Another mistaken relative claim by an MP

May 21st, 2014 at 8:55 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

Veterans’ Affairs Minister has upset an Otago family by wrongly claiming Trooper Frank Woodhouse, who died in Gallipoli aged just 20, was his great uncle.

Woodhouse told a reporter while he was in Turkey for the 99th anniversary of the Anzac landings last month that he had seen the name on a memorial there and after checking online found it was his great uncle.

But a spokesman for the aggrieved family, Gareth Woodhouse, said the man was his great uncle, not the minister’s. The family had his medals, a letter from the King about his service, and the original of a picture now on the Auckland Cenotaph website.

He had sent a “long, pointed” email to Michael Woodhouse about his claim and he had come back with a “semi-apology”.

Gareth Woodhouse said he had not done an exact genealogy, but Frank was the brother of his grandfather Cecil, who just before he died had told him about Frank.

He said Woodhouse was a minister of the Crown and Veterans’ affairs minister. “The family feels Michael Woodhouse should have done more research before making claims to the media about Frank Woodhouse.”

And he should have. While there could well be a relationship there, you shouldn’t claim a specific relationship such as great uncle when it is wrong.

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26 Responses to “Another mistaken relative claim by an MP”

  1. Grendel (972 comments) says:

    or alternatively people could be less precious and could have had a chat with the minister to discuss their genealogy and see if there was common lineage there. of course that would not be news and would remove the opportunity for someone to bleat to the media as a ‘spokesperson’.

    its possible for many people to have the same great uncle.

    i had great uncles in various wars, if someone said they were related to them, i would not be angrily claiming they were my own but hoping to meet a distant relative (caveat, unless they were a shyster using the connection for fraudulent financial gain).

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  2. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    Much different to preaching to a group of youngsters claiming a hero was grandfather!

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  3. davidp (3,558 comments) says:

    >But a spokesman for the aggrieved family, Gareth Woodhouse, said the man was his great uncle, not the minister’s.

    These are not mutually-exclusive conditions.

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  4. Northland Wahine (659 comments) says:

    I don’t think the family was being precious at all. If the minister was interested in making a connection to distant relatives maybe he could have been a little more humble in his apology and offered to meet to discuss common genealogy.

    He comes off sounding like a blow arse using a dead solider to link himself to the Anzac landings.

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  5. lolitasbrother (589 comments) says:

    Sending email to Michael Woodhouse is a waste of time, you will get a meaningless response.
    I do not mind him making a genuine mistake, but he is a moron as Minister of Immigration, as the two previous immigration Ministers were.
    It seems a post you get while you grow into the business of Government, no skills or knowledge required, and when I say Michael Woodhouse they laughing and laughing and fall off their chairs, and the little Thai girls say ‘ what the joke’
    .

    thank goodness however our local people in NZI Christchurch are savvy and good and helpful.

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  6. Chris2 (768 comments) says:

    It was most unfortunate of Woodhouse to lie in this way by claiming a familial relationship with a soldier who died in the service of his country.

    I think it reflects rather poorly on Woodhouse’s integrity and honesty, essential characteristics we expect from our Cabinet Ministers. It begs the question: if Woodhouse can lie about something like this, what else has he lied about?

    It’s this type of behaviour that can cost the National Party the election. It’s not a sacking offence now, but if Woodhouse makes it back into Government I am not convinced he should be in Cabinet again.

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  7. Nukuleka (276 comments) says:

    We all make mistakes- even Ministers of the Crown! The ‘aggrieved family’ probably saw political capital in their ‘aggrievement’.

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  8. cha (3,856 comments) says:

    Much different to preaching to a group of youngsters claiming a hero was grandfather!

    Why yes, being mistaken about a member of your own family is nothing like appropriating another family’s glory.

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  9. David Garrett (6,786 comments) says:

    I am with Wahine on this one. It is literally impossible for my generation – and Woodhouse is considerably younger than me – to imagine the sacrifices our fathers and grandfathers made 70-100 years ago. Their memories are the most scared things in our now largely secular society. Unless the connection is very clear and unequivocal, NO-ONE should claim one.

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  10. wf (400 comments) says:

    OK, so what about all those cousins that every Maori I have ever known seems to have?

    Hmmm?

    Nukuleka (97 comments) says:
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:00 am
    We all make mistakes- even Ministers of the Crown! The ‘aggrieved family’ probably saw political capital in their ‘aggrievement’.

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  11. tvb (4,255 comments) says:

    There is no need for the so called aggrieved family to grandstand through the media.

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  12. thePeoplesFlag (222 comments) says:

    In terms of trivia, I think we’d all agree this is right up there with David Cunliffe’s CV.

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  13. davidp (3,558 comments) says:

    From Stuff>Gareth Woodhouse said he had not done an exact genealogy, but Frank was the brother of his grandfather Cecil, who just before he died had told him about Frank.

    I’ve just checked DIA’s historic births, deaths, and marriages site. Cecil William and Francis Ellis Woodhouse were brothers. There were two other brothers, William Patrick and Donald George Woodhouse. William died as an infant, which is why his name was reused as Cecil’s middle name. Donald went on to marry in 1928 and had a son Alan who was born in Alexandra. Alan is about the right age to be Michael’s father, and Alexandra isn’t too far from Dunedin. Do we know Michael’s father’s name?

