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Barra Family


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Piotr Albrecht Bara, a coachman (b. 1827—d. 1904) was born at Malenin on 11 July 1827, the son of Augustin Bara (b. 1794—d. 1847) and Justyna Apolonia Dering (b. 1792—d. 1863). Peter married on 7 February 1858 at the Church of the Holy Cross in Tczew to Eleanora (Helena) Wilhelmina Maaś (b. abt. 1828 at Elbląg—d. 1909). Very fond of horses, Peter was a driver for the Premier of Poland and Helena was a governess in Poland, being fairly well educated. The family born at at Gniszewo were: Franciszek Jozef (b. 1858—d. 1932), August Karol (b. 1860—d. 1865), Maryanna Rozalia (b. 1861—d. 1873), Teresia Augusta (b. 1863—d. 1939), Robert Jakob (b. 1865—d. 1865), Maria Louisa (b. 1866—d. 1965) and Wilhelmine (Minnie) Auguste (b. 1867—d. 1946). The family had moved when they had their youngest child, Bernhard (b. 1870—d. 1951). A baptism has never been located for Bernhard but his New Zealand naturalisation states he was born in Garsau – Gardschau (Godziszewo).  The family are located at the village of Czarnocin where their daughter Maryanna Rosalia died in 1873 at twelve years of age. They left the village of Czarnocin for Hamburg, where they set aboard the Reichstag on 10 May 1874, arriving at Port Nicholson in Wellington on 6 August 1874. The family had been nominated by family and friends in Waihola to settle there in New Zealand.


Theresa Barra, courtesy of Peter Chiles, Christchurch

Listed aboard were: Peter Bahra age 45, Helena 45, Franz 16, Rosa 12, Maria 7, Minna 6 and Bernhardt 4. They were sent to Soames Island for isolation before being sent to Dunedin where they were sent to the western compartment of the Caversham Immigration Barracks. From here they travelled south to Waihola where Peter settled and worked on the railway.  He purchased property in block 22 at Waihola on 15 December 1874 where he built the family a sod cottage of which a wooden room was later added.  The cottage was surrounded by beautiful gardens and was enclosed with a white picket fence. According to the 1882’ Return of Freeholders, the property covered two acres of land to the value of £200.

“MAGISTERIAL. R.M. COURT, MILTON. (Before J. N. Wood, Esq., R.M.) Tuesday, February 26, 1884, CATTLE TRESPASS. Peter Barrow was fined 2s, and 7s costs, John Helligan, 1s, and 7s costs, C. Hankey, 1s, and 7s costs, and M. Winchley, 2s, and 7s costs, for cattle trespass at Waihola.” Bruce Herald, 29 February 1884, p 3

Peter was tall in stature bearing a long beard and was regarded a well-spoken gentleman while Emma was known as a superb cook.  Peter and Leonore were both naturalised as New Zealand citizens on 9 December 1899

“Milton Magistrates Court. OLD AGE PENSIONS. …Two other applications from Leanora Barra and Franciso Welnoski, of Waihola, were also dealt with and refused. The first mentioned not being sufficiently long enough naturalised, and the second was not naturalised at all.” Bruce Herald, 20 March 1900, p 5

Peter died at his home in Waihola after a sudden illness on 23 August 1904.  “An old resident of Waihola, Peter Barra, aged 77 years, was found dead at his residence on Tuesday, 23rd inst. He occupied a room by himself, and on Monday night returned to rest as usual, but on being called next morning by his wife he made no response. As the door was snibbed inside, Mrs Barra went to a window, and not seeing her husband in bed she became alarmed, and, with the aid of some neighbours, the door was burst open, and deceased was discovered lying on the floor. At an inquest held on the body the following day before Mr A. S. Paterson, acting–coroner, Dr J. Sutherland, of Milton, who examined the body, said he was of opinion that the cause of death was sudden failure of the heart through senile decay, and a verdict in accordance with the medical testimony was returned.” Otago Witness, 31 August 1904

