Our Most Popular Records

Archives New Zealand holds a broad range of record relating to almost any aspect of life in New Zealand. The following are just some of the most popular records researchers can access.

Intention to Marry Notices

Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds Registers of Notices of Intention to Marry for the whole of New Zealand for the period 1856-1956 [BDM 20/1-375]. Other offices have some regional registers.

Divorce Records

Archives New Zealand holds Divorce Registers and files which have been transferred by Supreme/High Courts. Each Archives New Zealand office holds the registers and files of its region, though not all courts have transferred their records.


Probate files contain the documentation required for the granting of probate on a will, that is, for the legal administration of an estate after the death of a person.

Archives New Zealand holds many probate registers and files. Each office holds those for its region, except where Courts have retained their own records.

Not everyone who left a will has a probate record. A will was probated if its value was above a certain level set by the government from time to time. A will not dealt with by the courts, usually because of the comparatively low value of the estate, was administered privately by a solicitor.

Coroners Inquests

Archives New Zealand Wellington holds records (indexes, registers and files) of all surviving Coroners’ Inquests for the whole of New Zealand from about 1840 to 1988. Records are not complete, especially before 1870, and later there may be gaps.


For the period 1840 to the 1880s Archives New Zealand Wellington holds records of government-assisted immigrants only, mostly Ship Passenger Lists. The records include about half the total number of immigrants in the period.

From the 1880s immigration records are more complete, though they were not collected systematically until 1910, and even after that date there are gaps. Most immigration records are passenger lists held in Wellington in the archives of the Social Security Department, which collected them in order to validate later pensions. [SS 1/1-985].

New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Files

The military personnel files of those who served in our Defence Services during the South African War and the First World War have been transferred to Archives New Zealand from the New Zealand Defence Force, Personnel Archives.
The records transferred are for personnel whose service ended prior to 31 December 1920.

South African (Boer) War (1899-1902)

Archives New Zealand holds 6425 personnel files for New Zealanders who served in the South African (Boer) War.
Note that the personnel files of ninety two (92) Boer War servicemen who were still serving in New Zealand’s military forces after 31 December 1920 have been retained at NZDF Personnel Archives at Trentham. These will not be transferred to Archives New Zealand until further notice.

World War I (1914-1918)

Archives New Zealand holds 122,357 files for people who served in the First World War.
Note that approximately 6000 personnel files of servicemen and women who were still serving in New Zealand’s military forces after 31 December 1920 have in most cases been retained by NZDF Personnel Archives at Trentham. The exceptions to this are files that have been split into multiple parts. In this instance the earlier file parts, that pre-date 1920, have been transferred to Archives New Zealand, but later file parts for the same individual will be retained by NZDF Personnel Archives until further notice.


These records are some of our most frequently consulted records but unfortunately because of their format we are not able to provide access to the originals. Copies are therefore produced for researchers. The nature of the original records, the large number of orders and the relatively poor quality of the copies has prompted us to look at alternative copying methods and we will now be digitising these records and attaching them to the individual Archway listings.

Digital versions of the files will be attached to the individual Archway reference within 15 working days of request.

Archives New Zealand has a range of Research Guides that give in-depth information on some of our most popular holdings. These guides can be a perfect place to begin when trying to understand the types of records held at the Archives. Please also consult Archway and the Questions & Answers if you have any further questions.
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