The government in New Zealand has usually employed a considerable proportion of the country’s workforce. Information relevant to family historians may be found in lists of public service employees or in the records of government departments, though most such records are far from complete.
Unless otherwise indicated, the records listed in this Research Guide are held in the Wellington office.
There are many different lists of public service employees in New Zealand, and the majority of them have been published in some form or other.
These books of information about the colony include the earliest public service lists, of the ‘Civil Establishment’. Usually there is little information about a person. Those named in the Blue Books are entered in the General Biographical Index [Bio1] in the Wellington Reading Room.
Blue Books were not published every year but in some years two were published. For 1848-1852, when New Zealand was divided into two provinces, Blue Books were published for both New Ulster [IA] and New Munster [NM].
Access to digital images of Blue Books may be gained through Archway
For the years 1851-1951 the New Zealand Gazette (and various provincial gazettes 1851-1876) listed appointments to military and civilian positions. It is necessary to search the volume indexes to locate a name and appointment (but see next column for published lists from 1913)
Public Service lists were published in various forms. General lists appeared from 1866 in the AJHR (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives), and also in the New Zealand Gazette on 28 May 1872 (pp306-345), and then from 1913 to 1941. The Government Printer produced the lists from 1942 until their end in 1988. From 1913 lists were printed as separate books.
The lists were given various titles, such as ‘Public Servants’, ‘Alphabetical List of Officers of the New Zealand Government’, ‘Civil Establishment’ and ‘Nominal Roll of Persons Employed in each Department’
The lists in the Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives are found first under the code D 1866-1870, under G 1871-1872, and under H 1873-1875 and later. The number following the letter code varies from year to year.
Editions of the AJHR can be viewed online at - https://atojs.natlib.govt.nz
Many AJHR and NZ Gazette lists were published, especially 1913-1988. These bound volumes are in the Wellington Reading Room and other institutions.
Early lists (1866-1875) are alphabetical, except for lists of Māori in the Public Service which are roughly north to south. However, from 1881 until 1971, the lists were organised by department, job and classification.
Searching for individual names is therefore laborious. The only exceptions are lists for 1915-1916 and 1918 where the volumes sometimes include an alphabetical index.
Civil Service examination results were published for a number of years, firstly in the AJHR 1873-1886 (H-… but a different number each year), and then in the New Zealand Gazette.
The results in the AJHR are listed in order of performance, with passes of 1st, 2nd and 3rd class noted. For each person listed, details are given of schooling. In the New Zealand Gazette the results are listed in overall order of merit.
Most government departments maintained staff registers and service schedules or personal files. A few departments published their own employee lists.
Archives New Zealand holds some employment records from a variety of government departments and agencies, which may include life and employment data interesting to family researchers. However, the records vary considerably from one department or agency to another. Many of the records are limited and incomplete.
Access restrictions usually apply to salary information and may apply to other employment records. Where possible restrictions have been given, but Archway should always be consulted for restrictions.
Ceased Employees (Classification cards 1947-1967 – alphabetical) [AAFZ W4201/1-6]
ARMED FORCES (See also Research Guide 3: War)
Archives New Zealand holds individual personnel files from the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 and from the period 1914-1920, which includes the First World War.
References to individual records may be found by name in Archway, also accessible from the Archives New Zealand home page - Archives New Zealand
Later Military Service files, such as from the Second World War, are still held by the New Zealand Defence Force. Contact details are:
New Zealand Defence Force
Private Bag 905
Telephone: +64 4 527 5280
Email contact form: NZDF Contact form
This subseries deals with staff matters and includes civil staff, mostly First World War period. Some files contain staff returns for various sections/divisions within the Defence Department.
These include officers at the ports of Auckland, Hokianga, Kaipara, Mangonui, Russell, Whangarei
Teacher records held at Archives New Zealand are limited and incomplete (See Research Guide 5: Education).
Full files were retained for employees dismissed or whose appointments were annulled, and for those in senior positions or otherwise notable.
Most of these accessions also include files and photographs relating to students.
For many years Electricity or State Hydro was a division of the Works Department, so records of that Department may also need to be searched.
ENERGY (See above, especially the second listing)
All these volumes include alphabetical indexes
Includes some lists and details of individuals, but no overall records of the period
This series includes prints of staff, and of staff in the field. Names of individuals are generally recorded on the back. Access is through the Indexes in the next column.
This complements the Index by subject and provides references to group and individual photographs.
See Blue Books (p.1) for early officials at a time when the Colonial Secretary, later Internal Affairs, was virtually the only government department.
These registers may include lists of Staff Appointments (alphabetical) and Applications for Employment (non-alphabetical). File numbers are given, but the files themselves do not seem to exist.
Coroners’ appointments were recorded individually in the New Zealand Gazette. One other record is:
These files include, in the first few boxes which cover up to about 1930, a number of individual appointment files, generally consisting of the letter of appointment and related correspondence.
Early JP appointments were recorded individually in the New Zealand Gazette under general appointments. Some copies were filed by the Justice Department. Lists of all JPs’ from 1877 were gazetted as Supplements to the New Zealand Gazette.Records held include :
These indexes (alphabetical by year) provide some information in their own right and may lead to J1 correspondence before 1934; Registers of nomination files from about 1934 (see below)
Many lighthouse records, located by region in the different Archives New Zealand offices’, are of little help to family historians. The most useful records are Daily Journals, if they exist, which record day-to-day activities of the lighthouse keeper and their staff, and dates of staff arriving and leaving. Some 20th century correspondence about staff matters, such as friction between keeper and assistant keeper, has survived.