“Sudden Death at Waihola. Peter Barra, aged 77 years, an old resident of Waihola, was found dead in his room on Tuesday. The deceased had always been a healthy person, and had never been under medical treatment. Deceased retired to rest on Monday night, apparently in his usual state of health, but when his wife went to call him in the morning, she could receive no response, and called in some neighbors who burst in the door, and discovered deceased lying on the floor. INOUEST. An inquest was held on the body at the residence on Wednesday, before Mr Alex. S. Paterson, acting-coroner. The following comprised the jury: – Messrs Jas. Sinclair (foreman), Jas. Phillips, Thos. Wilnoski, Anton Wisneski, F. Hanke, Michael Wisneski. Leonore Barra, identified deceased as her husband. Deceased was 77 years of age, and had never complained of being ill at any time. Was sometimes subject to a slight cold and cough, but had never been laid up with it. Deceased was about all day on Monday 22nd inst, and was in his usual health. He retired to bed at 8 p.m., sleeping in a room by himself. On Tuesday morning witness cooked the breakfast, and then called out to her husband, but received no answer. Called again, and then tried the door, but could not open it, as it was snibbed on the inside. Looked through the window, but could not see her husband lying on the bed. Then went to a neighbor (Michael Wisneski), and informed him that she could not wake her husband, and that she thought something was wrong with him. Mr Wisneski came and called out to deceased, but received no answer. A message was sent to some of the neighbors, who came and forced the door open, discovering deceased lying on the floor, life being extinct. Frank Barra, farmer, residing at Louden’s Gully, Milton, stated that deceased was his father. Last saw him alive about two months ago, when he was in his usual state of health. Deceased was always a healthy man. James Sinclair, farmer, Waihola, deposed to being called to deceased’s house on Tuesday morning. Other neighbors were present, and, the door being snibbed from the inside, witness and others forced it open. Found deceased lying on his back on the floor close to the bed. He was undressed, and the bedclothes were disarranged. The body was stiff and cold, and deceased appeared to have been dead some hours. Dr James Sutherland, medical practitioner Milton, said he examined the body on Tuesday, and found no scars or wounds or marks of violence. The body was cold, and decomposition was setting in. Had heard the evidence of previous witnesses, and was of opinion that the cause of death was sudden failure of the heart through senile decay. A. verdict in accordance with the medical testimony was returned.” Bruce Herald, 26 August 1904, p 5

Leonora (Helena/Emma) Wilhelmina died at the house of her son-in-law, Martin Klimeck of Milton on 11 September 1909; “Mrs Peter Barra, a native of Germany, and a resident at Waihola since 1874, died at Milton on Thursday last; aged 81. Two sons (who are farming in the Milton district) and three daughters, who are all married, with 14 grandchildren, survive.”  Otago Witness, 15 September 1909

Peter and Emma Barra, Block 7 Plot 14 at Fairfax Cemetery

MRS LEONORA BARRA; ÆTAT 81. On Thursday afternoon, September 9th, Mrs. Leonora Barra (nee Mass), relict of the late Peter Barra, died at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. Martin Klimeck, Milton. Deceased was a native of Elbing, Germany, and more than fifty years ago was united to Mr. Barra by the bonds which could be severed only by Death. Eight children were born to them, but when they left the Fatherland for New Zealand in 1874 three had died. On arriving in the colony, the family settled at Waihola, where they became well-known and respected.  Mr Barra died five years ago at Waihola. Those of the family who survive to mourn the loss of their mother are Frank (Louden’s Gully), Bernard (North Branch), Theresa (Mrs. Halba, Lawrence), Mary (Mrs. Henderson, Australia), and Wilhelmina (Mrs. M. Klimeck, Milton). There are 14 grandchildren. The remains of deceased were laid at rest in the Fairfax Cemetery on Saturday, Rev. Father Howard conducting the religious rites at the graveside.” Bruce Herald, 13 September 1909, p 5

“MILTON NOTES. Within the past few months more people who have passed the allotted span of life have crossed the Great Divide than can be remembered for a considerable number of years. Last Thursday another old lady departed; it was Mrs Leonora. Barra, who was aged eighty-one. She was the relict of Peter Barra, late of Waihola. Mr and Mrs Barra were natives of Germany. and came to New Zealand with a family of five in 1874. Deceased’s children still live, and three of them are residents of this district.” Evening Star, 15 September 1909, p 8

Both Peter and Emma are buried at the Fairfax Cemetery near Milton.


