Personal Identity

In this Guide

NB: Where possible, this HTML research guide contains direct links to Archway for items and series in the archival reference field.


Archives New Zealand holds many records which provide basic life data about individual people. This information is to be found within the records of a variety of government departments and agencies, such as the courts. Only where there are alphabetical indexes can the first approach be through an individual’s name.

Many of the original registers included indexes, and much work has been done, especially in the regional offices of Archives New Zealand, to supplement the original indexing and turn it into modern paper or computer indexes.

However, some searches for basic life data which might be found at Archives New Zealand require time and perseverance.


Government involvement in recording births, deaths and marriages began in 1847 but records were not standardised or comprehensive until about 1856. Before 1848 church registers are the primary record of births, deaths and marriages, and they may be useful after that.

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages has been compulsory for Pakeha since 1847 and for Māori since 1911 (marriages) and 1913 (births & deaths), but this does not mean the records are either accurate or complete. Some Māori or part-Māori were registered in Pakeha records throughout.

Access is restricted to all Birth Registers held at Archives New Zealand, but Death and Marriage Registers can be accessed. However, those held at Archives New Zealand are only a small proportion of the total of registers created, usually duplicate local registers, and not all are indexed.

The complete registers of births, deaths and marriages are held by Births, Deaths and Marriages, Department of Internal Affairs. Researchers are advised to approach that Registry first, particularly for Births and Deaths. The address details are:

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 10-526
Wellington 6143
Wellington Counter
National Library – Lower Ground Floor
70 Molesworth Street (use Aitken Street entrance)
Wellington 6011
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Phone: (+64 4) 463 9362
Fax: (+64 4) 474 8147
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am - 5:00pm, except Wednesday 9:00am - 5:00pm

Searches for specific people though not actual records, with some date restrictions, can be made at:


Archives New Zealand offices hold very incomplete records of births in New Zealand. Access to many is restricted under the Adoption Act 1955.

Birth records

The registers held in Wellington come from small places ranging from Ahaura to Wharekahika. Other offices may hold some local registers.

Church records

Archives New Zealand Wellington holds microfilm copies of some early Church of England Registers of Baptisms (1815-), for the Bay of Islands and Kapiti-Manawatu. Microfilm copies should be viewed. [ADFD; MICRO 2792-2794]

Vaccination Registers

Under the Vaccination Act 1863 every child born in New Zealand was to be vaccinated within 6 months of birth. Local Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages acted as Vaccination Inspectors, recording vaccination details or exemptions for children born in their districts.

Vaccination Registers are arranged by number of entry in the Register of Births. They include the names of child and parents, the child’s dates of birth and of vaccination, and the name of the medical practitioner. Most registers are indexed.

The registers include entries for all children born in the district, whether vaccinated or not. In some cases vaccination details were recorded in the Register of Births rather than in a separate Vaccination Register.

The Vaccination Registers held by Archives New Zealand are:

Auckland Office:

Coromandel Magistrates Court
Vaccination Register 1874-1888 (indexed) [BACL 14480/1a]

Huntly Magistrates Court
Vaccination Register 1894-1913 (indexed) [BAHB 11180/1a]

Matiere/Owhango Magistrates Court
Vaccination Register Owhango 1912-1917 (indexed) [BAHH 11124/1a]

Waihi Magistrates Court
Vaccination Registers 1895-1904 (indexed) [BAFV 13779/1a]
Vaccination Registers 1904-1907 (indexed) [BAFV 13779/1c]
Vaccination cards 1913 [BAFV 13779/1b]
Vaccination Register 1910-1915 (indexed) [BAFV 13779/1d]

Wellington Office:

Dannevirke Magistrates Court
Vaccination Registers Norsewood 1876-1913 [ABPQ W4287/100-101]
Vaccination Register Wainui 1887-1914 [ABPQ W4287/102]
Vaccination Register Weber 1897-1903 [ABPQ W4287/103]

