The Timaru, New Zealand Ansteys

by Gary. M. Ansteychief researcher of the Anstey story project.

Overview of the Timaru Ansteys

The Timaru Ansteys of New Zealand are a sub-branch of the Tiverton Ansteys, headed by John Anstey (b 1856 Tiverton), brother of Rev. Martin Anstey, an Anstey Researcher. The Timaru Ansteys are probably the most ancient New Zealand Anstey sub-branch to still have Anstey descendants living in New Zealand today.

John Anstey (b 1856 Tiverton)

John Anstey was born in 1856 in Juryhays, Tiverton, Devon to parents John Walters Anstey and Susanna Elizabeth Manley (who married in South Molten in 1852); John Anstey is the elder brother of Rev. Martin Anstey (b 1860 Tiverton). The brothers grew up together at Juryhays Farm in Tiverton.

In ‘The Press’ newspaper January 25 1907 edition, there is a write up of John’s early life: “Mr John Anstey is [in 1907] a farmer at Beaconsfield Otipus. He was born in Devonshire, England in 1856 and was brought up on his father’s farm. He came out to Lyttlelton in 1873 and for about three years found employment as a shearer and engine driver. In 1881 he acquired a freehold of 182 acres at Pareora and in November 1889 leased an educational reserve of 417 acres in the Beaconsfield district, where he has since resided. Mr Anstey also owns 156 acres of freehold at Coonoor, south west of Timaru. He has taken an active interest in the Cantabury Farmers Cooperative Association, of which he has been a director for many years. Mr Anstey has served for some years on the Pareora School Committee, of which he was for three years Chairman. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1897. He was a member of the Land Commission, in whose investigations he took a very active part. He was one of five members of the Commission who drew up what is known as the Nbr 2 Report…

Acccording to Wikipedia: “John Anstey was a member of the Royal Land Commission from 1905 and as a result of this work, he was appointed to the Legislative Council on 22 January 1907 by the Liberal Government. At the end of his term on 21 January 1914, the Reform Government was in power and he was not reappointed. He won the Waitaki electorate in 1914, when he defeated Norton Francis of the Reform Party by 3070 votes to 2914. At the next general election in 1919, he was defeated by Reform’s John Bitchener.

Filling in some of the gaps, the earliest we find John Anstey in Timaru, New Zealand is in the 1881 Electoral Roll when he was a “clerk of Timaru“. In the same year on 10 September he married Bessie Chamberlain and they had children:

  • Rosina Mary Anstey (b 1883 Pareora, died in 1892 buried at Upper Pareora Cemetery)
  • John Thorne Anstey (b 1885 Timaru, was educated at the Pareora East and Adair schools and tutored privately. He married Helen Beatrice Besley (sister of Theresa Helena Besley who married a Chew Magna Anstey) in St Andrews Church, Timaru in 1907 and they had two children (Helen Elizabeth Anstey (b 1911) and John William Trevor Anstey (b 1912)). Both of these children were baptised in December 1912 in Otipua by Rev. Martin Anstey. During conscription in New Zealand in World War One John Thorne Anstey was assigned ‘Classification C‘ (reservists with two children); he was examined by the Military Medical Board in Timaru in July 1918 and passed ‘Fit A’, which he appealed (at which time he was living at Broadmead, Kingsdown). We have no evidence that John was ever actually called up for service. John Thorne Anstey was living in Makikihi in 1940 and died in 1954, buried at Timaru Cemetery; his widow was also buried there in 1971);
  • Henry Norman Anstey (b 1890 Pareora, was educated at the Pareora East and Adair schools and tutored privately. In 1911 he bought 238 acres with a homestead in Otaio. He married Clara Wreford (died 1978 Albury, buried in Timaru Cemetery) in 1912 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru; described at that time as a “farmer of Kingsdown“. During New Zealand conscription in c1917, Henry was classified as a farmer living at St Andrews with one child (we have no evidence that he actually served during the war). In 1925 Henry was a farmer of 2 Nile Street, Timaru. He was living in Otipua in 1940, presumably having taken over the family farm. He died in 1966, buried in Timaru Cemetery. Henry Norman Anstey had at least four children, being Clara Noelline Anstey (b 1914); Henry Marten Anstey (b 1916); William Ian Anstey (b 1919, known as Ian, who was a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF during World War Two and was seriously injured in 1943 – around the same time in England he married Phyllis Elizabeth Lewis); and Elizabeth Norma Anstey (b 1920));
  • Florence May Anstey (b 1894 Otipua, known as May, was living at 12 Craighead Street in Timaru in 1925. She never married and died in 1976 in Timaru, buried in Timaru Cemetery)
  • William Manley Anstey (b 1899 – see below)

In 1890 John Anstey, of “Beaconsfield, Near Timaru” owned 997 sheep. By the 1896 Electoral Roll, John Anstey was at Pareora near Timaru, a freehold farmer. By 1901 he appears to have sold all his sheep at Beaconsfield and by 1911 he was residing at “Otipua, Beaconsfield“. By 1918 John was a “retired sheep farmer” living at 15 Craighead Street, Timaru.

