Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Abel Tasman's descendants on the Coromandel?

Detail from what is believed to be a portrait of Abel Tasman (pictured) and his family, 1637. From Wikipedia.

A bit from the November 2011 newsletter of the Mercury Bay Historical Society (Whitianga) caught my eye. 

"White Street, between Albert Street and Cook Drive, is named for the descendants of Abel Tasman ... It was his descendants who came to live in New Zealand. Abraham Bennet White married Princess Ono of Ngati Awa. They lived in the Whakatane area, but when Abraham was massacred in 1867 members of the family fled to Whitianga to be with his brother, George, who, we believe, was the first European on the "flats", where our town now exists. George built the trading post in Robinson Road."

Abraham Bennet White's murder occurred during the Hau Hau period of the land wars of the mid 19th century, near Opotiki.
We are indebted to the courtesy of F A Krull, Esq., who arrived from Auckland on Tuesday by the Taranaki, for the following information relative to another revolting atrocity reported to have been committed at Opotiki by the Hau Hau fanatics. When at Tauranga, the s.s. Taranaki was in company with the Government steamer Sturt, and a report was made by Captain Fairchild that Mr Bennett White, who, it will be remembered, gave the most conclusive evidence against the murderers of Mr Fulloon, had been brutally murdered, decapitated, and his head carried about in triumph. It was further said that a native mailman had also been murdered, and that the Arawas were anxious to proceed in search of the rebels, but were not permitted to do so pending orders from the Government. The atrocities must have been committed some days ago, as Captain Fairchild of the Sturt, previous to meeting the Taranaki, had proceeded to Auckland under hopes of meeting his Excellency the Governor, and only returned to Tauranga on finding H.M.S. Charybdis had sailed for Wellington. 
 Wellington Independent 11.7.1867

According to Rootsweb, Abraham Bennet White (1818-1867) married Mere Te Wia. His parents were Abraham White (1782-1818) and Theodora Elizabeth Rudolphina Von Dri(e)berg (1790-1860). The Von Dri(e)berg connection seems to be the one folks say stems from Abel Tasman. There's this comment from a Rootsweb page, from Anne Williams:

"Friedrich Wilhelm von Driberg was Commandant of Mullaitivu at time of his death on July 6,1807. and was probably son by his 1st wife of Diederich Carolus von Driberg who was a Capt. Lt. in the Dutch Company's service at Chilaw in 1766 etc. According to Governor North they were Hanoverians and judging from their arms of baronial rank. Charles Driberg, a descendant signed a marriage register as "Driberg" and later as 'Drieberg''. The von was dropped early. Apparently this family is in no way connected with the family of Driebergs descended from Johannes Gerardus, who married Johanna Horn. The von Dribergs married into White with the marriage of Theodora  .Eliz. von Driberg to Dr Abraham White. Note honorific VON not VAN the latter being the Dutch equivalent both denoting someone of importance.The above family was never VAN. It is supposed that this family was related to Abel Tasman. It would be interesting to learn how."

I'd be interested as well. Anyone out there with some ideas of info, please do get in touch.


  1. I know exactly how...Abel Tasman's daughter Claesjen married Phillip Heymann..their son Abel Heylmann and wife had a daughter who married ?Von Driberg.....their son Dietrich Carlolus Driberg married Johanna Aubert...their son Colonel Baron Friedrich Von Driberg married Susanna Tarres..their daughter Theodora Elizabeth Rudolphia married Abraham Bennett White...their son Abraham Bennett White married Mere Te Wia..and their grandson Bennett was my great grandfather...

    1. Hi Rhonda.......... I'm interested reading your comments here. I too am a great, great, great, grand daughter of Abraham Bennett & (Princess Ono) Mere Te Wia. I am looking at my family tree and wondering which branch you take. My great parents are George & Ruby White. Granma Ruby's parents are Robert Bennett who married Frances Lavina Lee. Robert is a son of Abraham Bennett and Mere Te Wia. Regards, Kristen

  2. Do you have documentation to prove that link?

    1. Claesjen Tasman's family tree

      and of the Von Driberg family tree...

      I am a great great great grandaughter of Abraham Bennett White

    2. The Geni site isn't exactly documentation. Where did the primary information come from that links Claesjen Tasman with the Von Dribergs?

