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Sherlock Holmes' works on historic records

The fine paper, the elegant script and the quirky job titles are all fascinating to Luke Maton, as he works to get Hastings’ old hand-written burial records into an easily searchable format.

He is working through the 1940s and 1950s at the moment, but eventually all the records back to when the cemetery opened in the early 1880s will be checked and uploaded so they are available on-line, said Hastings District Council facilities and programmes Group Manager Alison Banks.

Luke has been employed by Hastings District Council under the Te Rangatahi mā, Kia eke project. It is a partnership between Hastings District Council and the Ministry of Social Development which aims to help people aged 16 to 24 who are having difficulty finding employment.

On Tuesday, just three weeks into the job, Luke met Minister for Social Development Anne Tolley who was at Council to see the results of the project being funded by her ministry.

The job was “a bit like being a cemetery Sherlock Holmes”, he told Mrs Tolley. “Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper to work out what has gone on and to get as good as information as you can get for the on-line data base.

“It really is fascinating, especially when you get two [historic] records that seem to contradict each other. I am one of those people who love detail so solving the mysteries is fascinating to me.”

Where it looked like errors may have occurred the information was not changed; rather a note was being added to the on-line version explaining the apparent discrepancy.

All councils are required to operate their cemetery facilities according to the Burial and Cremations Act, 1964, which includes instructions on how records must be kept.

Having the records available to the public through an on-line system would also save cemetery staff time, as currently they respond directly to members of the public enquiries and will trace burial records on their behalf, said Mrs Banks.

“There are two very real benefits to the project Luke is working on. Genealogy is increasingly popular with families and a lot of investigation is through burial records. This project will ensure our records are safe and give people access to them,” she said.

“Another benefit is having Luke as a member of our team. He is loving what he is doing and he is building on his computer and research skills to enable him to decide what his future may look like”.

Acting mayor Sandra Hazlehurst hosted Mrs Tolley.

“Helping our young people into work is crucial and this kind of joint initiative between local and central Government is a very effective way to do that,” said Mrs Hazlehurst.

“In this case Luke has joined our Council team but we have helped place young people into employment across different sectors, including a young woman who is doing extremely well as an administrator in one of our schools.

Assisting young people not already in jobs or training into long-term employment is a key focus of Hastings District Council in partnership with central Government. Mrs Hazlehurst was at an announcement last month at which Mrs Tolley and Economic Development Minister Simon Bridges committed $50 million to employment initiatives in four regions, including $10m for Hawke’s Bay.

4 October 2017

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