People of South Canterbury

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about individual people or groups of people from South Canterbury.

Close up photo of a statue of Captain Henry Cain. Behind the statue is the Landing Service Building on George Street, Timaru.

Image: Captain Cain, 07 September 2022, Timaru District Libraries.

Which people can I learn about?

Here are some people related to South Canterbury you could find out about:

Māori Leaders

Māori Leaders
Includes the prophet Te Maiharoa and Te Huruhuru of the Waimate area.

Find out about Māori leaders

Such as aviator Richard Pearse, and inventor’s Colin Murdoch and Bill Hamilton.

Find out about inventors
Sports People

Sports People
Boxing champion Bob Fitzsimmons and Olympic gold medallist Jack Lovelock.

Find out about Bob Fitzsimmons and Jack Lovelock
Early Settlers

Early Settlers
European settlers include the Rhodes Brothers, Michael Studholme, and James Mackenzie.

Find out about early settlers

Doctor Margaret Cruickshank and Captain Henry Cain.

Find out about well-known personalities

Tips: These are just some examples of people you could research. You may have someone different you're interested in finding out about. Just use their name as your search terms in the resources below.

Local iwi:

Note: Iwi are listed in alphabetical order. This list was put together to the best of our knowledge. If there are any other iwi to be included, please let us know.

South Canterbury resources

These local sources have information about individual people or groups of people important to South Canterbury.

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu

This is the website for the Ngāi Tahu iwi, the principal iwi of the South Island.

To search for information on local South Canterbury hapu:

  • go to the Ngāi Tahu menu and select Papatipu Rūnanga, then

  • select Arowhenua or Waihao.

For history of the iwi:

  • go to the Ngāi Tahu menu and select History.

South Canterbury Museum

The South Canterbury Museum looks at the land, life, and people of South Canterbury. It collects specimens, artifacts, images, and documents.

Visit the museum in Timaru to find out:

  • How local Māori lived in the region, from their arrival over 800 years ago, in the museum's

    Takata Whenua exhibition area. Learn about mahika kai, the seasonal food-gathering cycle which enabled local people to best use the resources of our land.

  • Information on significant South Canterbury personalities, such as Richard Pearse, Colin Murdoch and Jack Lovelock in the Heritage Theatre.

  • About life for European settlers arriving in the area from the 1850s, in the Early Settlers exhibition area, including where they came from and why.


The South Canterbury Museum has an online database of short biographies of all those from South Canterbury who served in World War One.

To search the database go to the scroll page:

  • Select search scroll now.

  • Use the alphabet along the top to select the first letter of the last name

  • Entries are arranged alphabetically.

  • Move down the page and when you find the person you are interested in select their entry to read.

Aoraki Heritage Collection

This is the online heritage collection from Timaru District Libraries. It includes historical documents, newspaper clippings, photographs, biographies of local people and more.

  • Enter the name of a person or group of people in the Search by keyword bar.

  • Or to browse find the heading Browse by Topic.

  • Select a topic like Biography or Early Settlers.

Tips: Old newspaper articles and documents like the ones found on Aoraki Heritage can be good for looking at how things have continued or changed over time. Remember, stories can be told in different ways so it’s helpful to look at multiple information sources to find different perspectives.

South Canterbury Museum Collections Online

This is where the South Canterbury Museum has items that they've digitised and made available online.

  • Have a read through the Tips for Searching to help you with your search.

  • Select Keyword Search and enter a name of a person.

  • You may need to use double quotations around your keywords to get more accurate results eg "Richard Pearse".

  • Choose a record to have a closer look.


The Ngāi Tahu Archive which is made up of collections of tribal significance. This includes maps, photographs, biographies and audio-visual material.

  • Enter a name or keyword into the search bar.

  • Select an item to find out more.

  • Or go to Biographies to browse.

  • Choose a person and then find Click to read this document.

Te Ana

Visit Te Ana Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art centre in Timaru, where you can discover the stories of South Canterbury's ancient Māori rock art and the people who created it.

  • 2 George St, Timaru.

  • Please check their website for opening hours.

General New Zealand resources

These websites have good information about the history of South Canterbury and the rest of New Zealand.

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography | Ngā Tāngata Taumatu Rau has over 3000 life stories of people who have shaped New Zealand's history including those from South Canterbury.

You can search by:

  • using the name of the person in the biographies search bar, or

  • browsing the person's last name by letter.

Papers Past

This website has digitised copies of South Canterbury newspapers, from between 1860 and 1945. Use it to search for information on South Canterbury people. Go to the website, then:

  • Choose newspapers and you will have the option to limit your search by title, region or date.

  • Local papers you can limit by are The Timaru Herald, Temuka Leader, the South Canterbury Times and the Waimate Daily Advertiser.

  • Search for the name of the person. Start by searching only for their last name, to see how many results the name appears in. You can then try adding their first name or initial to narrow your results.

  • You can also search for keywords eg 'lovelock medal'.

Tips: We like Papers Past because it is from a government organisation (the National Library of New Zealand). You can tell this by their web address, which includes .govt. It is also a New Zealand site, so relevant for us.

Tips: Historical sources eg Newspapers can be useful for finding different perspectives on a topic. Keep in mind that they may not fairly show a wide range of views or experiences.

Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for questions about South Canterbury. If we look down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • To find information about South Canterbury select Sections, then Places.

  • From here look for South Canterbury.

  • Here you will find stories about the region and its history as well as its places.

Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.


This is a search site that focuses on Aotearoa New Zealand's history and brings together results from lots of different websites such as New Zealand libraries, museums, universities, and government sites all at once.

  • Search using the name of a person or a group of people.

  • Look at a range of videos, audio, articles and images, and more about your topic.


Here are a few books about South Canterbury people for you to look for at your school or local library. Your local librarian is a great person to ask for books on South Canterbury people.

More about South Canterbury

Places of South Canterbury

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about places of South Canterbury.

Learn about places of South Canterbury

Events of South Canterbury

Lots of things have happened that have impacted life in South Canterbury. The following resources explore these events and can offer some different perspectives.

Learn about events of South Canterbury