-Indian, very proudly, in the ‘ethnicity’ section of a form.

Three woman smiling at the camera

Federica's great-granddaughters Tina and Jennifer and great-great-granddaughter Kirsten

Two of Frederica's great-grandaugters, Lynne and Tina, have expressed a real interest in going to Kolkata. As well as looking for further information about Frederica, her father and, if possible, her mother, they are also very interested in visiting Kolkata because they know that genealogically it is a part of who they are.

They say they are keen to see the buildings that their ancestors had spent time in, for example St Paul’s Cathedral where their great-grandparents married. Speaking for all of them, one of the great-grandchildren told me: "What is at the heart of the matter for me now, about the longing and urgency for more knowledge about Frederica, is that I feel if we don’t do the work on this it will be lost.

"It is not enough that this generation of Frederica’s great grandchildren just acknowledge her like our mother’s generation did. What is different with our generation is we proudly celebrate this wonderful racial diversity in our family and in this way we honour Frederica and her mother. We sort of reclaim her as our own. We also long for more information about her and her mother’s life."

Frederica died in Dunedin in 1914 aged 66.

By Dr Robyn Andrews, senior lecturer Massey University

Views expressed in this article are personal to the author and are not to be taken as representing those of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.