Reunion celebrates Danish settler history

GET TOGETHER: About 70 people attended the Sorensen family reunion. PHOTO: PAUL DALY PHOTOGRAPHY

About 70 descendants of 19th-century Danish settler Peter Sorensen visited sites around Banks Peninsula recently for a family reunion.

Descendants met first at the Greenpark Memorial Community Centre before spending the weekend visiting various Banks Peninsula locations associated with the family history.

The reunion culminated with a get-together at the Akaroa Recreation Ground.

Mr Sorensen, a carpenter, and his wife Rasmine made the journey from Yding, Denmark, to Lyttelton onboard the Cardigan Castle in 1873.

Conditions in Denmark were not good at the time and the New Zealand Government was initially recruiting immigrants.

The Sorensens’ children Karen and Nielsine also made the voyage. A third child had died of cholera in London after arriving there from Denmark and three other children, Mary, Frederick and Bodiline were born in New Zealand.

The family settled, first at Robinsons Bay, and then in the Little River area, and lived there for many years.

Family members worked at the Robinsons Bay, Springvale and Tarawera mills.

The children married into families in the Banks Peninsula area and Christchurch, before dispersing out to various farms throughout Canterbury and beyond.

Bodiline Sorensen worked as a housekeeper for the Rhodes brothers at Flea Bay before marrying Greek-born Akaroa launch operator Demetrius Koinomopolus. They were better known locally as Mr and Mrs Dominique.

Mrs Dominique, who lived to 94, was well regarded in Akaroa for growing fruit trees and selling the fruit and preserves. The Dominique’s house at 20 Percy St still has some of those original apple and pear trees. She was also known for her fine embroidery and her marriage certificate, which she worked in cross-stitch, was on show at the Akaroa Museum over the reunion weekend.

Many of the descendants at the reunion came from Canterbury, Otago and Southland. Some also came from the North Island and Australia, as well as as far afield as Wisconsin and Vietnam.

Only one descendant of Mr Sorensen lives on the peninsula today, a great, great granddaughter who lives in Takamatua.