Napier Magistrates Court
Vaccination Registers 1877-1921[AAOW W3244/252-255]

Christchurch Office:

Charleston Wardens Court
Vaccination Register 1874-1910 [CAIF CH446/142]

Fairlie Magistrates Court
Record Books Mount Cook-Fairlie 1874-1917 [CAHY CH648 68-69]

Timaru Supreme Court
Vaccination Register 1890-1918 [CAHY CH24]

Waimangaroa Magistrate Courts (near Westport)
Vaccination Register 1894-1916 [CAIS CH620]

Dunedin Office:

Balclutha Magistrates Court
Vaccination Register 1892-1921 [DACM D443]


Archives New Zealand Wellington holds Registers of Notices of Intentions to Marry which provide similar information to Marriage Certificates or Marriage Registrations, though not all the same information. A few other marriage records are also held.

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The Marriage Act 1854 (and later acts) decreed that one member of each couple must complete a Notice of Intention to Marry for the local registrar of marriages, before the marriage could take place. This notice, and payment of the prescribed fee, allowed a certificate (really a marriage licence) to be issued, current for three months.

This certificate authorised a minister or registrar to celebrate the marriage. After the marriage took place, the minister or registrar had to enter the marriage in a register book and then send a certified copy of the details to the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, to be entered in a central register.

The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington holds some Notices of Intention to Marry for 1855. 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.

Information recorded on Intention to Marry Notices may include:

Notices of Intention to Marry do not give birth dates or places and do not often state usual place of residence if it is outside the centre of registration. Usually the woman’s occupation is not noted. Later entries do not record length of residence.

Finding Notices of Intention to Marry

Duplicate Registers

There are a few duplicate holdings of district Notices of Intention to Marry Registers:

Auckland Office:

Coromandel Wardens Court
Coromandel Registration District Certificates 1862-1871 [AAAE 15169/1a]

Gisborne Supreme Court
Intention to Marry Notice Registers 1856-1956 [BAJI 1859]
Card Index Intention to Marry Notices 1856-1930 [BAJI 1859]

Wellington Office:

Dannevirke Magistrates Court
Marriage Notice Books Dannevirke 1885-1956 [ABPQ W4287/9-33]
Marriage Notice Books Norsewood 1874-1955 [ABPQ W4287/3-6]
Marriage Notice Books Pongaroa 1903-1956 [ABPQ W4287/7-8]
Marriage Notice Book Wainui 1885-1933 [ABPQ W4287/1]
Marriage Notice Book Weber 1897-1951 [ABPQ W4287/2]

Napier Magistrates Court
Marriage Notice Books 1855-1944 [AAOW W3301/150-197]
Marriage Notice Book Porongahau 1865-1876 [AAOW W3301/235]

Christchurch Office:

Christchurch Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages
Akaroa Intentions to Marry 1855-1874 [CAYC CH784]
Kaiapoi Marriage Notice Books 1947-1956 [CAYC CH784]
Little River Marriage Notice Book 1918-1937 [CAYC CH784]
Ellesmere Marriage Notice Book 1871-1876 [CAYC CH784]

Cust Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages
Registers of Intention to Marry 1878-1969 [CAHP CH14]
Rangiora Magistrates Court Registers of Intentions to Marry 1861-1956[CAHP CH14]

Timaru Supreme Court
Marriage Notice Books 1859-1864 [CAHY CH24]
Mt Cook-Fairlie Marriage Notice Books 1875-1956 [CAHY CH648]
Pleasant Point Marriage Notice Books 1897-1956 [CAHY CH24]
Waimate Marriage Notice Books 1869-1990[CAHY CH648]

Waimangaroa Magistrates Court (near Westport)
Marriage Notice Books 1894-1964 [CAIS CH62]


There are a number of records at Archives New Zealand in Wellington which include some information on death.

However, it is Coroners’ Inquest Reports (see page 4) and Probate records (see page 8) which can provide more useful information relating to deaths. Coroners’ Inquest Reports are all held in the Wellington office, but probate records are held regionally in the four offices of Archives New Zealand.

