Family History

Getting started with family history research

Are you new to family history research? Our getting started guide will help you work out what questions you want to answer, and give you some tips to start finding your family in the Library's collections.

How do I find birth, death and marriage information?

An outdoors wedding party, including bridesmaids, probably in Christchurch. Taken in 1913 by Steffano Francis Webb.
An outdoors wedding party, including bridesmaids, probably in Christchurch. Taken in 1913 by Steffano Francis Webb. Ref: 1/1-005271-G.

Birth, Death and Marriage information Online

Birth, death and marriage (BDM) registration records provide vital information about the dates of those events and may also tell us the names and occupations of an earlier generation.

Further research can include additional sources such as intentions to marry, probates, and coroners’ inquests.

Department of Internal Affairs’ Historical BDM information

Births, Deaths & Marriages online is the primary source for historical birth, death and marriage records in New Zealand. It’s the first place to start your query and offers the following information along with the year and registration number of each recorded event:

  • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago (including the parents’ first names)
  • Marriages that occurred at least 80 years ago
  • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or where the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago (and may include the exact birth date as supplied on the death record)

This resource is particularly useful for finding out the exact birth, marriage, or death date of someone by whittling away at the Search From Date: (dd/mm/yyyy) and the Search To Date: (dd/mm/yyyy)

You will need a Family Name (surname) but be aware that sometimes there are errors of transcription or interpretation of handwriting, or a mistaken informant.

Finding a precise date means that you can then go to the newspapers and find a notice usually within a day or week of the event. In some cases there may be nothing, but often it can supply invaluable information about your relatives.

When ordering copies of original records, it is preferable to order a printout, as it is a copy of the original document and usually has more information than a certificate.

You can also download a form, particularly if you plan to use folio numbers sourced from microfiche indexes or the NZSG New Zealand Marriages 1836–1956 CD-Rom index database, or if you don’t know the folio number but you know the year.

Archives New Zealand guide

Archives New Zealand’s Personal Identity research guide describes records relating to marriages and deaths: specifically Intentions to Marry (for the whole of New Zealand for the period 1856–1956) and coroners’ inquests, probates, as well as other records including adoption information.

Newspapers

Papers Past contains a lot of birth, marriage, or death notices, and some obituaries. Try searching under the name of your ancestor but don’t forget to try different spellings of the name and limit your search results by date if you are getting too many hits.

BDM resources available onsite at the Library

Births within the last 100 years

For births, deaths or marriages that occurred before the 100 year limit on historical births you can use the microfiche indexes that are available on the open shelves in the Family History Collection in the General Reading Room, which cover 1840–1990. When used in conjunction with District keys to the NZ registration indexes, you can pinpoint where a birth or death was registered (1840–1955).

Note that the folio number on the microfiche index is different from the registration number used in the online historical Births, Deaths and Marriages records database.

Marriages within the last 80 years

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists’ New Zealand Marriages 1836–1956 (CD-Rom index database) is also extremely helpful for matching brides and grooms beyond the 80 year limit of the Department of Internal Affair’s BDM historical records database.

Ancestry Library Edition

Ancestry Library Edition is a subscription database you can access at the National Library and many public libraries. It recently added more New Zealand collection records. Note microfiche indexes were scanned (hence the possibility of errors) and different folio numbers are used than the registration numbers from Births, Deaths & Marriages online.

Find My Past

There are several advantages to using the New Zealand Birth, Marriage, and Death indexes in this database, particularly as you can search on first name alone, and the indexing is more accurate than Ancestry Library Edition. Note however, that the date range for births and marriages is more restricted.

Baptism, marriage, and funeral registers in the unpublished collections

We hold baptism, marriage, and funeral registers for some churches in the greater Wellington region and other parts of the North Island, as well as some undertaker records.

Please note that there are fewer funeral records than baptism or marriage records, and that ‘undertakers and undertaking’ as a search term may prove useful. You can search for these record books on our website using the terms ‘baptism’ or ‘baptismal’ and ‘marriage registers’.

When you find a likely set of records look for ‘View original source’ and the link will take you through to the unpublished catalogue of the Alexander Turnbull Library, Tiaki, where you can order the item into the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room. If not, then use the black ‘Send an enquiry’ button at left and fill out the online form with your contact details and staff will look on your behalf.

How do I find where my Ancestor is buried?

Graves, Bolton Street Cemetery, photographed in the late 1960s by the City Sexton, P J E Shotter.
Graves, Bolton Street Cemetery, photographed in the late 1960s by the City Sexton, P J E Shotter. Ref: 35mm-25531-39a-F.

Death records and notices

Date and place of burial (or cremation) is given in death records and usually in death notices in newspapers. We also have a Wellington newspapers card index listing births, deaths, marriages, and anniversaries for 1969–1990, which while not comprehensive, can be useful.

The Alexander Turnbull Library biographies index, which is available on microfiche in the reading room and also held by some large public libraries, gives you access to a large collection of biographical newspaper notices (c1890–1988) concerning ordinary people throughout New Zealand.

Canterbury Public Library newspaper index on microfiche, may be useful for historical material.