Bessie Anstey died in 1933; she was buried at Timaru Cemetery. The ‘Star (Christchurch)‘ reported on 25 February 1933 “ANSTEY. —On February 24, 1933, at 12, Craighead Street, Highfield. Timaru, Bessie, beloved wife of John Anstey. Private interment Timaru on Sunday at 2 p.m.

John Anstey died in 1940 aged 84, survived by three sons and a daughter. The ‘Ashburton Guardian‘ wrote the following obituary on 29 August 1940. “OBITUARY: MR JOHN ANSTEY: Timaru August 28. The death of Mr John Anstey, in his eighty fifth year. Born in Devon, Mr Anstey came to New Zealand in 1878, settling in South Canterbury, where he took up farming. In 1905 he was appointed a member of the Royal Lands Commission and as a result of this work was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1907, being a member until 1916 when, reversing the usual procedure, he entered the House of Representatives as member for Waitaki and served for five years. He was a member of the Timaru Borough Council, a foundation member of the South Canterbury Power Board, a member of the Chamber of Commerce for 20 years and a director of the Canterbury Farmers Cooperative Association for 30 years. Mr Anstey, whose wife predeceased him by some years, is survived by one daughter, Miss M. Anstey, Timaru and three sons, Mr J. T. Anstey, Makikihi, Mr Henry Anstey, Otipua and Mr William Anstey, Ealing.

John Anstey had correspondence with Anstey researcher Thomas John Anstey (Tom) in March 1911 – indeed it was that letter that led to Tom establishing communication with John‘s brother Rev. Martin Anstey, the Tiverton font of ancestral knowledge at the time.

William Manley Anstey (b 1899 Timaru)

William Manley Anstey (b 1899 Timaru), an Anstey Hero, was educated at the Pareora East and Adair schools and tutored privately. He grew up in Timaru where he was living in c1910.

With conscription in New Zealand only applying to those over the age of twenty, William voluntarily enlisted for active service during World War One on 27 August 1918 aged 19, with both of his parents having given their consent to his enlistment on 19 August 1918, writing in a letter that “Our son William Manley Anstey aged 19 desires to enlist for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces and we hereby give our consent to his enlistment“.

According to the South Canterbury Museum “Apart from considerable varicocele, William was in good physical condition. A well-built young man, he stood at 6 feet 1 inch tall, weighed in at 189 lbs, and had a chest expansion of 37-41½ inches… William‘s brother, John Thorne Anstey (Thorn), already married with two children, was examined by the Military Medical Board in Timaru in July 1918 and passed Fit A. On the day on which William was examined, Thorn appealed, stating that his brother who was that morning being examined, had been helping him on the farm. William was examined by the Travelling Medical Board on 27 August 1918 at Timaru.”

At the time of his signing up, William was a farm labourer working for his brothers Henry Norman Anstey and John Thorne Anstey; he was living at 15 Craighead Street, Timaru with his parents. William was posted to ’49th A Company’ as a Private (Service Number: 91037) on 8 October 1918 and sent to Trentham Training Camp. However, as World War One concluded a few weeks later, William was placed on leave without pay on 3 December 1918 “until further orders on demobilisation“.

William married Margaret Dinsmore McBride in 1924. By 1925 he was a farmer at Lowcliffe, Ashburton; in 1940 he was living in Ealing; and in 1941 he was at Temaku, Canterbury. In December 1942, during World War Two, as part of the ‘General Service Ballot‘, William, a reservist and “farmer, Hinds“, was “called for service in the Armed Forces“. It is not known the extent, if any, of active service that William performed during this conflict.

William died in 1966, living at 120 Havelock Street, Ashburton. He was cremated with his ashes being interred at Ashburton Cemetery (Reference: ‘Area 210, Plot 36’). A Death Notice for William appeared in the ‘Timaru Herald‘ on 27 December 1966.

Further Details on the Timaru Ansteys

#1. Charles William Gibbs Anstey, who lived in Timaru in the early to mid-1900s, was of the Chew Magna Ansteys. However he was connected to this sub-branch through the Besley sisters, one of whom was his aunt.

We are actively on the lookout for Timaru Anstey experts alive today who are willing to add their findings and knowledge to this project. We are particularly interested in research regarding Timaru Ansteys who fought in World War One, preferably with personal souvenirs such as letters sent by the soldiers or military photos etc. 

Anybody who has such expertise and inclination, please contact us at

We have already uploaded bits of information and documentation about the Timaru Ansteys, and continue to upload more all the time (see Project Updates), however it is spread over various segments of the website.

The best way to find said information is to enter ‘Timaru’ in the search box at the bottom of this page and a list of relevant pages will appear.

Anybody who finds any mistakes on this page, please contact us at and we will correct it.

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