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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.

Most deaths did not generate a Coroner’s Inquest. Such an inquiry was normally held in cases of sudden death, where the cause was not immediately clear, or there was suspicion of foul play. Drownings were often not investigated by a Coroner.

The clearest indication that a Coroner’s Inquest was held into a death is the comment “Verdict by Jury” or “Coroner’s Verdict” on a death certificate. Death records are held by Births, Deaths and Marriages of the Department of Internal Affairs. Death Certificates may be obtained, at a cost, from that institution.

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 10-526
Wellington 6143
Wellington Counter
National Library – Lower Ground Floor
70 Molesworth Street (use Aitken Street entrance)
Wellington 6011
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Phone: (+64 4) 463 9362
Fax: (+64 4) 474 8147
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am - 5:00pm, except Wednesday 9:00am - 5:00pm

Early Coroners’ Records 1840s-1880s

Early Coroners’ Inquest records are erratic, especially before the Justice Department took responsibility for Coroners after the Coroners Act 1858. This replaced an Ordinance of 1846.

The first Coroners’ Register/Index book [J 48/1], held in the Register Room, lists some Coroners’ Inquests from returns sent to the Colonial Secretary by regional Coroners. Included are incomplete entries for:

Wellington 1844-1862
Nelson 1844-1845, 1848-1853
Otago 1851-1864, 1868-1869
Canterbury 1851-1865
Auckland 1854-1857, 1862 [J 48/1]

These records may be found in the first 8 boxes of the Justice Department’s Coroners’ Inquest files, and can be searched for by name on ARCHWAY [J 46]

Other early Coroners’ Inquest reports may be found in the archives of the Department of Internal Affairs, in Provincial Government records, or in Justice Department correspondence files.

Auckland office:

North Auckland Coroner’s Inquests 1887-1891 (printout) [BAVX 4817/13-16]
Ngaruawahia Coroner’s Inquests 1874-1877 (printout) [BACZ A765/7]

Coroners’ Records 1888-1975

Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds a variety of indexes and registers in the Register Room which provide a reference or file number for a Coroner’s Report. A file number is usually in the form: J 46 year/number. The indexes and registers are:


Access to Coroners’ Indexes and Registers is open, but access to Coroners’ Inquest Reports (files) is restricted for 50 years from the date of death, for files 1959-1978 only. For permission to access restricted files, the first approach should be made to:

Judicial Resources Manager
Coronial Services
Ministry of Justice
Private Bag 5027

Microfilm 1888-1938

Coroners’ Inquest Reports/files 1888-1938 have been microfilmed and are available in the Wellington office of Archives New Zealand. [MICRO 5388-5592]

Microfilm 1963-1975

The Justice Department destroyed most Coroners’ Inquest Reports/files 1963-1975, but they are held on microfilm. A few originals, especially from 1971, are also held. The indexes or registers (see previous page) should be searched first to locate an Inquest file reference. The finding aids [J 46 W2848] list the corresponding microfilms. However, the microfilms [MICRO 4907-5018] are held in cold storage and they belong to the restricted period, so they are not accessible. See Access Restriction page 4.

Duplicates 1963-1975

Duplicate copies from the Wellington District Court of many Coroners’ Inquest files 1963-1971 [AAAU 870 W3132/1-54] and some R-files 1972-1975 (see below) [AAAU 870 W3132/55-64], are also held. These are listed individually on ARCHWAY.
Please note the Access Restriction on page 4.

Coroners’ Records 1975-2000

Coroners’ Inquest Reports
1975-1978 [AAAR 17298 W3038]
1978 [AAAR 17298 W3475]
1978-1988 [ABVP 17298 W5450]
1989-2000 [ABVP 17298 W5521]

References to individual files can be found through name searches on ARCHWAY.

Please note the Access Restriction on page 4. From 1979 onward only ‘sensitive material’ is restricted.