Francis Joseph Barra was born at Gniszewo on 31 October 1858.  He was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 13 June 1887.  He was married on 14 October 1896 at St. Mary’s church in Milton to Paulina (Polly) Catharina Rekowska (b. 1859–d. 1942). The family born at Waihola were: James Francis (b. 1898–d. 1979) and Herbert Peter (b. 1899–d. 1993). He worked for a time on the railways then in 1899 purchased an 80-acre property for farming purposes at Loudens Gully which lies two miles east of Milton. In 1920 he purchased a further 80 acres adjoining his farm. Frank died on 8 June 1932 aged 73 and is buried at the Fairfax Cemetery near Milton.


Herbert Peter, Polly (nee Rekowska) and James Francis Barra outside their home at Lounden’s Gully


Theresa Augusta Barra was born at Gniszewo on 12 October 1863.  She was twelve years old when she arrived in New Zealand and recalls the trip as the highlight of her childhood, a memory which remained with her until her death. As a young lady she was engaged as a maid in the Waihola district. She married on 30 December 1891 at St. Mary’s church in Milton to Joseph Valentine Halba. The family were: John (b. 1893–d. 1893), Rosalie Theresa (b. 1895–d. 1933), John Peter (b. 1901–d. 1942), Theresa Josephine (b. 1902–d. 1977), Joseph Francis (b. 1906–d. 1966) and Leonora Bridget (b. 1907–d. 1949).  For a time, they lived at Waihola, Taihape, Lawrence, Circle Hill and finally settling down in Milton. Moving around the country during her married life brought to the fore, all her best qualities. Her life was hard, and with her husband working up to twelve hours a day and sometimes being away for six days a week, Teresa had to shoulder the burden of raising the family alone. Each child had a different outlook and nature, but all held their mother in the highest esteem. During her life she always received praise for her excellent quality of baking and cooking. The fact that all her children were on the lean side believes the fact that they ate heartily on good quality food. The pantry was always full of fruits, pickles, jams, sauerkraut, beers, wines and fruit juices etc. Like her husband, she led a quiet family orientated life. She did not concern herself with outside affairs, but rather directed her energies to her own and her brothers and sisters’ families. Theresa died in Milton on 4 December 1939 aged 76.  Her funeral was held at St. Mary’s church in Milton and was buried at the Fairfax Cemetery near Milton.

Joseph Halba and Therese (nee Barra), Block 11 Plot 160 at Fairfax Cemetery

Marie Louisa Barra was born at Gniszewo on 02 April 1866. As a young lady, she first went to Perth in Western Australia where she married in 1896 to Ernest William Henderson (b. 1871), an English photographer. Family at Queensland; Doris Marie (b. 1907). She then remarried on 14 June 1910 at Cairns to Jim Moore and returned to New Zealand where they settled in Dunedin.  Family; Alice and Margaret. Marie died at Dunedin on 16 September 1965 aged 99 and is buried at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.

Wilhelmina (Minnie) Auguste Barra was born at Gniszewo on 06 November 1867.  Minnie married on 22 February 1887 at St. Mary’s Church in Milton to Martin Klimeck (b. 1863–d. 1932). The family were Mary Louise (b. 1888–d. 1972), Wilhelmina Augusta (b. 1889–d. 1993), William Patrick (b. 1892–d. 1977), Eleanora Annie (b. 1893–d. 1991), Martin Joseph (b. 1895–d. 1983), Rosalie Theresa (b. 1899–d. 2003) and Peter John (b. 1902–d. 1960).  For a while the couple lived in Hobart (Tasmania), Riversdale, Chrystalls Beach, Loudens Gully, Naseby, Georgetown and finally settling in Dunedin. After a few years of working on various railway works, Martin and Minnie tried their hand at farming. It was then onto hotelier work where they managed in succession various hotels around Otago before retiring to South Dunedin.

