Picturing the Cook Islands – George Crummer (Cook Islands Language week 2013)

Picturing the Cook Islands – George Crummer (Cook Islands Language week 2013)


Kia orana e kia manuia tatou katoatoa,

In this third blogpost of Te Epetoma o te Reo Māori Kuki Airani – Cook Islands Māori Language week, Grace Hutton (Collection Manager Pacific Cultures) shares with us some wonderful images taken by George Crummer, a photographer who worked in the Cook Islands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Grateful thanks to Jan O’Brien, a great great granddaughter of George and Upokotio for this information.

George Robson Crummer was born in Auckland on 14 June 1868. His parents George and Mary Jane Crummer (nee McElwain) migrated to Auckland from Ireland, on the ship the Mary Shepherd in 1866. His sister Mary Louisa was born in 1873.

In 1890 with a number of business partners, George Robson invested in a topsail schooner called “Jessie Niccol”. The schooner was employed to sail between the Cook Islands and Auckland bringing fruit, copra, pearl shell, and fungus from the islands and returning with general cargo.

On May 4 1892 he married Upokotio Tangiiau in the Cook Islands Christian Church, at Turangi, Ngatangiia, Cook Islands. Upokotio was the daughter of Tangaiia Mataiapo, a high chief of Takitumu.  George and Upokotio had seven children.

Along with the shipping business George also built up a business taking portraits of Cook Islanders and general scene photographs in Rarotonga, Aituaki and Mangaia.


Some of the images taken by George are in a photograph album that belonged to Reverend J. J. K. Hutchin and is now in the Photography collection, Te Papa.

George Robson Crummer died on 17 May 1953. The well known New Zealand based singers Annie Crummer and her father Will Crummer are also direct descendants.







  1. Hello there,

    Do you know if George and Mary Jane Crummer had another son named Thomas?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Kia orana, According to a Crummer descendant, Jan Strickland, George and Mary Jane didn’t have a son called Thomas. But there was a Thomas Crummer who was in New Zealand prior to George and Mary Jane arriving here. Apparently he was in partnership with a Mr Williamson and they bought land in Surrey Hills, Auckland. If he was your ancestor maybe you could do more research to discover if there was a connection between both Crummer families. kind regards

  2. Kia ora tatou my name is Mark Hawke my father Tom Crummer came from rarotonga 1947 I know he had a sister Lucy I met her once 1958….I was born 1953. .I believed my grandfather was Tom Crummer snr school principal rarotonga am I on the right track?

    1. Kia orana Mark, I have rung and emailed your possible family member to find out if you are on the right track. When I hear back I will update you and give contact information so you can contact the person yourself. kind regards

  3. I understand Mary Jane Mc Elwain second marriage was to George Stanley Gascoine in 1884. But she applied for divorce in 1890 (New Zealand Herald, Volume XXVII, Issue 8208, 20 March 1890) on the grounds that her husband was in a relationship with her daughter (Mary Louisa Crummer) and had 2 children Oliver Stanley Gascoine 1889 and Maud Louisa Gascoine 1890.

    1. I might add that Mary Jane McElwain Crummer (nee Robson) parents were (according to the 2nd marriage certificate) Robert Robson (Mason) and Sarah Gillelend, her birth place was Belfast, Northern Ireland. George Stanley Gascoine’s parents were John Gascoine (Gentleman) and Agnes Nunn, his birthplace was London.

    2. Author

      Kia orana Alex, many thanks for your recent comments on the blog. We will add this new information to our documentation about the Crummer family. many thanks

  4. I am trying to understand my whakapapa, my grandmother is the belated Upokoina Amoa (Ina Hellyer). Geogre Crummer is stated in my family tree and I would like find out more. Is anyone able to do so?

    1. Kia orana Orine, Your grandmother Ina, was the wonderful woman I had the pleasure to know, from my time in Hastings NZ. Her mother was the second wife of papa George Crummer.

    2. Hi Tangi
      Thank you. Would that Geogre Crummer her father?

    3. Hi orine are you still doing your family tree? I’m trying to do one for.my daughter. George cummerbund is I’m. Ours aswell

    4. I do. I would like to learn how to say it. I have been in contact with my Nan’s youngest Sister who has shared some history behind my Nan’s whakapapa.

      It so different from retrieving my Māori whakapapa.

    5. I do. I would like to learn how to say it. I have been in contact with my Nan’s youngest Sister who has shared some history behind my Nan’s whakapapa.

      It so different from retrieving my Māori whakapapa.

  5. I too am a direct descendant. My late Father was James Crummer who married an Arorangi lady Tiraa Tamaiva . Willie and James were brothers. James and Tiraa had 8 children together. This would explain my interest in photographer Thanks.

    1. Author

      Thank you Margaret for reading the blog and commenting. It’s great to see these photographs bringing out the family connections.

    2. Hi Sean
      Would like to contact Margaret if possible, I am here older half sister. We met at the Crummer family reunion so many years ago, which had been organised by our joint uncle Tatia Crummer, who is the Maataiipo of the Crummer family.

    3. Author

      Hi Tangi,

      I have sent you an e-mail…


    4. Could anyone tell me how or where to find a family tree or genealogy report from George Crummer family line and down.

  6. Meitaki ma’ata Sean for putting this up. He’s also my direct descendant, through my Grandmother Louisa Crummer.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your comment, you are welcome…it’s great to make another family connection through these wonderful images.

    2. Hi Sean – you were emailing me an address for my half sister Margaret Crummer – any possibility of forwarding another copy?
      Many thanks

  7. Kia orana Grace, Thank you very much for these photos. I am particularly interested in the photos from Mangaia. Can they be viewed on line? It would be great for the local Mangaian people back home to be able to view them & perhaps identity any of their tupuna. So will wait to hear from you.

  8. This selection of George Crummer’s portraits is a big reveal for me. Has any attempt been made to date them? They look as if they may be from the early part of the first quarter of the 20th century, using quarter or half plate glass negatives.

    Has anyone sent these images to Jean Watson at the Cook Islands Library? I reckon there is a real opportunity here for local Cook Islands feedback!

    1. Kia orana Ron,

      Yes you’re right, the majority of the images are from that
      time period and they are glass plate negatives. Some of the negatives
      have dates written on them which is a tremendous help for the record.

      The Cook Islands Library and Museum also have a number of Crummer glass
      plates negatives and some are duplicates of Te Papa’s collection. Jean
      Mason is aware of these images but it would be wonderful if Cook
      Islanders were able to identify their descendants from the images and
      sent us their names. We could then add this to the database.

      Meitaki ma’ata,

      Grace, Collection Manager Pacific Cultures

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