Researching New Zealand Records

Researching New Zealand Records

Tony Fitzgerald, Professional Genealogist


These are not and have never been publicly available.

Electoral Rolls

The first New Zealand-wide Electoral Rolls are for 1865 although Provincial Rolls are available from the mid 1850s

These are held on microfilm or, more recently, in book form. The current Rolls are widely available throughout New Zealand but older ones are limited to the main Public Libraries. Some LDS Family History libraries hold copies of some microfilmed records.

Currently, there are 62 general electorates and 7 Maori electorates.

The 1881 Roll is alphabetically indexed for the whole country.

Telephone directories

Unlike the United Kingdom and some other countries, there is not any great incidence of unlisted numbers. Also, it is very unusual to find any home that does not have a telephone service.

Access to telephone numbers and addresses can be gained at -

Civil Registrations

Registration of European births and deaths was first required by legislation from 1848 and marriage records date from 1854. Some records of event which occurred earlier are available, but these were first recorded in parish registers held by churches. Copies of many were obtained later by the Registrar-General and are held at the Central Registry.

The registration of Maori births and deaths did not become compulsory until 1913. Some pre 1913 births can be found in these records. A few were made in the European system but not a great many. Registration from 1913 could not be effectively enforced in the early stages and it is apparent that a great many births and deaths of Maori people were not registered as they should have been. In 1952 the separate Maori and European marriage laws and recording systems were amalgamated. The amalgamation of birth and death registrations came in 1962.

Birth certificates have always, of course, provided the obvious information including the parents names and mother's maiden name and father's rank or profession but additional information has been gradually provided. For example, from 1875, the ages and places of birth of each parent are shown plus the date and place of marriage.

Death certificates prior to 1875 do not provide any information of genealogical value, other than age. From 1875, details are provided of parent's names, occupations (including mother's maiden name), when and where buried, place of birth and how long in New Zealand, where married, to whom and at what age. Number and sex of living issue. From 1912, the age of the surviving widow(er), if any, is also provided and the ages of surviving issue (rather than just their number); also, if Maori, the tribe of both parents.

Under the Marriage Act of 1854, the only particulars recorded were:

  • * The date and place of marriage
  • * The full names, ages and conjugal status of bride and bridegroom
  • * The occupations of the bridegroom
  • ** The witnesses' name, address and occupation

Positive identification is not always possible if only one of the parties is known.

By the Act of 1880, the following details also added were:

  • * The birth place and usual place of residence of each party
  • ** The full names of parents of each party
  • ** The occupation of the father in each case
  • ** The family or maiden surname of the mother

Particulars marked * are recorded in a certified copy, if provided at the time of registration. Particulars marked ** are recorded in the image copy or micrographic copy which should be specifically requested.

The following site provides full information on every aspect of Civil Registrations -

Adoption records

The operation of privacy legislation restricts the availability of information to only the birth parents and the child his or herself.

  1. 1. When where adoptions introduced in New Zealand Adoptions were made in a Court since 1882. However there was no requirement to notify Births, Deaths and Marriages to endorse the original birth registration or create a new entry with the adoptive details until 1916. Birth records that related to adoptions made prior to 1916 where not updated until the 1980's. It is impossible to detect information through the indexes to birth registrations. The original certificate is endorsed "adopted".
  2. All records relating to entry that are endorsed with an adoption endorsement are closed for all access requests, unless the following:

    1. The adopted person (only) can apply under the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985 for a copy of the pre adoptive birth certificate if they are 20 years or older. Please note that the birth parents, adoptive parents cannot obtain a copy of the pre adoptive birth record.
    2. The birth parents can make an application to Adoption Services, Child Youth and Family for information relating to the new names of the child after adoption.
    3. There is provision to apply for a photocopy of a pre adoptive birth registration under Section 76(3) of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act 1995 for someone else e.g uncle, mother. However all parties to the adoption must be deceased, the adoptive person, birth parent(s) and adoptive parent(s) or 120 years have passed since the birth of the adoptive person.