Non-Inquest Death records

New Zealand Company
Deaths of New Zealand Company settlers were reported to the Company. The names are in the General Biographical Index, with references. [Bio 1]

Migration Deaths
Deaths on immigrant ships are usually recorded in Ship Passenger Lists or in Ship’s Papers, if they exist. (see Research Guide: Migration.)

Stillborn etc 1935-1954
Justice Department records include a file ‘Coroners Reporting Cases of Death’ (no inquest), for 1935-1954. Many recorded are stillborn babies. [J 1 18/9/30]

R files (Inquest started but not carried through)
For some deaths evidence was gathered but no Inquest followed. From 1952 these files were recorded as ‘R files’ in the Coroners’ indexes. Most have been destroyed; those which survive usually contain only the post mortem report and the Coroner’s order for burial.

1952-1960s J 46 Year/Rnumber
Use Indexes [J 48] to find reference number
1974-1977 [AAAR W3605/1-13] R50
Only the 1976 files (boxes 12-13) are searchable on ARCHWAY, though the other boxes are listed.

Many drownings were not investigated by a coroner, particularly where no body was found, or the body was found and the circumstances of death were clear.

The AJHR (Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives) record most freshwater drownings 1840-1887, whether there was a Coroner’s Inquest or not. Lists were published in:

The AJHR are available in the National Library, Wellington, and in other large collections, such as university libraries, as well as at Archives New Zealand offices.

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A divorce is the official termination of a marriage. Once a ‘Decree Absolute’, the final decree in divorce proceedings, has been granted, it becomes lawful for the respective parties to marry again as if the prior marriage had been ended by death.


Dissolution of Marriage or Civil Union Records:

Under both High Court Rules and Family Court Rules, former parties to a marriage or a civil union have an unrestricted right to obtain a copy of the order dissolving the marriage or civil union. These dissolution orders can be viewed at, or copies obtained from Archives New Zealand on production of sufficient proof of identity (photo identification, eg. passport/drivers' license).

For all others requiring access:

Access to Divorce Registers is open. Access to all Divorce Files is restricted for 100 years from the last date on file. Permission to access restricted records requires the researcher to present a letter of permission from the appropriate court. Please check the Ministry of Justice's website for the most up-to-date contact details.

There can be no publication of the names of individuals involved in Divorces without permission.

Divorce Laws in New Zealand

The Supreme/High Court had exclusive jurisdiction in divorce proceedings from 1867 to 1980, under various acts and their successors.

The Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1867 permitted husbands to divorce their wives for proven adultery by the wife. Wives, however, had to prove both adultery and some other legally defined type of cruelty, or desertion, to gain a divorce.

The Divorce Act 1898 allowed a husband or a wife to petition for divorce simply on the grounds of adultery, which could also lead to a judicial separation.

The grounds for divorce were extended to include other causes:

Over the years the grounds for divorce have been further extended by various acts and waiting times for divorce have been reduced.

The Family Proceedings Act 1980 and the Family Court Act 1980 resulted in Divorce Proceedings coming under the jurisdiction of the Family Court in 1982 and the Files were then called Family Proceedings Files.

Divorce Records

The reference number of a divorce file is usually obtained from Divorce Registers held at Archives New Zealand. The register entry gives a file number.

Knowledge of where divorce proceedings took place is necessary to locate the correct Supreme/High Court and its registers. However, the place where divorce proceedings occurred is not always easy to determine.

Divorce records can be difficult to locate for other reasons:

If the divorce occurred in the period 1941-1981 the number of the divorce file may be obtained from the National Index of Divorces, held at the High Court in Wellington. Contact: 04 914 3600

In 1982 the Family Court took responsibility for divorce proceedings and its registers should be searched for file references from later 1981. Any Family Court has access to a database which can give a file number.

It is possible to verify if a couple were divorced, and where, by obtaining a copy of the marriage certificate. When a divorce is granted, a stamp is placed on the original certificate recording the date and court location of the Decree Absolute. Marriage records are held by Births, Deaths and Marriages, Department of Internal Affairs.

Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 10-526
Wellington 6143
Wellington Counter
National Library – Lower Ground Floor
70 Molesworth Street (use Aitken Street entrance)
Wellington 6011
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Phone: (+64 4) 463 9362
Fax: (+64 4) 474 8147
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am - 5:00pm, except Wednesday 9:00am - 5:00pm

Information to be found in a Divorce File

Divorce files hold the legal documentation required for the granting of a divorce, including a copy of the ‘Decree Absolute’. The files may contain detailed information about the people involved, such as:

Divorce Holdings

Divorce records held at the different Archives New Zealand offices include:

Auckland Office:

Auckland Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1867-1926 [BBAE 4446]
Divorce Registers 1927-1981 [BBAE 4447]
Divorce Files 1869-1926 [BBAE 4984]
Divorce Files 1927-1981 [BBAE 4985]
Divorce Minute Books 1869-1980 [BBAE 5636]

Gisborne Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1888-1969 [BAJI 5809]
Divorce Registers 1970-1981 [BAJI 5810]
Divorce Files 1881-1969 [BAJI 5807]
Divorce Files 1970-1981 [BAJI 5808]

Hamilton Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1910-1965 [BCDG 4150]
Divorce Registers 1965-1981 (photocopied index) [BCDG 4151]
Divorce Files 1910-1965 [BCDG 5153]
Divorce Files 1966-1981 [BCDG 5154]

Rotorua High Court
Divorce Registers 1973-1981 [BAZY 4761]
Divorce Files 1973-1981 [BAZY 4990]

Wellington Office:

Crown Law Office
Divorce Registers 1868-1969 [CL 169/1-15]

Masterton High Court
Divorce Registers 1910-1981 [AAOF W5447/623-626]
Divorce Files 1910-1981 [AAOF W5447/235-275]

Napier Supreme/High Court
Divorce Registers 1869-1981 [AAOW 6047/1-12]
Divorce Files 1886-1981 [AAOW W3846/403-692)]
Registrar’s Minute Book under the Divorce & Matrimonial Cases Act 1867, 1869-1910  [AAOW W3244/312]

Nelson Supreme Court
Divorce & Matrimonial Court & Court of Appeal Minute Book 1872 [JC-N 1/5]
Divorce Files 1919-1981 [AAOO 17997 W5444/1-97]

New Plymouth Supreme/High Court
Divorce Registers 1881-1982 [ABAJ 6477/1-14]
Divorce Files 1881-1982 [ABAJ 21955 W4079 (Boxes 214-279)]

Palmerston North Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1904-1976 [AAOY 6376/1-14]
Divorce Files 1904-1977 [AAOY W3298  (Boxes 1-102)]
Divorce Registers 1976-1981 [AAOY W5461/240-243]
Divorce Files 1977-1981 [AAOY W5461  (Boxes 244-295)]

Wanganui Supreme/High Court
Divorce Registers 1894-1981 [AAOG 6378/1-10]
Divorce Files 1894-1981 [AAOG W3559  (Boxes 154-212)]

Wellington Supreme/High Court
Divorce Registers 1868-1981 [AAOM 6042/1-66]
Divorce Files 1869-1979 [AAOM W3265  (Boxes 1056-2270)]
Divorce Files 1979 [AAOM W3550 (Boxes 114-129)]
Divorce Files 1979-1981 [AAOM W4049 (Boxes 1-72)]

Christchurch Office:

Christchurch Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1870-1938 [CAHX CH692]
Divorce Registers 1939-1981 [CAHX CH957]
Divorce Minute Books 1870-1903, 1909-1962 [CAHX CH131]
Divorce Files 1870-1969 [CAHX CH208]
Divorce Files 1969-1981 [CAHX CH957]