Cemetery locations and burial records

We hold the New Zealand Society of Genealogists (NZSG) New Zealand Burial Locator (V 2.0 CD-Rom database), an index pointing to a selection of burial sources throughout New Zealand. In our Family History collections you can also browse all the NZSG microfiche cemetery indexes, a comprehensive collection of New Zealand cemetery locations, burial records, transcriptions of headstones (monumental inscriptions), and cremation records.

Note the NZSG microfiche cemetery indexes, or New Zealand, Cemetery Records, 1800-2007, is a massive collection that has been digitised by Ancestry Library Edition. However, if you can’t find a name by searching and you know the name of the cemetery, you can still browse the records online.

Funeral homes

Morris Junior, and J E Taylor and Sons (now Lychgate Funeral Home), which covers central Wellington and inner suburbs from 1897–1989.

Westland Funeral Services records, includes information about burials in Greymouth and surrounding areas from 1888–1964, with some gaps.

Angus Family Funeral Directors in Lower Hutt covers 1990–2006.

Diocese of Wellington and other Church records can also sometimes be helpful. Note their compilation and content varies by denomination. For example, the early Lutheran Church put all family events, baptisms, marriages, and burials in a single ‘Church book’. However, for family connections, death notices (when published) are likely to tell you more.

Death notices available online

Many institutions have created indexes, and Christchurch City Libraries has compiled a very useful list of New Zealand Newspaper archives and indexes.

For earlier deaths check Papers Past and our online catalogue for newspaper holdings; and for more recent deaths (since December 2006) check AMemoryTree.co.nz as it lists the dates when death notices appeared in newspapers (over 98% of those published).

New Zealand Herald’s Family Notices are indexed in the Newztext subscription database, and Press Reader has searchable full-text of a wide range of New Zealand and overseas newspapers from the last 90 days. Your public library may have a subscription to one or both of these databases.

Many New Zealand cemeteries have their burial and cremation records online. In most instances they give date of death and burial or cremation, and in some instances they include photographs, transcriptions, occupation, age, the plot number, others in the same plot, and, more rarely, the cause of death. Christchurch City Libraries has a comprehensive guide to New Zealand cemeteries online databases.

Billion Graves Cemeteries also can be useful for that elusive final resting place of your ancestor, particularly as in some instances there are photographs. The subscription database Find My Past has New Zealand Billion Graves Cemetery Index and there is also the fee-based BillionGraves.com; although it is US-centric, there is NZ content, such as the grave of Arthur Norbert McCarthy. Find a Grave is a free website bloated with advertising, nonetheless it may still provide some answers.

Can I get my ancestor’s will or probate?

Probates are records of the probate process, which administers a deceased person’s estate. These are official government records and are held at Archives New Zealand.

Use Archives New Zealand’s Personal identity research guide for advice about where to access probates.

You can begin your search for probates in Archway, as most will be listed there. Family Search volunteers have been steadily digitising and indexing Archives New Zealand probate records, specifically New Zealand Probate Records from 1848–1991. Although records cannot be sorted easily, it is possible to limit your results using the filter ‘other year’ to select either the 1800s or 1900s.

A probate index may list the name of your ancestor as well as the date of the probate, which is often close to the date of death. It is worthwhile looking for probates of relatives of the deceased as well, as sometimes these may contain relevant documents.

A probate index will usually list a file number for the probate, which contains any related documents. You’ll need to note the number so that you can request the actual file. The Archway record will have the required details.

The Alexander Turnbull Library holds personal and organisational records. Only a small number of wills or probates are held here, generally amongst an individual’s personal papers in the Manuscripts collection.

When did my ancestors come to New Zealand?

There is no single place to look for a record of people’s arrival in New Zealand, and for many families there may be no surviving records. However, the library has many resources that could help you find records of your ancestors’ arrivals, and there are further sources of information available to you online.

Polish refugees arriving in Wellington on board the General Randall, 1 November 1944\.  Ref: 1/2-003624-F
Polish refugees arriving in Wellington on board the General Randall, 1 November 1944. Ref: 1/2-003624-F

Search tips

Records were kept in many different forms, by a lot of different people

  • Try searching using the full name, the last name and first initial, or just the last name
  • If you’re looking for an unusual name, try different spellings

If you have, or can find, the name of the ship your ancestor arrived on, that will considerably narrow down your search.

Limiting the date range will also help.

Resources available at the Library

Findmypast.com.au

Access online passenger lists of people leaving Britain, Ireland or Australia, including Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960, with both transcripts and scanned images that may provide information such as occupation, last address and country of birth.

Ancestry Library Edition

View UK Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960, and UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960. Plus border crossings and passenger lists, largely involving North America, and Europe.

New Zealand Shipping Company Passenger Lists

If you have the name of the ship, use these lists to get information about voyages between Britain and New Zealand. Most of the lists have been digitised by FindMyPast and Ancestry; only a few years (1875–1877) and (1885–1889) haven’t been done.

NZ Company Embarkation register

View the register of assisted (and some fee paying) immigrants from the UK to New Zealand, spanning 1839–1850.