On February 25 there passed away at her residence, 20 Market Street, St. Kilda. Mrs Minnie Klimeck, widow of Mr Martin Klimeck and a highly esteemed parishioner of St. Patrick’s, South Dunedin. Born in Poland, 78 years ago, the late Mrs Klimeck came to New Zealand when about six years of age. After her marriage to Mr Martin Klimeck, who was also of Polish birth, Mr and Mrs Klimeck lived in the Milton Parish, where Mr Klimeck had a farm, and where their family of seven children were born. Towards the end of the First World War Mr and Mrs Klimeck moved to Dunedin, where for several years they were engaged in the hotel business. Of a quiet and retiring disposition, the late Mrs Klimeck did not enter into public affairs. Her life centred around hearth and altar, and exemplified that burning faith which is characteristic of the Polish people. Her priest son, Father E. L. Klimeck, O.P., of the English Dominican Congregation and formerly a professor at the Provincial Seminary at Mosgiel and afterwards Administrator of St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Dunedin, arrived in New Zealand after an absence of ten years just a few weeks before the short illness that preceded her death, at which his presence was without doubt an answer to a mother’s prayer. Requiem Mass was celebrated on February 27 in St. Patrick’s Basilica, South Dunedin, by Father Klimeck, O.P. His Lordship Bishop O’Neill was present in the sanctuary, as also were present in the sanctuary, as also were Right. Rev. Mgr. Delany, V.G., and Fathers Gavin (Adm. Cathedral), Ardagh (P.P., Forbury), Marlow (Cathedral), Phillips, C.M. (Holy Cross College), Walls (South Dunedin), and Toomey (Forbury). Father Klimeck officiated at the graveside, at which were present also Most Rev. Dr O’Neill and the clergy—R.I.P.” New Zealand Tablet.

Minnie passed away on 25 February 1946, aged 78.  A Requiem Mass was held at St. Patrick’s Basilica and she was buried at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.


Back; Wilhelmina Augusta, Martin Joseph (Fr. Klimeck) and Mary Louise. Front; William Patrick, Minnie (nee Barra), Peter John, Rosalie Theresa, Martin and Eleanora Annie Klimeck. Ca 1916.


Bernard Barra, as a young man, worked as a farm labourer in mid-Canterbury. He married on 7 May 1908 at Loudon’s Gully to Rose Rekowski and after a while went to take up farming in Australia. However, severe droughts and harsh climatic conditions forced them to return to New Zealand financially broken. Bernard took up farming once again, this time at North Branch, two miles north of Milton, and was successful with his efforts. He was naturalised as a New Zealand citizen on 8 December 1926. Both he and his wife remained in Milton until ill health forced them to leave farming. Bernard died in Dunedin on 21 January 1951 aged 80 and is buried at the Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin.


Martin Klimeck and Minnie (nee Barra), Block 124 Plot 4 at  Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin

Barra Francis Headstone

Francis Joseph Barra, Block 11 Plot 155, Fairfax Cemetery


Pobόg-Jaworowski, J. W, History of the Polish Settlers in New Zealand, ed. Warsaw; Chz “Ars Polonia.” 1990, pages 36, 42, 43, 51, 155, 166, 196 & 198..

Research Sources

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

Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara O Te Kawanatanga; Land Records.

Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, St Mary’s Church, Milton; Baptism Register.

Fairfax Cemetery Records, Dunedin Public Library

Halba Alan, Timaru, provided family information, photos & genealogy (1999)

Miłobądz, Tczew, Skarszewy & Subkowy Parish Records, Pelplin Diocese, Poland.

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.


James Moore and Marie Louisa (nee Barra), Block 86 Plot 31 at Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin

Bernard Barra, Block 192 Plot 61 at Andersons Bay Cemetery in Dunedin


Andersons Bay Cemetery – Bernard Barra (1870-1951) – Dunedin City Council

Andersons Bay Cemetery – Marie Louise Moore (1866-1965) – Dunedin City Council

Andersons Bay Cemetery – Minnie Klimeck (1867-1946) – Dunedin City Council


Fairfax Cemetery – Eleonora Wilhelmina Barra (1828-1909) – Find a Grave Memorial

Fairfax Cemetery – Francis Joseph Barra (1858-1932) – Find a Grave Memorial

Fairfax Cemetery – Theresa Augusta Halba (1863-1939) – Find a Grave Memorial

Fairfax Cemetery – Peter Albert Barra (1827-1904) – Find a Grave Memorial


Compiled by Paul Klemick (2022)