Update on the Seagers: the Ngaio Marsh connection

It turns out (see post below) that the link to Ngaio Marsh comes through the architect Samuel Hurst Seager’s uncle Edward William. We last saw Edward, age 24, living at his brother’s house in Gerrard Street at the time of the 1851 census. At that time, he was described as a carpenter, but the information reproduced in my last post had him working, after his arrival in New Zealand, as superintendent of Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum. It seems he also worked as a policeman and a gaoler. According to the NZETC biography of Ngaio Marsh, complicating things even further, Edward  ‘retained specious hopes of a fortune in Chancery but had to train as a blind-maker and schoolmaster’.

Edward William Seager married Esther Coster. Their daughter Rose married bank clerk Henry Marsh. I’ll let the NZETC account take over at this point:

Having enjoyed amateur theatricals in England, the young bank clerk eventually met the talented (and deep-voiced) thespian Rose Seager in the context of staging a play in late Victorian Christchurch to raise funds for a Hospital. Miss Seager was a second-generation New Zealander and an actress of outstanding natural talent. Born on 27 July 1864 in Christchurch, she was the daughter of two energetic colonists: Edward William Seager and Esther Coster. The resourceful ‘Gramp’ Seager (as he was to become) arrived in Lyttelton in 1851, acting initially as a marriage-broker in Immigration then joined the police force where he designed the first police uniform in the Canterbury province. Appointed Gaoler-in-Chief of the Lyttleton Gaol, in 1864 Seager was placed in charge of the new Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum (unsurprising given the Victorian presumption of the links between criminality and insanity). At Sunnyside Seager, a kindly man, had practised innovative therapies such as mesmerism, conjuring, amateur theatricals and magic lantern shows with and for his ‘children’ (the inmates). The potent influence of Seager’s criminological work and his lavish exercises in live theatre upon the quick, lively mind and imagination of his grand-daughter Ngaio Marsh can easily be imagined.

So (if I’ve got this right) Ngaio Marsh’s grandfather was the brother of my great great grandmother Fanny Seager – and her great great grandfather, the first Samuel Hurst Seager, was also my 3 x great grandfather.


When I added the above information to my tree, using Family Tree Maker, it told me that the late Ngaio Marsh (she died in 1982) is my ‘second cousin 2 x removed’.

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2 Responses to Update on the Seagers: the Ngaio Marsh connection

  1. During his time as Gaoler at Lyttelton Edward William Seager was instrumental in the re-capture of the famous sheep-stealer James Mackenzie after whom the Nackenzie Country in the South Island is named.

  2. Martin Robb says:

    Thanks for this additional information – the Seagers were certainly a colourful family.

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