Archives New Zealand holds a number of records of early lighthouses and lighthouse keepers around the New Zealand coast, mainly for the period 1870-1920.
There are some service records for the whole of New Zealand which give details such as dates of birth, places and dates of stationing’s and salary.
These records refer to 19th century Marine Department Inwards Correspondence [M1] but most of those files were destroyed or badly damaged by fire in the Hope Gibbons building, 1952.
The original paper finding aids included in Appendix 3 an alphabetical list of lighthouse keepers’ c1867-1913, with details of individual service. This list was created before the fire, from the Service Book [M7/1] and from correspondence. [ARNZ 22499 W5657/110/M5]
The Dunedin Regional Office holds various records – daily journals, inwards and outwards correspondence and visitors’ books, etc., (overall date range, c1870-1979) for the following lighthouses:
There were a number of vessels working around the New Zealand coast which were government owned. Archives New Zealand holds some Ships’ Logs and other papers for these vessels, which make reference to workers employed on the vessels.
The early ships and the dates of records held are:
Ships’ Logs, Crew lists and Articles of Agreement, c1960s-c1980s [ADOE 16633 M30]
This series includes ships’ logs, crew lists, and other papers for coastal shipping and inter-island ferries, some of which may have been privately owned. Some records are arranged alphabetically from Acheron to Westport. These can be searched for on Archway. Other records are arranged by the vessels registered number only.
Cards for individual employees (including apprentices, Box 14) among all the many others for collieries, etc., May be found by name on Archway. Little information on cards.
Nominal Rolls, containing details of pensions paid under the Civil Service Act, were published in some nineteenth century AJHR (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives). These include details such as name, date pension was granted, annual amount, position held and length of service. Rolls were published in the following AJHR:
Police Department archives include a number of registers and files which can give information on individuals who served in the police and related forces. Access to most records is restricted for 100 years. The most useful archives are:
For records of the Armed Constabulary (See Research Guide 3 : War)
The Post & Telegraph Department produced separate lists 1891-1985, published in the New Zealand Gazette 1891-1892 and then in the AJHR (F-) from 1893. These lists were also produced as separate books, held in the Wellington Reading Room. Other records:
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION (see State Services Commission)
RADIO NEW ZEALAND (See Broadcasting)
The first New Zealand railways were created by Provincial Governments in the 1860s, but the real development of Railways, as both a government department and a means of transport, began in the 1870s as a key element in Vogel’s schemes for progress.
Many of those who worked on the railways came in the immigration boom of the 1870s. (See Research Guide 4: Migration)
Archives New Zealand holds many records of New Zealand Railways as a government department, from the 1870s to the 1980s. The records include lists of railway employees in general lists of public service employees, and published lists of Railways employees 1898-1980. Some material is held in regional offices.
Staff service schedules (cards) and other personnel records can be useful to family historians. Other railways records, less useful to family historians, include general registers and files on a wide variety of topics, as well as photographs and plans.
Railway personnel were included in the `Roll of Persons in Government Employ at or near each Post Office in the Colony’ in the AJHR 1881, H-2. A copy [Repro 68] is held in the Wellington Reading Room.
Lists of Railways staff, covering the period 1889-1894, appear in the AJHR 1894:
From 1895, the lists were published annually in the AJHR until 1925, in the New Zealand Gazette 1926-1941 (searchable by online index) and then by the department. The Railways annual lists were published as bound volumes and most of those for 1898-1980 are held in the Reading Room at Archives New Zealand Wellington.
It can be difficult to find people in these unindexed lists because until 1971 they are arranged by job classification. Only the volumes 1915-1916 and 1918 have alphabetical indexes. Job designation, grading, pay and service record are given, and after 1921 the location of salaried staff.
Three groups of H6A Railway Service Schedules (nominal cards) are held by Archives New Zealand Wellington, with the following Archives references:
These series overlap through the period 1880s-1980s, and it may be necessary to look for the same name in each series. All the series are incomplete and overall they do not include all Railways employees.
The cards are (sometimes roughly) arranged alphabetically and typically include name, date of birth, marital status and date of marriage, date of commencement of service, education or qualifications, railways designations – date of appointment, location, pay, grading. They may record staff correspondence with management, record incidents in which staff were involved, and refer to other files.
These cards mainly record details of disciplinary action, discharge and death. A few commend diligence or helpful suggestions. Information varies, but many cards record little (R100/40) [AAEB 7007/1-35]
Letters of application for employment with the Railways were registered. Archives New Zealand holds the registers for 1880-1907 [AAEB 587/1-10]
Later unindexed volumes for 1938-1986 are also held. [AAEB W3734]
This volume is not alphabetical and there is no index, so it is difficult to search for a name. The entries are arranged by area. There are no clear dates for the record, but it seems to cover the period 1900s to 1920s. [ABIN W3337/216]
Archives New Zealand holds an extensive collection of Railways photographs [AAVK W3493]. Reference prints of many of these are available for viewing in Wellington. These are arranged by subject and include some staff portraits, as well as photographs of stations, engines, lines, etc.
While most of these files deal with equipment and administration, some about accidents and discipline refer to individuals [R3 and later accessions].
The records from the Railways Corporation Library include Railways periodicals which contain details of staff appointments, transfers, promotions, as well as individual contracts with Railways for bookstalls, etc.
The Railways Corporation Library also holds copies of:
Public Service lists (see Page 1) record many Works staff. A great variety of other Works employment records exist, but none of the groups of records are complete. Access restrictions apply to many records.
A few regional records are held:
(Files 6/1-6/64 mostly relate to men in unemployment relief camps in 1930s Depression era, Otago and Southland.