Online guides

Forster, William James, 1851-1891 :S. S. Red Jacket. [ca 1870].
Portrait of the American-built "Red Jacket" passenger ship. Forster, William James, 1851-1891 :S. S. Red Jacket. [ca 1870]. Ref: C-059-017.

Online resources for New Zealand arrivals by ship

Passenger and shipping lists:

Databases/indexes:

Newspapers:

Get some background

For background material, try searching for ‘shipboard account’ or ‘shipboard diary’ in our unpublished material, or ‘emigration and immigration’, plus a region (like Otago or Canterbury) for more of an overview.

You might also enjoy reading published accounts such as Over the Mountains of the Sea: Life on the Migrant ships, 1870–1885 (2006).

To help you research ships, we have:

Vol. II (Founding of the Provinces and Old-time Shipping. Passenger ships from 1840 to 1885)

We also have a small shipping card index available in the reading room, and our staff can help you find more resources.

How do I find information about my ancestor who served in a war?

A New Zealand working party walking through Courcelles, France, World War I.
A New Zealand working party walking through Courcelles, France, World War I. Ref: 1/2-013079-G.

Many New Zealanders or their close family have served in a major conflict and their records can help with your family research.

Get started online

Archives New Zealand’s War guide is a good place to begin your search. It describes what records they hold and is organised by period and conflict, focusing mostly on the Army (1840–1970s), but also the Air Force, Navy, Home Guard, prisoners of war, and nurses.

Archway lets you search across Archives’ personnel files for the Anglo-Boer (South African) War and for the period 1914–1920, including the First World War. All files are searchable by name and all of the South African War and First World War (1914–1918) records are available online.

The New Zealand Defence Force holds personnel files relating to service after 1920, including World War II and later.

Auckland War Memorial Museum’s Online Cenotaph database is a biographical database of over 140,000 men and women who served their country in the New Zealand Wars, the South African War, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Vietnam War, and more recently, service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also included are regular service members and those involved in various peacekeeping efforts throughout the world. Information sources include the official nominal rolls and New Zealand Gazette notices, and in many cases there are links through to digitised personnel files held by Archives New Zealand.

Digitised WWI Troopship magazines can also be found in the Auckland War Memorial Museum Library’s catalogue.

Official WW100 website is part of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s First World War centenary programme and provides additional contextual material. Family members can contribute further information and photographs.

On-site resources for researching ancestors who served in a war

At the Library you can access several extremely useful subscription databases. Your local public library may be a subscriber too, so check what they have.

Ancestry Library Edition includes the following:

  • Chronicles of the N.Z.E.F., 1916-1919 (1,467)
  • NZ Army Medal Rolls 1860–1919 (7,765)
  • NZ WWI Military defaulters 1919–1921 (2,484)
  • NZ Army WWI Nominal Rolls 1914–1918 (100,721)
  • NZ Army WWII Nominal Rolls 1939–1948 (124,535)
  • NZ Army WWI Reserve Rolls 1916–1917 (179,188)
  • NZ Army WWI Casualty Lists 1914–1919 (61,475)
  • NZ Army WWI Roll of Honour 1914–1919 (18,165)
  • NZ Expeditionary Force Record of Personal Service, 1914-1918 (11,621)
  • Roll of Honour, 1840-1903 (9,672)
  • World War II Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations, 1939-1945 (85,962)
  • World War II Ballot Lists, 1940-1945 (346,267)
  • World War I Service Records, 1914-1920 (383,163)

Findmypast.com.au allows you to search under the category ‘armed forces & conflict’ and limit to New Zealand databases. You can then further limit to either ‘record set’ or ‘collection’ to find these records:

  • New Zealand War Medal Roll (4,458)
  • New Zealand Boer War Servicemen (6,446)
  • New Zealand WWI Soldiers (288,526)

The Genealogist has a significant collection of British military records if your ancestor served in the British armed forces.

Discovery holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by The National Archives [UK] and over 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download. Popular topics include WWI army service records, WWI unit war diaries, Merchant Navy service, Passenger lists, muster books, naturalisation, Poor Law, etc.

Europeana is a digital portal to Europe's galleries, museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. The 1914-1918 category of their blog has a wealth of content, including some sourced from Australia and New Zealand, thus allowing for a variety of perspectives.

The First World War: personal experiences is a collection of primary and secondary material drawn from 10 contributing libraries worldwide and includes digitised diaries, documents (including the full-text of the Chronicles of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force), historical and interactive maps, images, and some oral histories.

Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War is an archival research resource containing a vast collection of rare magazines by and for servicemen and women of all nations during the First World War. Over 1,500 periodicals written and illustrated by serving members of the armed forces and associated welfare organisations published between 1914 and the end of 1919 are included. Magazines have been scanned cover-to-cover, in full colour or greyscale, and with granular indexing of all articles and specialist indexing of Publications.

Further online resources

These resources provide many ways to go deeper, and are particularly useful once you have more names, places, and units to search for.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Has details on 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in the two world wars and in many cases has photographs of memorials or burial sites.

Discovery is your first port of call for National Archives UK records. We subscribe to the database, so you can freely access already digitised records onsite.