Greymouth Courts
Divorce Registers 1909-1967 [CAIF CH860]
Divorce Registers 1980-1982 [CAIF CH860]
Divorce Files 1909-1981 [CAIF CH826]
Divorce Proceedings 1869-1952 [CAIF CH860]
Divorce Minute Book 1909-1911 [CAIF CH860]

Hokitika Courts
Divorce Index 1871-1950 [CAIF CH861]
Divorce Files 1869-1952 [CAIF CH826]

Timaru Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1909-1974 [CAHY CH924]
Divorce Registers 1974-1981 [CAHY CH367]
Divorce Files 1914-1960 [CAHY CH24]
Divorce Files 1962-1977 [CAHY CH924]
Divorce Files 1978 [CAHY CH925]
Divorce Files 1979-1981 [CAHY CH367]

Westport Courts
Divorce Registers 1909-1975 [CAIF CH863]
Divorce Files 1909-1970 [CAIF CH826]

Dunedin Office:

Dunedin Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1869-1981 (indexed) [DAAC D140]
Divorce Files c1869-1981 [DAAC D140]

Invercargill Supreme Court
Divorce Registers 1884-1981 (indexed)
[DAFG D341]
Divorce Files 1884-1981 [DAFG D341]

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PROBATE and other Estate 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.

If a person died intestate (without making a will) there may be Letters of Administration for the estate in the Probate records.

Probate Files

Most probate files contain a variety of documents concerning: establishing the identity of the deceased, executors, and the processing of probate. The documents may include the following information:

Finding a Probate

Each Archives New Zealand office holds Probate registers and files for its region (see pages 9-11), except where Courts have retained their own records.

For example, the Wellington office holds Probate records for the Blenheim, Masterton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Wanganui, and Wellington Supreme Courts.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries some smaller centres, such as Ashburton, Stratford and Hawera, registered their own probates, but later these were registered in the court of a larger centre, such as Timaru or New Plymouth.

Other Estate Records

Early Intestate Estates

Financial details of some early Intestate Estates were published in the New Zealand Gazettes, in the 1860s for example.

Registers of Various Duties Payable after Death

Some information on property and the settlement of an estate may be obtained from Inland Revenue Department registers which record various duties payable after death.

Under the Stamp Duties Act 1866, and later acts, the estates of deceased persons had to bear three types of duty: succession, legacy and residuary. The registers record the duty paid and provide detailed information about deceased persons, including the exact date of death and details of the beneficiaries.

Native Succession Orders

Inland Revenue Department archives include Native Succession Order Registers 1911-1964 [AAEC 659/1-20]. When a Māori died, successors or inheritors did not pay death duty, but a succession duty, payment of which was recorded in these registers, held in the Wellington office.

Most registers include nominal indexes, and indexes have been created for those (1920-1926 [AAEC 658/1-2]) which do not have their own. However, access to all records from 1921 onward is restricted.

Probate and Other Estate Records – Holdings

Probate and other records are held at the different Archives New Zealand offices. Many files can be searched for by name on ARCHWAY. Otherwise databases, indexes or registers (perhaps on microfilm), should be used to locate file reference numbers.

Auckland Office:

Prior to 1904 all probates for the greater Auckland region went through the Auckland Supreme Court. Gradually other Courts were established. Probates from other areas then went through the local Supreme Courts, though for a few years after establishment a probate could be processed in either the Auckland or the local Supreme Court. Records for more than one court may need to be checked.

Up to about 1950, all Public Trust wills were probated in the Wellington Supreme Court.

