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Delving through old family photographs, diary entries, newspaper articles and books about life in Scotland in the early 1800s can be quite addictive, as Frances Barnett has discovered.
The 15-year-old Logan Park High School pupil recently spent about two months retracing her Somerville family roots and found the research process so absorbing she created a history of her family, which won first-equal in the year 11 category of the 2013 New Zealand Young Historians' Competition.
''It was really interesting. I spent a lot of time doing it when I should have been doing other things.''
Frances said her great-great-great-grandparents and their children came from Chesterfield, Edinburgh, in Scotland to Dunedin on Blundell in 1858.
They were prominent members of the Free Church of Scotland and made a significant impact in the first years of Dunedin's settlement.
''The diary entries were quite enlightening.
''They told you about how people felt on the boat over to New Zealand and what their reaction was to settling in a new country and the opportunities they were looking forward to.
''I thought it was enlightening to see what my ancestors had to do, to create the life I have today.
''I've appreciated finding out a lot of the family history for myself rather than someone just telling it to me.''
The judges were impressed with Frances' writing, saying it was an ambitious family story which mixed the personal and wider perspectives very well.
They said her writing showed genuine breadth and depth, and she handled complex ideas effectively.
The article - titled Scotland to Otago: Understanding Dunedin's Scottish Roots - was placed first-equal with Epsom Girls' Grammar School pupil Fiona Wu's article titled The Declaration of War by New Zealand, 1914.
Otago Girls' High School pupil Rebecca Anderson was second in the year 13 category with her article about the Seacliff Mental Hospital, and Logan Park High School pupil Raven Mackenzie was third in the year 12 category with her article about times of protest.