National Archives UK also has some useful military research guides, such as Looking for a person, which covers births, deaths and other life events, wills, prisoners of war and conscientious objectors, Army, Navy, and air personnel, Marines, medals and honours, merchant seamen, workers and employees, criminals, bankrupts and litigants, religious groups, slavery and indentured labourers, and asylum inmates. Plus there are more specific guides like Looking for records of a British Army soldier up to 1913 and Looking for records of a British Army soldier after 1913.

Gazettes Online UK

Includes The London Gazette, plus the Belfast and Edinburgh gazettes, as well as the WWI and WWII editions with medal citations.

Australian War Memorial

Has biographical and collection databases that can be helpful, as some New Zealanders signed up in Australia and vice-versa. Try searching the World War I nominal roll database for example.

Discovering Anzacs

A large collection of digitised government records for both Australians and New Zealanders, including World War I and the Boer War. Public contributions of photographs and other supporting material are actively encouraged.

National Archives of Australia

Has a useful guide for researching war service. The NAA hold digitised service records of those who served with the Australian army in World War I.

New Zealand Defence Force – Personnel Records

Links to an application form for post-1920 personnel files.

New Zealand Royal Honours is the official Governor General’s website.

Papers Past has lists of casualties, names of people departing for and returning from wars, or appearing in front of appeal boards either as conscientious objectors or for other reasons.

NZETC (New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington) has digitised a number of fully searchable titles including the following:

Where can I find background information and context to the world wars?

Our collections include many books, original war diaries, war photographs, and oral histories. We hold the official photographs for WWI and WWII, plus J-Force and K-Force, as well as photographs taken by individuals. Many of these are digitised and available on our website.

Another useful pictorial resource for finding portraits is Onward : portraits of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force / P.J. Beattie and M.J. Pomeroy. (2013-), the most comprehensive (and still growing) collection of its type. Thus far three volumes have been published and a fourth is currently under production.

Your ancestor may not have kept a diary while on active service (as it was officially discouraged) or may not have written about their war experiences.

Try searching across our collections for someone else on the same troopship or in the same regiment, or who served in the same location or who came from the same place – their diaries may refer to names of other servicemen and women.

For more guidance on using our collections, use our guide to the First World War.

New Zealand History.net has articles on war and society and Te Ara has a section on war and defence.

Traction engine transporting a house from Rocky Gully to Timaru.
Traction engine transporting a house from Rocky Gully to Timaru. Ref: PAColl-5469-052.

Tracing where my ancestor lived

Sometimes you may have a lot of information about your ancestor but not know where they lived during certain periods. There are a number of ways to find this type of information including electoral rolls and directories, both of which are available on site at the Library.

Electoral Rolls and directories

Ancestry Library Edition is a popular family history subscription database freely accessible onsite in most New Zealand libraries, it has New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1853–1981 and New Zealand City & Area Directories, 1866–1955, although some years are only browseable, not searchable. Another subscription database is Findmypast.com.au which also has some searchable New Zealand electoral rolls and directories. Another useful resource is the freely available and searchable Women’s Suffrage petition, 1893 published by New Zealand History, which also links you through to the Archives New Zealand digitised sheets. Archives New Zealand’s Writing a Biography Guide – 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition is helpful for those who have an ancestor that signed, including advice on how to submit your biography and/or images to NZHistory at: webqueries@mch.govt.nz.

Note that some of the signed sheets were lost so there are many more women in the 1893 Electoral roll than the Suffrage petition. And the NZSG’s New Zealand combined electoral rolls 1881, 1893 & 1896 (CD-Rom database) can be useful for finding elusive women, and for co-locating people with the same surname in the same Electorate.

We hold a complete set of electoral rolls from 1853 to the present day, along with habitation indexes, which allow you to search by address, available from the 1980s onwards. We also hold quite a number of New Zealand directories in a variety of formats, such as Wises, Stones, and other early directories and almanacs.

Telephone directories are another way to locate an address. We hold a large number of directories from the 1920s onwards, and these vary by place and year. They have differing titles such as ‘telephone book’, ‘telephone directory’, and ‘white pages’. Ask staff for assistance.

Archives New Zealand also has a large collection of telephone directories up to 1988 listed at the end of the Personal identity guide.

Can I trace ownership of my land?

Finding out who owned land is harder than finding out who lived at an address, but sometimes it’s the same person. Electoral rolls and directories list where people live, and provide good starting points.

Records are available either through Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) or Archives New Zealand. These records are currently being moved from LINZ to Archives NZ. Check the locations of the most commonly used records for New Zealand’s 12 land registration districts.

Archives NZ has a research guide summarising land records for Wellington. You can search the Deeds index, which tracks transfers of ownership. You can also search the index by names of registered owners, found in the Nominal Index.

Other sources for tracing land ownership

As the LINZ records at Archives New Zealand are not complete you may need to try other avenues, for example, local council records. Some land transfers can be found in the newspapers, so try searching for land-owners’ names in Papers Past. You may also find mentions of changes of ownership in probate records.

The New Zealand Gazette and the AtoJs online may mention land grants. Some regional and city councils like Wellington City Archives hold rate books, building records, etc. We have the Maori Land Court Minute Books Index database available onsite, but it is only the start – Archives New Zealand in Wellington has a full set of the books on microfilm, and LINZ has created a useful guide to Māori Land Records – Te Ketu Kōrero Whēnua Māori.

