A Kiwi in search of her ancestral tribes

Martin Burke (1840 – 1918) ~ Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch

Simeon Street entrance to Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ

Simeon Street entrance to Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ

While I was in Christchurch last June for the NZSG conference, I was determined to finally discover the resting place of my 2 x great grandfather, Martin Burke.  (There’s a picture of Martin in an earlier blog post.)  My first attempt with my aunt back in 2012 was not successful.  From Christchurch City Council’s cemetery database I knew he was buried in Sydenham Cemetery on 28th November 1918, and I had a plot number, but no map of the cemetery.  Major fail.

This time I had both!  However, it still wasn’t that easy to pinpoint his actual burial site.  While I could find the right block and row, none of the graves were numbered, so it was a case of using my phone and the online database to work out who was buried where, and narrow down his exact burial spot.

And what my aunt had thought was a walkway, was in fact our ancestor’s grave.

Burial site of Martin Burke, Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ. [Block 22B, plot 63]

Burial site of Martin Burke, Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ. [Block 22B, plot 63]

Later that weekend, I met up with a Burke cousin at the conference, and they were also going to search for Martin’s grave.  However, they had been in contact with the council and had a plan with the names and gravesite numbers marked on it.  Smart!

Plan of Block 22B of Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ

Plan of Block 22B of Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, NZ

We’re not sure why Martin doesn’t have a headstone on his grave.  Perhaps there was no money for a memorial, or some ill feeling amongst the family.  At least we now know where he rests.


Martin Burke & Ann Philp ~ Canterbury settlers


The Travelling Genie


  1. Fran

    Nice detective work. I have got to the stage I never expect a headstone with loads of unmarked graves. Hoping to win lotto so I can erect some.

    • Maggie

      Thanks, Fran! There’s a group of us planning to erect a stone there for him, so hopefully not unmarked for too much longer.

  2. Kaye Scales-Thain

    Hi I’m researching Michael Burke and his family who settled in Temuka mid Canterbury 1800s.
    I also note this Mr Burke is buried in the same cemetery as some of my relative’s, (
    (Ellen Burke)
    Kaye .

    • Maggie

      Hi Kaye – whereabouts is your Michael Burke from? It’s not an uncommon name, but it would be great to find a connection!

      • Kaye Scales-Thain

        Hi again, I’m sorry I may have emailed you in the past regarding Michael Burke.
        He was originally from County Mayo and settled in Milford mid Canterbury, he had 9 kids including his name sake.
        I’ve noticed the Michael Burke in the Sydenham cemetery over the years when I visit my family.
        Since I started researching the Burke’s I’ve noticed many with the same names including their children, so not easy.
        Are you in NZ?
        Look forward to hearing from you, kind regards, Kaye.

        • Maggie

          Ah yes, I think we have corresponded in the past! I am back in NZ now, and hoping to do a bit more digging into the Burke family here. There are a number of my Burke relatives who have had their DNA tested – is there someone in your family who might be interested?

          • Kaye Scales-Thain

            Hi, there’s just my cousin and I with direct links to the Temuka Burke’s as our research has drawn a blank, but would be interested in meeting with you to find any possible links.
            Your welcome to call me when you’re in Christchurch [redacted]
            Regards Kaye.

          • Maggie

            Hi Kaye – will do when I’m next down your way!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Text & Images Copyright © 2011-2024 iwiKiwi

Adapted from a theme by Anders Norén