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Felski Family

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Jakob Felski (b. abt. 1839–d. 1926), was born at Strasbourg according to his naturalisation record, This is more likely to be Strasburg (Brodnica) which lies 20km south of Osetno. Jakob married on 12 November 1866 at the church of St. Apostles Peter & Paul in Lipinki to Juliana Kustoszyńska (b. 05 February 1835 at Sumin–d. 1897), the daughter of Marcin Kustoszyński (b. 1799–d. 1865) and Anna Bekier (b. 1807–d. 1843). The family born at Osetno were: Jozef (b. 1867–d. 1867) and Anna (b. 1868). Jakob fought in the Franco Prussian war in 1870 before the family left the village of Osetno for Hamburg. Here they set sail aboard the Friedeburg on 19 May 1872, arriving at Port Lyttleton near Christchurch on 30 August 1872.


Listed aboard were: Jacob age 32, Juliane 37 and Hanna 4. The family born at Christchurch were: Mary Catherine (b. 1873–d. 1943), John William (b. 1875–d. 1942 and Paulina Rosanna (b. 1877–d. 1949).  Around 1882 the family moved to Benmore in Southland where Jacob worked as a farmer. According to the 1882’ Return of Freeholders, Jacob owned 20 acres to the value of £120 at Benmore.

“A QUARRELSOME COUPLE. [By Telegraph.] [from our own correspondent.] INVERCARGILL, Dec. 30. There is a settler in the Fernhill district named Jacob Falska: he has a wife and family, but has not lived happily with the former. Jacob says she is jealous of him, and makes his life miserable. The other day he got tired of the way matters were going on, and told his son, aged 11 years, on Sunday morning, that he was to go to the constable at Winton and tell him that he (Falska) intended to hang himself within twenty-four hours. The boy told the constable, who came to the spot, saw the man, did not think he was in earnest, and cleared out to make enquiries about a fatal accident to a boy named Ross, who had been run over by a train some miles away. After the constable left, Jacob went into the bush, made a line of flax, tied one end to a branch of a tree, the other end being formed into a slip knot placed round his neck. The branch was barely 4ft high, and Falska went down on his knees and drew tightly, pulling back. His little son stood looking on, and when, as he put it, he saw his father was “beginning not to breathe,” he pulled out a knife and cut the flax asunder. Jacob after this made two more attempts, and each time the boy repeated his part of the performance. After being at it half an hour, Jacob got tired and lay down to sleep. One of his daughters called a neighbour, and he took Jacob home. Jacob got drunk on some beer he had, and was taken to Winton by the constable. He was brought up at the police court on a charge of attempted suicide, but was discharged, the Magistrate remarking that Jacob was apparently only trying to frighten his family, and had no real intention to take his life. He advised Jacob to try and live amicably with his wife. Jacob replied that she had been quarrelling with him for nine years.”  Lyttleton Times, 31 December 1886, p 6

“The dwelling-house of Mr Jacob Falska, Benmore, was destroyed by fire on the 28th inst. The insurance, if any, is not known.” The Evening Star, 31 December 1891, p 2

In 1893, Julia registered herself onto the Awarua Electoral Roll to be among the first woman in the democratic world to vote. She died at Fernhills on 2 April 1897 aged 62 and buried at the Winton Cemetery. Jacob remarried on 23 January 1900 at Winton to Mary O’Callaghan (b. 1861–d. 1939) and had a son, Joseph William (Campbell) (b. 1902–d. 1986) at Invercargill. Jacob was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 19 August 1907, a resident of Orepuki, where he worked as a gardener. The Falska’s fine produce made regular mention in the local rag, gaining special prizes in the Southland winter show and A & P show. Jacob died on 2 Apr 1926 at Orepuki aged 87 and is buried with his first wife at the Winton Cemetery.

“On Sunday evening last word was received that another old resident of Orepuki had joined the great majority. The deceased, Jacob Falska, aged 87 years, was born in a village on the borders of Russia and Germany, and fought in the Franco Prussian war in 1870. In 1873 he emigrated to New Zealand, landing at Akaroa. He engaged in farming operations in various parts of the South Island, finally arriving in Orepuki 20 years ago, where he has resided ever since. Deceased leaves a grown-up family of two sons and three daughters to mourn their loss.” Southland Times, 8 April 1926, p 8


Anna Felska was born at Osetno on 18 October 1868. She was married in 1889 at Hastings to Michael Redmond Murphy (b. 1851 at Gregmore, Ireland–d. 1942), the son of John Murphy (b. 1812–d. 1890) and Nora Honore Burke (b. 1816–d. 1898). The family born at Hastings were: Joseph Redmond (b. 1889–d.1973), John William (b. 1891–d. 1974 and Ellen (b. 1893).  The family moved to the South Island where Anna’s family were residing at Fernhill in Southland.  Michael died on 14 April 1942 and Annie died on 17 December 1945.  They are both buried together at the Winton Cemetery.


Australia and New Zealand, Find a Grave Index, 1800s-Current

Michael and Annie Murphy (nee Felska), 1 New Survey Block XI, Winton Cemetery


Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, pages 21 & 155

Research Sources

Archives New Zealand, Passenger Lists, 1839-1973, FamilySearch.

New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs Naturalisations, Births, Deaths and Marriages.

New Zealand Government Property Tax Department, from the rates assessment rolls, Return of Freeholders of  NZ 1882, published 1884.


Annie Murphy (1868-1945) – Find a Grave Memorial


Jacob Falska (1839-1926) – Find A Grave Memorial

Julia Falska (1835-1897) – Find A Grave Memorial


Compiled by Paul Klemick (2022)