The National Library also has a subscription to the Quickmap database accessible onsite in the Alexander Turnbull Library’s general reading room. The historical deposited plans, or title plans, are likely to be of most interest to researchers, using a street address search. To ensure that you have sufficient time with the resource, an hourly booking can be made in advance.

House on Ingestre Street, Wellington.
House on Ingestre Street, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-060612-F.

Do you have a photograph of my street?

There’s a good chance that there's a photograph of your house or street in our collections.

Start by being specific, and try typing in the house number and street name. If you get no results it may be because the record information is not detailed enough. In this case expand your search by using just the street name or suburb. You will likely get results that are not totally relevant, but there may be some panoramas or aerial views that include your house.

How can I find out where my ancestors worked?

Searching for your ancestors’ names in Papers Past is a good starting point. Although not everyone made it into the newspaper, it has long been common journalistic practice to describe a person by their occupation, and sometimes by their workplace.

There is no centralised record listing where people worked. The electoral rolls, directories, and war records list occupations. You may be able to use this information to continue searching other collections or indexes.

Archives New Zealand holds a number of government employment records you may find useful, however some records still have access restrictions. The section on teachers in their education guide is also helpful.

Archives also holds registers of occupations that had to be licensed or registered, such as law practitioners, barmaids, as well as liquor licensees. It also has medical, nursing and midwifery registers, and marine records. Sometimes, records are lodged with local archives. The Community Archive website (formerly the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts called NRAM) may be useful.

Other places to look include the New Zealand Gazette Archive 1841–2004 which is available on a PC in our reading room. For more recent years the Department of Internal Affairs publish online a searchable database of gazette notices from 1993 onwards. The AtoJs online (1858–1950, Session 1) [Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, sometimes referred to as AJHR] digitised volumes are useful for finding all kinds of information including bankruptcies, sheepholder returns, lists of teachers from c1878 to 1924, reports, returns, etc. We also hold some directories and registers of employees, guides to certain occupations, as well as industry magazines.

Coal miners at the entrance to the number 1, or 2, Rewanui mine. Photograph taken by Mascotte Studio between circa 1900-1920.
Coal miners at the entrance to the number 1, or 2, Rewanui mine. Photograph taken by Mascotte Studio between circa 1900-1920. Ref: PAColl-5800-28.

What is the best way to search newspapers for my ancestors?

Newspapers are a great resource for turning up information on your ancestors. Often you’ll be able to find information relating to births, deaths, marriages or the arrival of ships that your ancestors sailed on.

More and more newspapers are being digitised and made available online. Papers Past covers the years 1839 to 1948 and includes over 110 newspapers and periodicals from all regions of New Zealand. Those that aren't yet online can be ordered onsite via the National Library catalogue in the general reading room where you can either scan articles to a USB stick or print them off. Only a very small number are available in hard copy, in the Katherine Mansfield reading room.

The best way to search online newspapers is by trying different combinations of first name and surname, as well as by initials, as personal names may be recorded in many different ways.

When you come into our library’s Wellington reading room, you can use our subscription databases to search the full-text of Australian, British, New Zealand, and selected international historical and contemporary newspapers.

Newspaper databases that we subscribe to include:

  • 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers (Gale)
  • 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Parts 1 & 2 (Gale)
  • 19th Century UK Periodicals: Empire & New Readerships collections (Gale)
  • Australia & New Zealand Reference Centre
  • British Newspapers: Part 3 & 4, 1780-1950 (Gale)
  • British Newspaper Archive, 18th-century – mid 20th-century (note: you need to create a personal login using email and a password, but then on-site access is immediate).
  • Gale NewsVault (searches across all 9 Gale newspaper collections we subscribe to)
  • Gale Primary Sources
  • The Guardian and The Observer 1791–2003
  • Irish Newspaper Archive, national and regional newspapers (c1738 – current)
  • The Irish Times 1859-2007
  • Newztext (1993–) [New Zealand]. (Knowledge Basket) Blogs, The Independent (UK), NBR Full Text 1993- NBR Index 1985-1992, Fairfax NZ Herald 1998-, Stuff, Newswires, Scoop
  • Press Display, coverage includes New Zealand and international newspapers from the last 90 days
  • PINI (formerly Niustext) Pacific Island New and Information database (Knowledge Basket)
  • The Scotsman 1817–1950
  • Sydney Morning Herald Archives 1955–1995
  • Telegraph Historical Archive 1855-2000
  • Times Digital Archive 1785-2009 (Gale)
  • Trove’s Australian digitised newspapers from 1803 onwards is free and often includes New Zealand news and may mention your ancestors or the ship they were travelling on if they came via Australia
Sailors from HMS Leander, reading newspapers.
Sailors from HMS Leander, reading newspapers, [ca 8 Sept 1941]. Ref: 1/4-049238-G.

How do I keep tracing my ancestors in their country of origin?

When doing family history research in New Zealand you’ll often reach a point when your ancestors have come to New Zealand from further afield, meaning that you’ll need to expand your search overseas.

