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Family notes - Christian Berkahn

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This page has biographical information about Christian Berkahn (1873-1942), his wife Matilda Maria Beck (1876-1922) and their children.

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Christian (Chris) BERKAHN and wife

Christian August BERKAHN (1873-1942)

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Christian August Berkahn, ninth child of Franz Frederick Heinrich Berkahn and Inga Maria Larsdatter, was born in Jannerup, Thisted, North Jylland, Denmark in 1873. In 1874 he migrated with his parents to New Zealand and the family settled near Dannevirke. Christian attended Makaretu School in Hawkes Bay in 1886. He was sometimes called Chris.

In 1894 Christian married Matilda Maria Beck at the Registry Office in Waipawa, Hawkes Bay. The couple lived in various locations and had 13 children. Christian was a famous axe man and was a Hawkes Bay champion jigger chopper. Christian and Matilda settled at Makotuku, near Norsewood about 1911, where the family farmed.

Chris was killed in a car accident in 1942 at Makotuku Railway Station. He was crank starting his car, and was pushed over when the vehicle drove forward, then dragged along. The car continued onto the railway line. A newspaper report of the Coroner's Inquest is on a separate page. He was buried in Norsewood cemetery with Matilda.

The following obituary was published in the local newspaper.


By the passing of the late Mr C. A. Berkahn death has taken from our midst a most worthy resident. Born in Denmark nearly 69 years ago, deceased arrived in New Zealand at an early age. In his early manhood he married Miss Beck, of Takapau, and commenced farming operations in the Whakararas, later moving to the King Country, where he was recognised as the best blade shearer in the district, often reaching a tally of 200 or 250 per day. He was the first to shear with machines in that district. With the exception of three years farming in Woodville, he had resided in Makotuku for nearly 40 years, where he carried on a large dairy farm. During that period he had been a member of many local bodies and school committees, and the sports club, of which he was a most enthusiastic supporter as an administrator and competitor in the chopping events, in which he won many trophies at local gatherings and also over a wide district in the southern part of the North Island. He was chairman of the Progressive Association for a number of years; also the local cribbage and euchre clubs. He had represented the township on Ormondville Town Board for a long period and had been chairman of the local branch of the N.Z. National Party since its formation. He was of cheerful disposition and in the case of sickness was always ready to use his car, night or day. His kindly actions were legion. There was a family of 14, four of whom predeceased him. The funeral, at the Norsewood cemetery on Saturday afternoon, was conducted by Pastor Legarth, a short service being held at the residence, where a large number of relatives and friends had assembled. The cortege comprised 40 cars when leaving the residence and passing through Ormondville many others joined, and again in Norsewood, where all the shops had been closed during the funeral, which was the biggest in the history of that cemetery. Upwards of one hundred beautiful floral emblems testified to the esteem in which deceased was held. Amongst the wreaths was one each from the Ormondville Town Board, the Norsewood Dairy Company, the Makotuku branch of the New Zealand National Party and the Makotuku Sports Club. The bearers both at the house and graveside were deceased's seven sons and Mr L. Anderson.

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Matilda Maria BECK (1876-1922)

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Matilda Maria Beck, the third daughter of Mathias Peterson Beck and Anna Maria Hansen, was born in Norsewood in 1876. Her parents and older two sisters and brother had migrated to New Zealand from Denmark. The family departed from Hamburg on 16 December 1874, on the sailing ship Fritz Reuter, and arrived in Napier on 18 March 1875. Mathias was a farm labourer in Denmark, and the family had a farm at Norsewood.

Matilda married Chris Berkahn in 1894, and as mentioned above, had 13 children. Matilda died in 1922 and was buried in Norsewood Cemetery.

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Children of Christian and Matilda

Vina Eveline BERKAHN (1895-1978)

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Vina Eveline Berkahn, eldest child of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1895 at Ashley Clinton. She married Ole Magnussen in 1919 and had three children, two daughters and a son. Ole was a dairy farmer at Ngamoko near Norsewood. He died in 1943 aged 50 years. After Ole's death, Vina lived in Dannevirke. She died in 1978. Vina and Ole were buried in Norsewood.

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Francis Christian BERKAHN (1896-1970)

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Francis Christian Berkahn, eldest son of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1896 at Dannevirke. Francis worked in the farming industry, as a shearer according to the electoral rolls. He played rugby, playing for the Woodville Seniors in 1922.

Francis married Emily Louisa Pomranz in 1922. The couple lived in Makotuku, then Woodville until Francis retired. Francis and Emily had one son. Francis died in 1970 and Emily in 1975. They were both buried in Palmerston North.

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Henry Herbert BERKAHN (1898-1954)

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Henry Herbert Berkahn was born in 1898 in Dannevirke. In 1918 he married Sarah Anderson. Henry was a butcher most of his married life according to electoral rolls. Sara and Henry had four children, two sons and a daughter who survived childhood. The family lived at Makotuku near Norsewood, and later Woodville. Sarah died in 1953 and Henry in 1954. They were both buried in Norsewood.