Auckland Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1845-1886 [BBAE 1592]
Probate Registers 1887-1926 [BBAE 4107]
Probate Registers 1927-1985 [BBAE 4108]
Probate Indexes 1968-1976 [BBAE 4641]
Probate Files 1845-1886 (indexed) [BBAE 1568]
Probate Files 1887-1926 (indexed) [BBAE 1569]
Probate Files 1927-1984 (indexed) [BBAE 1570]
Probate Files 1985-1993 (indexed) [BAZZ 1570]
Unregistered Probate Files 1869-1912 (indexed) [BBAE 1589]
Recordbook (Wills, Probates & Letters of Administration) 1848-1883 [BBAE 4560]
Recordbook (Letters of Administration) 1865-1901 [BBAE 4562]
Recordbook (Letters of Administration, Wills) 1879-1901 [BBAE 4563]
Recordbook (Probates) 1865-1901 [BBAE 4564]
Receiver of Intestate Estates 1842-1867 (indexed) [BBAE 1952]
Intestate Orders to Pay 1842-1864 (indexed) [BBAE 1590]
Register Letters of Administration 1845-1886 (indexed) [BBAE 1588]
Estate Duty Index 1921-1973 (for NZ) [BBAE 4283]
Intestate Files 1849-1886 (indexed) [BBAE 1587]
Legacy Duty Registers 1867-1876 (indexed) [BBCB 4209]
Testamentary Registers 1876-1921 (photocopied index) [BBCB 4208]
Trustee Files 1856-1920 [BBAE 5523]
Auckland Succession Registers 1867-1876 [BBCB 4210]

District Court Waikato & Thames - Hamilton
Probate Files 1904-1909 (indexed) [BCDG 4419]

District Court Waikato & Thames - Thames
Probate Files 1904-1909 (indexed) [BBAE 1591]

Hamilton Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1904-1909 [BCDG 4422]
Probate Registers 1910-1954 [BCDG 4423]
Probate Registers 1954-1974 [BCDG 4424]
Probate Files 1910-1953 (indexed) [BCDG 4420]
Probate Files 1954-1992 (indexed) [BCDG 4421]

Gisborne Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1879-1973 [BAJI 1602]
Probate Files 1879-1969 (indexed) [BAJI 1594]
Probate Files 1970-1973 (indexed) [BAJI 1595]

Rotorua Supreme Court
Probate Files 1973-1993 (indexed) [BAZY 4992]

Whangarei Supreme Court
Probate Files 1937-1938 (indexed) [BBNY 10441]
Probate Files 1939-1959 (indexed) [BBNY 10297]
Probate Files 1960-1994 [BBNY 10440]

Wellington Office:

Blenheim/Marborough (use ARCHWAY)
Probate files (numeric) 1876-1972 [ADBY 17543 (Boxes 1-106)]
Probate files (alphabetical) 1973-1990 [ADBY 17544 Boxes 107-160)]
Testamentary Registers 1876-1983 [AASK 7748 W5078/1-6]

Hawera Magistrates Court (see also Taranaki District Court)
Wills of Public Trust 1895-1908 [ABIB W3865 Box 42)]

Inland Revenue Department Head Office, Wellington Access restrictions from 1921.
Colonial Registers, Residuary Duty 1867-1876 [AAEC 613/1-2]
Colonial Registers, Legacy Duty 1867-1876 [AAEC 615/1-2]
Colonial Registers, Succession Duty 1867-1876 [AAEC 616/1-2]
Wellington Legacy Duty Registers 1867-1876 [AAEC 660/1-2]
Wellington Residuary Duty Register 1867-1876 [AAEC 661/1]
Wellington Succession Duty Registers 1867-1876 [AAEC 662/1-2]
Wellington District Testamentary Registers 1876-1962 [AAEC 611/1-36]
Head Office Duplicate Testamentary Registers 1876-1962 [AAEC 638]
Auckland 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/1-37]
Blenheim 1877-1915 [AAEC 638/38-39]
Christchurch/Canterbury 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/40-71]
Hamilton 1953-1962 [AAEC 638/72-73]
Napier/Hawkes Bay 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/74-82]
Marlborough 1916-1962 [AAEC 638/83-85]
Masterton 1953-1962 [AAEC 638/86]
Nelson 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/87-93]
Dunedin/Otago 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/94-119]
Palmerston North 1950-1962 [AAEC 638/120-121]
Gisborne/Poverty Bay 1898-1962 [AAEC 638/122-125]
Invercargill/Southland 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/126-136]
New Plymouth/Taranaki 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/136-144]
Tauranga 1953-1962 [AAEC 638/145]
Timaru 1953-1962 [AAEC 638/146]
Wanganui 1950-1962 [AAEC 638/147-148]
Wellington 1876-1962 [AAEC 638/149-184]
Hokitika/Westland 1876-1962[AAEC 638/185-191]
Whangarei 1953-1962 [AAEC 638/192]