    3. http://www.myheritage.com/site-family-tree-73320291/wroe?rootIndivudalID=5000175&familyTreeID=5
      There seems to be some more info here

      I really don't know...I have always been told that Abel Tasman was our ancestor..earliest recollection of my grandmother (Kathleen Mary White) telling me was in the 1960s

  3. If she told you that, Rhonda, then I think there was likely an element of truth -- but it will probably involve someone spending a lot of money, hopefully locating records that might still exist in Europe, to know for certain. Intriguing, though! Someday, something may come up to firmly underline the link.

  4. Here is a bit of onfo that might help...I have aclipping from the New Zealand Herald dated October 30th 1991...about a descendant of Abel Tasman..a name sake ..yep Abel Tasman finally landed in New Zealand after 350 years ..Well there was a special function hosted by Dame Catherine Tizzard for him...and another guest by the name of Ivy Ngatai from Morrinsville..
    She states that one of Abel Tasman's descendents married Princess Eona (Ona)...one Abraham Bennett White
    Ivy states that when her father died she inherited papers that followed the movement of Abel Tasman's daughter Claesjen who married and travelled to Ceylon ..and one of her descendents was Baron Von Dreiberg.The baron's grandson travelled to New Zealand where he married Eona..who was Ivy's great great grandmother...
    Oh yes this Princess Eona was my great great great grandmother...
    So I am thinking that yes indeed there is truth in the fact that my ancestor is Abel Tasman..
    I think I have kept this clipping for a reason ..


    1. The line from the Von Dribergs is fairly well documented and not really in question. But -- the link between Abel Tasman and the Von Driberg's does need to be proved. The story that Abraham Bennett White is a descendant of the Dutch explorer appears to have been around since the mid-20th century, is could be from the family retellings.

      As soon as someone can check with the old records in the Netherlands and elsewhere, then we'd know for sure.

  5. There is also a family bible.

  6. There is a time gap of 67 years, from 1650 approx. date for birth of Abel Heylman (son of Abels daughter),and 1744 the date of birth for Lt. Baron Diedrich von Drieberg, from what I have gathered. Until that time frame is sorted we cannot be 100% sure.
    The information seems to be fairly widely spread among White family descendants,BUT until the original documents are found we are kept guessing.
    I would love to know what information is in that family bible.
    Dee H

  7. It's an intriguing story, whatever information comes to light or not. Yes, I agree with you, Dee -- that Bible would be interesting.

  8. Hi -- I've recently come across your interesting discussion and thought I'd say hello. I don't have any information to add to your genealogical quest, but I am coordinating events this year to commemorate the 370th anniversary of Abel Tasman's voyage of discovery that included New Zealand, and the first recorded meeting between tangata whenua and people of another race.

    The website for the commemoration is www.abeltasman370.com -- in case you're interested.

    Regards & good wishes, Penny Griffith

  9. Hi Penny,

    Thanks -- I'll put that link up on a new post to draw folks' attention to it. Cheers!


    1. Thanks, Lisa -- that's great.

      Other bloggers may find it useful to know that there's quite a lot about the 1992 350th commemoration at Archives New Zealand. The files include references to visiting descendants called Abel Tasman, as well as Ivy Ngatai. Go to the website http://archway.archives.govt.nz/ and type ivy ngatai in the search box. If you keep going through the details there are 4 pages of files! There may be some useful background info about the family if anyone is in Wellington and can go and look.

  10. Hi, I have just discovered your website. I am a descendant of George William White, brother of Bennett. George married Ringaono of Ngati Awa. Yes, as far as I can tell we are descended from Abel Tasman through the female line and the von Driebergs'. I do have some notes but no official records.

  11. The issue isn't to do with the genealogy in New Zealand -- but with the connection of the Von Driebergs with Abel Tasman, which still doesn't appear to be documented or proven. I'd still file this one in the folder of "family tradition". If the family likes the Abel Tasman link, tenuous and possibly not true as it is -- what does it hurt? It will be difficult working through any surviving early Dutch records.