Photo kindly provided by Anthea Raven, his granddaughter.

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Alice Matilda BERKAHN (1900-1964)

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Alice Matilda Berkahn, second daughter of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1900 in Waipawa. In 1918 she married James Andersen, the son of Sven Anderson and Nia Maggie Nielsen. James was a labourer according to electoral rolls. Alice and James lived in Ormondville and had six children. James died in 1938 aged 42. Alice died in 1964 and was buried in Norsewood with James.

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Reynold Oliver BERKAHN (1901-1959)

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Reynold Oliva Berkahn was born in 1901 in Waipawa (also known as Reynold Oliver). In 1928 he was labouring at Makotuku where his parents lived. In 1935 he married Alice Hansen. Reynold and Alice lived in Dannevirke where Reynold continued work as a labourer, then Norsewood and Hamua where Reynold farmed, then finally in Palmerston North where he worked as a labourer. Alice died in 1954 and was cremated in Wanganui.

Soon after Alice's death in 1954 Reynold remarried, a widow Phyllis Muriel Moyes (nee Hook). Reynold died in 1959 and his second wife Phyllis in 2003. They were buried in Palmerston North.

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Grace Muriel BERKAHN (1902-1925)

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Grace Muriel Berkahn, third daughter of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in November 1902 in Norsewood. She died aged 22 in 1925 and was buried in Norsewood.

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Gordon BERKAHN (1904-1955)

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Gordon Berkahn, fourth son of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1904. Gordon married Agnes Isabella Burnett in 1932 and the couple had two children. According to Electoral Rolls, Gordon worked as a labourer at Makotuku until 1938. He then was recorded as a farmer, at Te Mata Road Palmerston North (1946) and Dannevirke. Gordon died in 1955 and Agnes in 1959. They were buried in Ormondville.

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Olive May BERKAHN (1905-1912)

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Olive May Berkahn, fourth daughter of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1905 in Norsewood. She died aged 7 of meningitis in 1912 and was buried in Norsewood.

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Irene BERKAHN (1906-1968)

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Irene Berkahn, fifth daughter of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1906 in Wakarara (west of Waipawa). Irene married David Jones in 1925 at Makotuku near Norsewood. David worked in the Woodville dairy factory, and later he managed the Rangiwahia dairy factory (1931-1954). The couple had two sons and two daughters. David and Irene moved to Palmerston North, where the family operated a knitwear business. Irene died in 1968 and David in 1991. They were buried in Palmerston North.

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Elsie BERKAHN (1908-1931)

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Elsie Berkahn, youngest daughter of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in December 1908. Elsie married Walter Ernest Robinson in 1930. Walter was a freezing worker most of his adult life according to Electoral Rolls. Elsie died aged 22 in 1931, following the birth of a daughter. Elsie was buried in Norsewood. Walter remarried in 1938, divorced his second wife Agnes Hay Ramsay, and died in 1976 in Auckland.

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Percy Wilfred BERKAHN (1909-1994)

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Percy Wilfred Berkahn, the eleventh child of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1909 in Te Kuiti. Percy married Eileen Sylvia Fisher in 1937. The couple had two children. Their son, Kevin Percy Berkahn, is a well known fashion designer in Auckland. In the 2010 Birthday Honours Kevin was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to fashion and the community.

According to electoral rolls, Percy Berkahn worked as a labourer from 1935 to 1957, then ran a dairy farm at Te Rehunga, and finally moved to Auckland to work as a factory hand (1963) and timber worker (1969). Percy and Eileen retired in Dannevirke about 1970. Percy died in 1994 and Eileen died in 1995. They were both buried in Dannevirke.

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Mervyn Mathias BERKAHN (1911-1999)

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Mervyn Mathias Berkahn, the twelfth child of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1911. Mervyn worked as a labourer according to electoral rolls, at Makotuku, Norsewood and Dannevirke.

Mervyn married Elsie Doris Bassenden in 1942. Mervyn and Elsie lived in Norsewood. Elsie moved to Eastbourne, Lower Hutt about 1949. She died in 1962 and was cremated and buried in Karori.

Mervyn remarried Margaret Thelma ? about 1965 and the couple lived in Dannevirke. Margaret died in 1990 and was buried in Dannevirke. Mervyn died in 1999 and was cremated in Palmerston North. His ashes are buried with his second wife's ashes at Mangatera Cemetery, Dannevirke.

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Clarence BERKAHN (1912-1983)

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Clarence Berkahn, the youngest child of Chris Berkahn and Matilda Beck, was born in 1912 in Ormondville. Clarence worked as a labourer at Makotuku from 1935 until 1954 according to electoral rolls, and later as a farmer. Clarence married Edith Isobel Little in 1940 and the couple lived at Makotuku until the late 1960s when they moved to Napier. They had a son and three daughters. Clarence worked as a factory hand in Napier until he retired about 1980. Clarence died in Napier in 1983 and was cremated in Hastings. Edith died in 1996 and was buried in Napier with Clarence's ashes.

Any information on Clarence and his descendants would be appreciated.

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