The National Library has a lot of resources that can help you with this, but it usually means you will need to come to our reading room in Wellington.

We hold a large number of newspaper collections, lots of guides, and major family history resources in various formats for Australia and the UK. We also have some resources and research guides for other countries and nationalities. We also regularly add new specialist-advice books to our collections so it is worthwhile checking back to see if we have any new resources.

Ancestry Library Edition is a great tool for searching historical records from the USA, United Kingdom and Ireland, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many other libraries also subscribe so check your local library before heading into our reading room.

We also have subscriptions to Findmypast.com.au (world) which covers Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland, USA and Canada, as well as The Genealogist (UK), and Discovery (UK), amongst other databases.

FamilySearch at the National Library

FamilySearch is a free genealogical resource that helps you access millions of records from around the world, using the extensive historical collections of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).

First try searching on the FamilySearch catalog to find a digitised record you want to examine. The best way to find a record number is to search by place, and then drill down to a specific set of records. While Parish records give you the most complete information about a family, the wiki and research guides are also useful.

The National Library of New Zealand, since the 2nd of September 2017, acquired official FamilySearch affiliate library status. This means that onsite in our General Reading Room, on the first floor of the National Library, you can access many digitised records that were previously only accessible at a LDS Family History Center – and that you can download images of these records to your own laptop via our Free Library wifi.

Alternatively, if you want help in finding and viewing FamilySearch records or saving FamilySearch images for your family history, you can make your way to the FamilySearch Service. This is located within the General Reading Room on the first floor of the Library, and FamilySearch volunteers from the local branches of the NZSG (New Zealand Society of Genealogists) are on hand to help you. Look out for the FamilySearch Service sign to your right as you come up the stairs to the General Reading Room.

Contact: t: 04 474 3048 (10am–4pm Tuesday–Saturday except mid-December to mid-January)

Publishing and preserving your family history

Your descendants may one day thank you for taking the extra step of publishing and preserving the results of your family history research. There are a couple of options you might consider for ensuring your family history is preserved for future generations.

Sharing or publishing your family history

Once you’ve compiled your family history research you can share it with others by publishing your work. The Library’s information on putting out a publication will help you get started. Another good introduction is the guide by John MacGibbon called Your family’s history: research, write and publish it .

Digitisation

Digital New Zealand’s Digitising family history and whakapapa guide will give you detailed information to help you scan, digitise, or digitally copy old family pictures, records and documents.

Donation

The Library is always pleased to consider items for donation to the collections as long as they meet our collections policy. We collect a wide range of materials relating to all aspects of New Zealand and Pacific life, including published and unpublished histories of families, groups, districts and organisations. To discuss making a donation, contact the Library via the Ask-a-Librarian form with details about the items you wish to offer.

New Zealand Web Archive

The Library regularly harvests websites that meet our collections policy. If you have published your history research online as a website, you can nominate your site to be added to our collections.

Legal Deposit

If you decide to publish your work in print or as an ebook or CD-ROM, there are legal obligations to deposit 1 or 2 copies with the Library, depending on the size of the print run (1 copy if published digitally or less than 100 physical copies published, 2 copies if more than 100 published). Read more about the Library’s Legal Deposit requirements.

Other places to research family history

Google Advanced and family history search engines such as Mocavo may be helpful for finding online forum discussions about people you are interested in, family trees, etc., although you do need to be careful about the accuracy of the information supplied.

Try Google Books, although copyright restrictions may mean you only get a snippet view. The Internet Archive is a wonderful resource, likewise the Hathi Trust, and FamilySearch has a growing number of digitised books. And for world-wide holdings of library books, OCLC Worldcat is hard to beat. Don’t forget NZETC (New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington) or ENZB (Early New Zealand Books, University of Auckland) for digitised books on New Zealand and the Pacific.

Many websites can assist you with your family history research, including a number of commercial sites where people submit their family trees; although you may need to verify the information.

Major websites (free access)

FamilySearch

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints hold records that span billions of names across hundreds of collections – including birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, International Genealogical Index (IGI) and more. Start with search, and then browse ‘all’ to limit your search to specific countries or regions. Their wiki and research guides give helpful advice.

Cyndi’s list

Cyndi’s list of genealogy websites provides over 300,000 links to other genealogy and family history sites.

RootsWeb

The RootsWeb surname list lets you search over 1.2 million surname entries.

RootsWeb World Connect

RootsWeb’s World Connect searches across more than 600 million names.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has the personal and service details and places of commemoration for 1.7 million Commonwealth Forces who died in the First and Second World Wars.

Free BMD

Has millions of free UK transcribed indexes.

CoraWeb

Websites for genealogists (Australia).

Ancestry World Tree

Although Ancestry.com.au is a fee-based site, they offer free advice in the form of their ten top tips for family history research, and you could also try Ancestry.co.uk’s free help & advice pages.

New Zealand

Archives New Zealand

Archway is the online catalogue to New Zealand Government Archives. Particularly useful are the Research guides as well as the audiovisual archives material produced by the National Film Unit.