  12. Hi Rhonda
    Yes you are right. My name is ann norton and ivy ngatai (nee ivy norton) was my aunty (my fathers sister ). My dear aunty has now passed away but i do have access to the documentation you speak of. Our family tree does connect us to the Von Dribergs through the Whites marrying into the family as you say. There are many sceptics out there but hold fast to who you are. We descend from a great blood line, one of which i am very proud of. The documentation i have connects us with many royal households but I am yet to clarify for myself some of the connections that are documented. I am in the process of back tracking the documentation I have. I can tell you that there are connections to the house of stewarts who married into the whites who married into the tasmans who married into the dribergs. Their descendants you have spoken of above ie Abraham, George etc. I have the life stories of many of these descendants. Abraham did marry Princess Eona of Whakatane (there is suppose to be a portrait of her in the Auckland Museum but i am yet to see it) and I descend from this union. There is also a book that was gifted to the government by an ancestor of mine but it is not on public display that i know of. One of my cousins has seen this book but I am yet to view the book myself. I am not sure if this is the Bible that has been spoken about in this blog. I would be interested in more information in regards to this book. I do have the family tree which connects the dribergs with Abel Tasman and there is also a copy in a private family archive which is not available to the public for obvious reasons. There are dribergs living in nz as i have meet them but have lost touch with them of late. I would like to reconnect with them at some time so as to share documentation with them. I hope this information helps to clarify things for you . Also to you Rhonda and your family I send you love and well being. To everyone who too descends down this blood line i say kia ora and wish you all the best for your future endeavours. I would love to hear anything yous would like to share and will keep an eye on this site and the other site mentioned in the future.

    kind regards


  13. Having dipped back into my own family history -- I remain very sceptical when it comes to so-called genealogies trying to link back to famous people, battles, what-have-you. My philosophy is, whatever makes you happy, go ahead and think it. But documentation here means primary documentation, not something that dates from the 19th and early 20th century trend of assumptions on top of notions.

    If someone can show me irrefutable proof of their descendency from Abel Tasman, all well and good to them. Meanwhile, take great pride in knowing that the family has at least a strong link to our history through whakapapa.

  14. NO need to rain on other people's parades, Timespanner. Pretty well all of us are descended from somebody famous - we just don't always know it. It makes statistical sense, too. We all have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and a whopping 1,048,576 ancestors 20 generations back (that's about 500-600 years). It shouldn't be too difficult for ANYBODY to find somebody famous (or notorious for that matter, but we won't go there) amongst all that mob. Abel Tasman's line is better documented than most, and as a history buff I find claims of descent from him VERY plausible. (And no, I'm not actually a descendant of his, as far as I know).

    1. If the contention is there, David -- the line is not as well documented as you claim. Genealogy unfortunately is littered with undocumented assertions of links to famous people. For those who are linked, and with true documentation in the form of family bibles, parish records, etc etc -- good on them. And I say again: "If someone can show me irrefutable proof of their descendency from Abel Tasman, all well and good to them."

      So far, that documentation doesn't quite stack up.

  15. Hello Ann

    There is a painting of our beautiful ancester at the Auckland War Memorial. It is titled "Portrait of a Maori girl called Eono" by Joseph Merrett painted 1850. This portrait was on the cover of Art New Zealand Journal (number 56/spring 1990). Below are a couple of links which will allow you to view a reproduction of the painting.




  16. this is how i get my name bennett white

  17. hi there. i am bennett white and this is so interesting knowing that this is my ancestry

    1. Hi Bennett very interesting should have taken the time to know about our ancestry along time ago. Bennett white is an important name to keep on the family tree