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  14. Judith (8,460 comments) says:

    I agree with David Garrett and Northland Wahine. These are very precious memories and not something that one just claims because it sounds close enough. Usually such things are talked about within families.

    Surely someone would have mentioned his Gt Uncle Frank and even if they hadn’t, he should have learned from other MP’s recent mistakes to have checked his sources first.

    I spent five minutes and can already tell you the name of Frank Woodhouse’s mother, father, and seven of their children from official NZ sources. No reason why Mr Woodhouse MP couldn’t have done the same, and if he was correct, would have been able to provide that information to the questioning family to alleviate their concerns.

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  15. goldnkiwi (1,179 comments) says:

    Is it a common name? I agree that he should have checked before laying claim. Was the assumed relative highly decorated, so kudos was attached to the comment? Not quite the same claim as David Cunnliffe but names and the associations are important.

    For my own family, somehow my great uncles’ death plaques went missing.

    My family do not part voluntarily with our heritage, but they appeared on trade me. Someone who was acquainted with my wider family recognised the name and asked if they were our relatives, according to my cousin (second)he ended up paying over the odds to reclaim them as the possessor (I struggle with the word owner) knew that no others would do. It is a topic that touches deep to many. When my family have visited Gallipolli there has been reflection on whether or not other names that sound the same as ours but spelt differently could be distantly related.

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  16. Stuart (41 comments) says:

    Judith – you say seven children – he died aged 20, while not impossible this would surprise me.

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  17. Ed Snack (1,801 comments) says:

    I think over-precious myself. Although anyone might gag at being thought to be related to politician. This “sacred memory” stuff is getting awfully close to sacred cow like ancestor worship. My family had several of my grandfather’s (both sides) family in WW1, big families were more common back then. I think they were lucky and as far as I know all made it back. Grandfather himself was lucky enough to be born just a fraction too late to get called up but he was one of the younger sons.

    You want to claim distant kinship, no skin of my nose.

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  18. Judith (8,460 comments) says:

    @ Stuart (39 comments) says:
    May 21st, 2014 at 11:34 am

    He (Frank Woodhouse) was one of seven children. If you read my post you will see I was talking about his parents, because it is of course, their other sons that would be Michael Woodhouse’s great-uncles.

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  19. Fentex (909 comments) says:

    Interesting coincidence for me – just yesterday I was working with my mother to try and locate the records for her uncle, my maternal great uncle, who died at Gallipoli.

    In perusing the records we found two people with the same name, one from Wellington, one from Invercargill (presumably my great-uncle) without, due to lack of available digitised records, being able to definitively ascertain which was our relative.

    Should we have decided to claim one we could easily have made the same mistake.

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  20. Jack5 (4,906 comments) says:

    Gareth Woodhouse’s link is fairly weak – great uncle, whom he learned about only shortly before his grandfather’s death.

    Fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandfathers yes. Uncles, perhaps. But great uncles who had been forgotten until late in the piece?

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  21. Brian Smaller (4,028 comments) says:

    Fathers, grandfathers, yes. Uncles, perhaps. Great uncles who had been forgotten until late in the piece?

    Why not? People can come late to family history. My father died this week and he WAS a war hero. He got the gong to prove it. Every Smaller in New Zealand, Australia, England, India, Canada and most from the States can claim kinship with him, however distant cousins they may be.

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  22. Jack5 (4,906 comments) says:

    Brian Smaller (1.03): I’m pleased your proud of your dad.

    Of course distant cousins can be proud, but getting into spats about who is connected and who is not, takes the matter a step further.

    And for once I agree with Fentex at 12.24. Anyone who is delved into First World War records of NZ or bigger allies will know how easy it can be to mistake a name when you are seeking a file. There are so many thousands of names there.

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  23. itstricky (1,701 comments) says:

    Wow, everyone’s so restrained. Where are the scathing denouncements of a liar?

    Let’s take a trip down memory lane:

    http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2014/04/has_cunliffe_got_it_wrong_again.html

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  24. Elaycee (4,333 comments) says:

    Not impressed. Woodhouse should have checked his facts before he made the claim.

    End. Of. Story.

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  25. ross411 (296 comments) says:

    A big deal over nothing IMO.

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  26. waireth (1 comment) says:

    What a sad, grubby little story this is. A little research, either by Michael Woodhouse, Gareth Woodhouse, Vernon Small or David Farrar would soon have solved the slight mystery. Without buying any records it seems almost sure that the Frank Woodhouse concerned is Frank Ellis Woodhouse who is, unsurprisingly related to Michael Woodhouse’s ancestor James Ellis Woodhouse. The Frank who died in WW1, is the grandson of Francis Woodhouse, (James’s brother) and thus is Michael Woodhouse’s grandfather’s cousin rather than brother. a slight error, and certainly not worth the amount of paper space it has been given. What was Gareth Woodhouse’s motivation, and what was Vernon Small’s? The Dom Post on Saturday called the Minister the Wally of the week – it seems to me that honour really should be shared between Gareth Woodhouse and Vernon Small, both of who wanted to make a song and dance but couldn’t be bothered doing ten minutes research to find out the truth. BTW – I am not a Woodhouse family member, and had no knowledge of this family before having a quick look. I also discovered that the Minister has made false statements about his ancestry, no doubt due to ignorance – he said his great-grandfather had eight children and no money – he was actually a prosperous farmer who had three children. I also have no politican interest in this – I am just an historian who likes to see the truth debated.

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