National Library of New Zealand

Explore our collections to find books, images, maps, articles and more. The library houses an extensive collection of material including rare books, heritage children’s books, over 500,000 online images, born-digital material including harvested websites, plus digitised full-text material such as Papers Past, AtoJs, findNZarticles, Index New Zealand, Te Ao Hou: The New World , and Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868–1961.

DigitalNZ

Hosts millions of digital images and objects from New Zealand libraries, museums, and institutions; and facilitates activities that re-use and re-purpose digital content.

NZ Museums online

Provides a useful gateway to the Museums of New Zealand and their collections.

Auckland City Libraries

Online history and genealogy resources, including Auckland eResources, Auckland Area Passenger Arrivals 1838–1886, 1909–1921, Immigration, Index Auckland: local history, arts and music, Iwidex, and Heritage images and photography eResources.

New Zealand births, marriage and deaths indexes, 1991-1997 Central Auckland Research Centre

Auckland City Council > Family History Archives

Auckland Museum

Online Cenotaph database is a useful and growing resource for biographical and service details for more than 140,000 New Zealand service men and women from the 19th century till today, with a focus on the First and Second World Wars.

Auckland Museum Library

The Catalogue includes digitised WWI Troopship magazines amongst other useful resources.

University of Auckland’s Whakapapa page

Introductory research to researching whakapapa.

Christchurch City Libraries

Has a wealth of online resources such as Cemeteries and cemetery records including a comprehensive directory of online cemetery databases; Digital collections include the digitised Canterbury Police Gazette 1863–1876; Emigration includes scanned Embarkation lists 1854–1876; Family History guide; and Newspaper archives and indexes (a directory of NZ-wide holdings).

Wellington City Libraries

Offer a useful local history guide, as well as the Evening Post clipping database, 1927-1977.

Upper Hutt City Library – Recollect heritage collections

Kete Horowhenua

A knowledge basket of images, audio, video, and documents, that are collected and catalogued by the community.

Puke Ariki (New Plymouth, Taranaki)

Of particular interest are the heritage collections and the learning and research centre.

Nelson Provincial Museum

The Prow (Nelson)

Stories from the ‘top of the South’, ie. the Nelson and Marlborough regions.

Otago Nominal Index

Approximately 267,000 names from electoral rolls and street directories for Otago and Southland.

Hocken Library (Dunedin)

A significant heritage collection that is focused on the Pacific and Antarctica, with a special emphasis on the Otago and Southland regions of New Zealand.

Aotearoa People’s Network Kaharoa (APNK) – Kete

APNK host a number of online digital repositories on behalf of public libraries. These repositories are called Kete and library staff or members of the community use them to share: photographs, audio, video, documents, personal accounts, memoirs, and stories.

The Community Archive

New Zealand’s ‘hub’ for archival collections, it provides brief descriptions of collections and contact addresses. Contributors range from individuals and small local organisations through to large institutions with nationally-significant collections.

New Zealand history online

Articles, images, and resources on a wealth of topics from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.

Te Ara, the Online Encyclopedia

Includes the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, with over 3,000 biographies and a vast collection of online resources on the history, culture, peoples, natural environment, economy and society of New Zealand.

New Zealand Electronic Text Centre

Established in 2002 at Victoria University of Wellington, the NZETC is a rich resource of digitised New Zealand texts on a variety of topics including New Zealand history, literature and biography, as well as broader projects focusing on Maori legal resources, encompassing Maori and Pacific subjects amongst others.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

The archive was formed by recent amalgamations of the New Zealand Film Archive, Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero and the Television New Zealand Archive.

Blain biographical directory of Anglican clergy in the South Pacific

Anglican clergy who served in New Zealand, Polynesia, Melanesia, and part of Papua New Guinea.

New Zealand Society of Genealogists

Family History group with news, events, and advice.

Australia

Births, deaths and marriages registries

Registries for Australian births, deaths and marriage, many with online indexes.

New South Wales registry for births, deaths and marriages

Search family history historical indexes for births 1788-1915, deaths 1788-1985, marriages 1788-1965.

NSW State Records

Includes the following: Index to vessels arriving in Sydney, 1837–1925; Indexes to assisted immigrants (Port Phillip, 1839–1851, Sydney and Newcastle, 1844–1859, Moreton Bay (Brisbane), 1848–1859, Sydney, 1860–1879, Sydney, 1880–1896); Index to unassisted immigrants, 1842–1855 (Passengers arriving at Sydney, 1846, Shipping Masters’ Office (Passengers Arriving), 1854–1855, Reports of vessels arrived (or Shipping reports), 1826–1855).

Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters

Indexes the NSW State records, such as Passengers Arriving 1845–1922. You can browse by year and month, then click on a ship’s name to view a transcribed copy of the passenger list. Note that in some cases you can see the original scanned image in the subscription database Ancestry.com.au (available in many New Zealand public libraries).

Ryerson Index

Index to over 5 million death notices from hundreds of Australian newspapers.

Public Record Office Victoria

Indexes unassisted immigration from British, foreign, and New Zealand ports to Victoria 1852–1923, British assisted immigrants 1839–1871, outward passengers to interstate, UK, NZ, and foreign ports 1852–1915. The Family History Collection at the National Library holds on microfiche the original unassisted British and foreign passenger lists 1852–1923, New Zealand passenger lists 1852–1923 and assisted passenger lists 1839–1871. See the PROVguide 50: Ships’ Passenger Lists.

