Thousands of 1918 flu pandemic victims listed online

By Jessica Tyson

This year marks a century since the 1918 flu pandemic killed an estimated 9,000 New Zealanders, and to shine a light on what happened a group led by ancestry.com has just released an online register of the victims affected.

The list, made available on the Auckland Libraries heritage blog today, includes 5,000 of those who passed. 

Ancestry.com content acquisition manager Jason Reeve says an estimated 2,000 Māori people were killed by the outbreak.

“A lot of Māori at the time were living in quite regional areas and what that meant is that getting the help that was maybe necessary to avoid passing away from this pandemic wasn't very easy.”

He says distrust following the conscriptions of WWI meant that Māori didn't want to visit hospitals.

“So that sort of separation from the rest of the community at that time meant that the death tolls within their location were very, very high.”

One whānau tragically affected was the Mutu family who lived in a bush settlement in Piha.

The father John Mutu, who was an engine driver, and his wife passed away on November 8, 1918.  Within a week four or five of their children also passed.

A locomotive hauls a log to the Piha Mill in 1917. This would have been the locomotive driven by John Mutu, who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. Credit: National Library

 Another case was when a serviceman came home from serving in WWI.

“He was, unfortunately, the first to pass away from the pandemic and his wife passed away a week after him and she was pregnant with that sick child at the time.  It was just a very traumatic experience for the whole family.”

Reeve says the pandemic attacked healthy young people, as well as the elderly.

“Whilst you did have the senior and pregnant [women] getting ill as well you also had this large number of 30-year-olds falling ill with the virus.”

Reeve says the information can help those looking to find out more information about their ancestors and whether or not they were caught up in the pandemic.

He says the group aims to have the full list of as many of the 9,000 victims live on Ancestry.com early next year.