Let me introduce you to my new family…

The power of the internet has led me to discover that a family link to New Zealand had really begun in Newfoundland. I can now profess to be a part of the Watts family of Newfoundland.

The Watts family originated from Ringwood, Hampshire in England.

In 1796 Henry Corbin Watts (1782-1867) journeyed across the sea to Carbonear in Newfoundland to work for his uncles- G and J Kemp.

He married Mary Pike in 1804 and their fourth son, Claudius Watts was born in Carbonear in 1811.

Claudius married Mary French of Bay Roberts in 1839 and they settled in Harbour Grace. Their six children were  Mary (1840-1917), Zela (1842-1868), Frederick (1846-1859), Horatio John (1848-1924), Theodore (1850-1899) and Corbin (1852-1917).

An example of a letter from the collection

What makes this  family special is that Claudius Watts penned and received a large quantity of letters that have survived and are now archived in the Archives and Special Collections, Queen Elizabeth II Library, Memorial University  Newfoundland:

The letters bring a family to life by offering insight into their sensibilities and relationships within the backdrop of the social history of the time.

A  direct link with Zela Watts now brings my past alive through researching and transcribing the letters and embarking on my own journeys across the sea to Newfoundland and discovering a small part of my family heritage.

Global Engagement

The Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University UK offered a short term global engagement opportunity, and in May 2019, I received the good news that:

Congratulations ! Your application for the Faculty of Management (FM) Global Engagement grant for international short-term mobility has been successful.

Studying as a PhD student in the Faculty of Management at BU had opened up this great opportunity for me.

I could visit Newfoundland and begin some research on the archive of my family’s letters. Newfoundland here I come!

Bournemouth University (BU) and Memorial University (MUN) are linked through the work of the historical group known as Wessex Newfoundland Society and the Newfoundland Wessex Society .

There is an academic partnership between BU and MUN, creating opportunities for student exchanges and research programmes. I decided to reignite this connection through my interests in social history and the direct link (migration and trade) between Poole/ Ringwood and other towns in the south west of England and Newfoundland. This could strengthen the continuation of the link for future research opportunities. Modern communication and travel was reconnecting the Watts family with their origins.

From Gatwick to St Johns

A special place with special people – you have to go :

A visit to Newfoundland is well worth it- book now, you’ll love it!

Here is some tourist information to wet your appetite:

My journey began on 19th July 2019, not by sea as my ancestors would have travelled, but flying from Gatwick airport UK to St Johns, Newfoundland with a few hours in Toronto airport in route : I arrived safely on 20th July.


A weekend of acclimatising to St Johns on the 20th and 21st July ready for the archive on Monday 22nd July.

Here’s some photographs for you. I think you will love them.

But…….. it is even better to be there- search out your next trip here :

Treat yourselves to a bit of luxury :

Take a cruise :

Or plan your own itinerary:

St Johns looking lovely
The Newfoundland Chocolate Company
The Newfoundland and Labrador dogs – these two don’t bark or need walks!
Missed Canada day on 1st July.
A visit- or two to The Rooms must not be missed.

The Archive/ the letters/ new connections

Monday 22nd July 2019 the start of my week in Memorial University Libraries Archives and special Collections Archives and special Collections

Colleen Quigley, is the Division Head, Archives & Special Collections,

Colleen welcomed me to the archive with a great enthusiasm for the story that had led me here.

Arrived at the Queen Elizabeth II library and to the Centre for Newfoundland Studies

In the Centre for Newfoundland Studies I met with Linda White Archivist and Michaela Doucette a student  who also works in the Archives and Special Collections Division at the Queen Elizabeth II Library as a MUCEP student.

Linda White :

Michaela Doucette :

The Watts family (from the Harbour Grace, Carbonear, and the Bay Roberts area) collection consists mainly of correspondence. Here’s some more details about this great collection below :

The collection primarily consists of correspondence from 1837-1907 between members of the Watts family. Other records include: business records belonging to Claudius, Horatio John, and Theodore, journal/diary entries written by Claudius, business reports, and media clippings. An epic scope of material is covered in the Watts family correspondence, bringing to life the joy and tragedy of a particular age in an intensely personal way.  It was kindly donated to Memorial University by Frances (Watts) Winsor, the great-granddaughter of Claudius Watts in 2018.

To set the collection in context: There are 3m of textual material. 6,735 digital files (Scans)

The archive

Linda and Michaela are actively involved with the Watts collection and prior to this visit, I had been communicating with them both from afar whilst beginning to transcribe some of the scanned letters. This leads me to tell you about David Pike who was responsible for me engaging with the archive.

Lunchtime on day 1 was spent with David Pike at the University, David had been instrumental in linking me with the archive of letters about a year ago. David took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me.

Lunch was at MUN : University Centre Food Court

David is a Mathematics Professor at MUN and a genealogist. It was David that I contacted about a year ago via his email address around the time of my ‘eureka moment’ when I realised that my relative (Zela Watts) in New Zealand had actually come from Newfoundland, as evidence by her fathers Will (Claudius Watts) that was accessible via a public search on the internet. It helps having relatives with unusual names, as I was able to find this connection through a random internet search of a name rather than through any family history searching websites. This is not the best or orthodox way to find your family history- but – it worked for me.

David also incorporates into his family history research, searches for the DNA of the first settlers to Newfoundland and has had global interest in some of his recent findings :

The afternoon was spent looking at some of the letters and other information given to me by Linda and Michaela, I marvelled at holding them in my hands. So very special to hold a letter that your relative had written in the 1800s.

Reflecting on DAY 1: an amazing day for making connections from the past through the letters and developing real live connections for now and the future with others interested in the history of people and migration.

Without the existence of the Watts letters archive and the funding assistance from Bournemouth University- I would not have travelled to Newfoundland to make these connections from the past with relevance to the present and the future.

Looking at the letters

Personal letters are a part of social history showing us how people lived. 

..and sometimes they are extra special by allowing us into the lives of people that we have connections with. You feel you can get to know people through their letter writing.

Part of the Watts collection

Looking at the Watts collection allowed insight into the social history of a small part of Newfoundland through one family and their correspondence. Letter writing across the globe provides a fascinating window into life and relationships.

Five very special days in the archive allowed for immersion in the Watts collection and a greater understanding of my Newfoundland connections.

More letters and other Watts material