Victoria BDMs (historical)

Archives Office of Tasmania

Includes Index to Tasmanian Convicts 1804-1853, Index to Departures 1817-1867, Colonial Tasmanian Family Links Database, Index to Tasmanian Wills, Index to Divorces.

Queensland State Archives

Online indexes include topics about: convicts / prisoners, courts, hospitals / sanitoria, immigration, indigenous, lands, professions, orphanages and reformatories.

State Library of Queensland

Includes resources on immigration, including convicts to Moreton Bay (Brisbane) in its John Oxley Library.

Queensland family history research

Genealogy South Australia

Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial biographical databases - Roll of Honour, Commemorative Roll, First World War Nominal Roll, Boer War Nominal Roll, Honours and Awards (Gazetted), World War I.

National Archives of Australia

376, 000 digitised service records of those who served with the Australian army in World War I.

Discovering Anzacs

Explore a growing selection of government records about Australians and New Zealanders in World War I and the Boer War, alongside contributions from individuals.

Ireland-Australia transportation database

Obituaries Australia is hosted by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University, and offers published obituaries relevant to the history of Australia.

People Australia is also hosted by ANU (Australian National University) and offers standalone biographies by searching across all the National Centre of Biography's biographical websites.

Dictionary of Australian Biography is the pre-eminent dictionary of Australian national biography.

Trove (National Library of Australia)

A rich resource of books & periodicals, digitised newspapers, manuscripts, images, music and sound.

Pacific Islands

Pacific Island guide to family history research

Biographical directory of priests ordained before 1931 who served in New Zealand, Polynesia, Melanesia and part of Papua New Guinea.

Mundus Gateway

Over 400 collections of overseas missionary materials (including New Zealand) held in the United Kingdom. Formed by British missionary societies, collections of personal papers, printed matter, photographs, other visual materials, and artefacts.

PAMBU (Pacific Manuscripts Bureau)

PAMBU locates and microfilms archives, manuscripts, and other unpublished material from the Pacific region. The Alexander Turnbull Library is a partner library, with a large collection of Pacific Manuscripts Bureau microfilms, which can either be viewed onsite here in Wellington, or borrowed via the interloan system through your local public library.

Pasifika – Research guide, Alexander Turnbull Library

Great Britain and Ireland

United Kingdom and Ireland genealogical information pages

British Library's family history guide for India Office records

UK National Archives - Discovery

Discovery is the gateway to the National Archives’ collections, they also have research guides and advice, plus find an archive to help locate UK archives by nation or region.

FreeBMD

Civil Registration index information for England and Wales. The FreeBMD Database currently contains over 200 million distinct records.

Government Record Office, UK certificates

Search the newly indexed birth (1837-1915) and death indexes (1837-1957) which now list the mother’s surname from 1837 for births, and death records now include middle names in full if known. You will need to register for free first, using an email address and secure 8 letter password. The date range for searching is a maximum of two years. And if needed you can purchase a certificate online.

UK Wills 1858-1996

Society of Genealogists (UK)

Society of Genealogists. Includes advice, catalogue, and online shop.

Royal Museums Greenwich

Includes the National Maritime Museum.

British History online

British History online, core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles, includes Victoria County histories and Survey of London.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913

Full text of 197,745 trials held at London’s central criminal court.

Scotland's People

Statutory Registers for births deaths, marriages 1855-2014, Old Parish Registers 1538-1854, census indexes and images 1841-1911, wills and testaments 1513-1925, valuation rolls 1855 – 1930. Payment is required.

National Library of Scotland

Includes maps for Scotland and beyond, including British Ordnance Survey maps.

Scottish Archive Network

52 Scottish archives.

Historical directories

Historical directories, local and trade directories for England and Wales, from 1750 to 1919 (University of Leicester). Try the advanced keyword search.

National Library of Wales and Welsh Newspapers Online Discover more than 15 million articles and 1.1 million pages

National Library of Ireland and Catholic Parish Registers

Census of Ireland 1901 and 1911 (indexes and images)

Irish Genealogy

Irish genealogy toolkit

Ireland-Australia transportation database

Public Record Office of the Republic of Ireland, certificates

PRONI Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Official repository of Northern Ireland public records.

Title applotment books (1823-1837) National Archives of Ireland

Scanned images can be downloaded; knowledge of parishes and townlands is needed.

United States of America & Canada

Ellis Island Records

Search the index of more than 22 million immigrants, passengers and crew who came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York 1892-1924.

Family History and Genealogy, US

Genealogy and Family History (Library and archives Canada)

Digital Collections Library of Congress including Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Whaling Archives at the New Bedford Library

Maritime Heritage Project – 16 Years

Passenger lists of immigrants and opportunists sailing into San Francisco Bay c1800s.

Nantucket Historical research association - research library & archives

Searchable databases, related to whaling in large part.

Vital records, US

Contact addresses for all US states.

International

Mocavo – family history search engine [Mocavo has now moved to Findmypast.com]

Smith’s Master Index to Maritime Museums