Attention is drawn to the following sites -

  1. (Information for adopted people)
  2. (Information for birth parents)


The Department of Courts processes all divorces in New Zealand. If a marriage occurred in New Zealand, and it was dissolved by a court in New Zealand, that court usually notifies the Registrar-General. Any copy of a marriage certificate subsequently issued will have an amendment stating that the marriage has been dissolved.

Archives New Zealand

The site address for this is -

The principle genealogical resources held are -

  • Records of government assisted immigrants from 1840 to 1888, and ships' passenger lists from the 1880s to 1972
  • Probate files cover the administration of deceased estates, and usually include a copy of the deceased's will.
  • Coroners' inquests into accidental or suspicious deaths
  • Notices of Intention to Marry, filled out prior to the marriage, contain some additional information not found on the marriage certificate. Our holdings cover 1856-1956
  • Military Service records prior to 1913 - Rolls and other records from various military units, including soldiers who fought for the Crown in the New Zealand Wars.

National Library of New Zealand

The site address for this is -

Probably, the most valuable genealogical asset is the Alexander Turnbull Library. Card indexes are available at many repositories that show individual names and file references.


In order to find a probate file, it is usually necessary to know where and when a person died. Some of the earlier probate records have been indexed onto a database by the NZ Society of Genealogists. This makes searching for the early records quite simple. For later probates, it is a matter of checking the probate register from the High Court closest to where the person was living when they died. Before about 1950, all Public Trust wills were probated through the Wellington court. Therefore, if the Public Trust Office were involved in the estate, it is worth checking the Wellington probates, even if the deceased did not live in the Wellington area. (but records readily available - many indexed on the NZSG CD)


This is available only to NZSG members - edition II due out later this year. These are the contents of Edition II (I hold edition I)

  • Bolton Street Cemetery
  • Gore Cemetery
  • Karori Cemetery
  • NZ Probates
  • School Admissions
  • Purewa Cremations
  • Purwea Burials
  • School Inspectors
  • War Graves
  • Whakatane Burials
  • Whangarei Burials
  • 1893 Electoral Roll - Women
  • NZSG Pedigrees
  • NZSG Families
  • NZSG pre1855 Marriages
  • NZSG Certificates
  • NZSG Strays
  • Otago Nominal Index
  • Hutt Valley Cemetery Index
  • Pandora'a Box (a collection from various sources compiled by Dawn Chambers)
  • Otago Miscellaneous Cemeteries
  • Port Chalmers Cemeteries
  • New Plymouth Wills at Lands & Deeds

Cemetery records

Whilst there are a number of useful web-sites that can be found by a Google search, by far the most useful records are held at various LDS Libraries and Public Libraries.

In practice, this to be the best way of locating a death where the place of death is known or suspected ... but the larger the town or city, the more time-consuming the research

Public Libraries

Doubtless, the resources of all major Public Libraries will be comparable ... although, perhaps, being a Cantabrian I would like to think that the Christchurch Public Library has the biggest and best collection in the country.

By way of example , the following site provides a detailed insight into the very comprehensive resources available -

Useful web-site

New Zealand Resource List -


This site provides particulars of all New Zealand museums

Whilst some of the Museums could have web sites showing what indexes are held, the Canterbury Museum page does not. This is the only generalised statement obtainable from it -

The Canterbury Museum Documentary Research Centre holds a number of unique resources which are particularly useful for researching families who emigrated to or settled in Canterbury.

Wise's Post Office Directory

Whilst Wise's Post Office Directory still exists, its principle use is that relating to the years 1866-1954 - some are held in book form but the majority are not on microfiche with separate indexes for surnames, trades and towns. A most useful resource.

PLEASE NOTE - this page is still under construction and other paragraphs (such as those below) will be added shortly.

Passenger arrivals


WWI and WWII service records

Researching New Zealand Records

Tony Fitzgerald is a professional genealogist based in New Zealand. His services are described on his web page.


Copyright © 2002
By the Author
All rights reserved