  18. Hi Bennett very interesting stuff should have taken the time to know about our ancestry along time ago.

  19. KiaOra to all my cousins and interested parties. Hi Rhonda, we have the same grandparents! I don't know how to get in private contact with you.
    I am having to go from memory here as I have misplaced our Whakapapa temporarily. I also am descended (4th generation) from Abraham Bennett White (known as Bennett) and his wife who is known to us as "princess" Ono Mere Te Wia, daughter of chief Tikitu of Ngati Awa.
    Please remember that all Maori whakapapa (genealogy) were only recorded in writing after the arrival of Europeans and was always confirmed verbally by many family members.
    At this stage I ask you to please kindly overlook the pakeha way of saying "great great great etc". My grandad was George Ralph and my Grandma Ruby (nee White) of Whitianga.
    I confirm the existence of the original painting of grandmother Mere Ono, which I believe is held in the archives in the Auckland art gallery. I have a poor photo of the painting from the days of black and white photography. A family member gained access to the original back in the 60's. I also have a photo of a painting of grandad Bennett White.
    He was murdered as utu for giving evidence in court over the murders on the cutter "Kate" (including a Mr Falconer) attributed to the Pai Marire (or HauHau). His 3 children were bundled off most urgently by their mum to go to their uncle George at Whitianga and we have no knowledge of what became of their mother, Mere Ono.
    I also have 1st copy photos, taken by myself of their son Bennett White and his wife Lavinia. The originals are taonga to us -printed in glass- held very privately for obvious reasons, by a family member.
    Our information regarding descendancy from Abel Tasman was confirmed by one of the close Drieberg family friends, way back, from Ceylon.
    Now remember Abel Tasman sailed, lived and died in Batavia (Java) and evidently sailed from there, to discover Aotearoa for the Dutch East India Company and also at times to visit his daughter in Ceylon, several occasions witnessed by the informant. Evidently Abel and his wife were not married as we understand it now - which possibly explains the difficulty of finding written records, although the Dutch were known to keep excellent records and tolerant regarding such marriages in those times.
    Perhaps if the Dutch East India Company records were taken back to Holland they may be able to confirm it from their archives. I'm gettin a bit long in the tooth to follow it up now.
    As for myself - I don't need the 'proof '. That is for others who are dubious and require more 'evidence', not forgetting there was a takeover of Batavia by the French during the Napoleonic wars (late 1700's) due to them conquering the Netherlands. Then the British took over in 1811 and it returned to the Dutch in 1814 under the treaty of Paris and then the Japanese invaded in WWII ensuing in a rout of the Dutch East India Company from what is now Indonesia. Total destruction was the way of the invaders and I doubt there are records remaining in Java.
    Well at least the discovery of this site has rather moved my memory into overdrive. I have been ridiculed for having told it before this, so I choose to remain anonymous.
    What I have written here I have known all my life and I can't actually remember being told, but obviously I gained the knowledge from my own ancestors and it is confirmed by extended family members and many other branches of our family tree. I have never found any doubt as to it's veracity. If it is a fairy tale it is a very very old one.
    Incidentally I also accidentally found and befriended a Sri Lankan Drieberg family member migrant in Australia who confirmed the link with us to his own ancestral story, there were at least two von Drieberg brothers in Ceylon at that time. They evidently died on the same day due to battle wounds. He confirmed the dropping of the "von" as well. It is a very small world.
    Maybe someone can use my knowledge to consider contacting Dutch genealogists.
    Ka Kite Ano
    Ropata Hori

  20. Sorry that was Mr Fulloon murdered on the cutter "Kate", not Mr Falconer as I mistakenly said.
    Wow I just read through some of the earlier postings. Where are you my people? How can we privately communicate? I'm not real good at this computer stuff eh.
    Arohanui to my many new cousins
    Ropata Hori

  21. I just happened on these messages while researching our Family Heritage in particular our Iwi for my Adult daughters. Most of comments are exactly as I learned as a boy growing up in Mt Roskill and living with my Grandmother Winifred Thomson nee White 1895 -1991 and one of seven daughters of George White, in the 1950's. I was laughed at at school when mentioning "related to Abel Tasman" and "related to a Maori Princess" I always new the truth about Princess Eono Mere White (born Te Wai) because we had a small painting of her on our state house wall that was hand written on the back. We always thought it original?? but in hinesight probably a copy. It remains in out family. Even reading some of the comments here there are variations from what my Grandmother told me. My daughters' and niece are currently updating family tree and this branch of the Family is not the only one with history.

  22. Hi everyone,
    My grandmother was Olive White and a direct descendant of Abel, which I've known about all my life! My father is 94 years old and has dementia but still talks of our links to a Maori princess. My brother and cousin have family trees handwritten in ink as well as newspaper clippings and lots of certificates that my cousin gained from years of searching out of wanting the whole story. It's so fascinating and I'm so grateful to have come across this all. I'd love to see a copy of the painting but I believe it's still in the Auckland Museum. I'm in NZ at the moment but live in Melbourne. All my family are kiwi's. My email address is jk.davidson@bigpond.com if any of you descendants would like to keep in touch as I have a son who is only 20 years old and interested in his family history. Lovely to read all this amazing information.
    Kindest regards, Jan Davidson