Masterton Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1892-1992 [AAOF W5447/166-175]
Probate Files 1892-1992 [AAOF W5447/33-165]

Napier Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1862-1993 (1862-1927 Microfilm 6336-6337) [AAOW 6028/1-28]
Probate Registers 1862-1927 [MICRO 6336-6337]
Probate Files 1862-1978 [AAOW W3846]
Probate Files 1979-1993 [AAOW 18573 W5482]
Wills 1879-1886 [AAOW W3244 (Box 311)]

Nelson Supreme Court (use ARCHWAY)
Probate files (alphabetical) 1849-1907 [AAOO 17070 (Boxes 1-28)]
Probate files (numeric) 1891-1968 [AAOO 17072 (Boxes 29-177)]
Probate Files (annual single number) 1969-1991 [AAOO 17073 (Boxes 179-325)]

New Plymouth Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1881-1981 [ABAJ 6478/1-21]
Probate Files 1867-February 1981
Stratford & Hawera Probates numbered separately 1880-1909 [ABAJ W4079]
Index to Stratford & Hawera Probates 1880-1909 [ABAJ W4079 (Box 331)]

Palmerston North Supreme Court (see also Wanganui District Court)
Probate Registers 1904-1977 [AAOY 6040/1-19]
Probate Registers 1904-1927 [MICRO 6337-6338]
Probate Registers 1977-1994 [AAOY W5461/1-11]
Probate Files 1889 [AAOY W5461/239]
Probate Files 1904-1977 [AAOY W3298 (–790/1977)]
Probate Files 1977-1994 [AAOY W5461 (791/1977–)]

Patea Magistrates Court
Civil Bankruptcy Probate Admin 1875-1888 [ABIB W3865 (Box 50)]

Taranaki District Court, Hawera
Register Bankruptcy Probate Admin 1886-1909 [ABIB W3865 (Boxes 49-51)]
Hawera Probate Administration 1906-1909 [ABIB W3865 (Box 52)]

Wanganui Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1887-1979 [AAOG 6377/1-12]
Probate Registers to 1932 [MICRO 6328-6329]
Probate Files 1859-1979 [AAOG W3559]

Wanganui District Court
Palmerston North Probates 1879-1904  [AAOY W3298 (Boxes 385-389)]
Palmerston North Index to Probates 1879-1904 [AAOY W3298 (Box 389)] (These records are not entered in the General Probate Database up to 1900)

Wellington Supreme Court
Probate Registers 1843-1987 [AAOM 6027/1-90]
Probate Registers 1843-1926 [MICRO 6329-6336]
Probate Registers 1987-1994 [AAOM 6027/1150-1154]
Probate Files 1843-1939 [AAOM 6029]
Probate Files 1940-1946 [AAOM 6030]
Probate Files 1947-1979 [AAOM 6031]
Probate Files 1979 [AAOM 6031 W3550]
Probate Files 1979-1981 [AAOM 6031 W4049/73-134 (861/1979–1443/1981)]
Probate Files 1981-1983 [AAOM 6031 W4364/1-44 (1445/1981–884/1983)]
Probate Files 1983-1987 [AAOM 6031 W4978/1-117 (885/1983–1050/1987)]
Probate Files 1988-1993 [AAOM 6031 W5456/1-206 (1/1988–1360/1993)]
Unregistered Probates 1855-1900 [AAOM 6049]
Intestate Files 1848-1892 [AAAR W3558 (Box 783)]

Wellington Supreme Court/ Department of Justice
Agency Probate Registers 1913-1952 [AAAR W3558 (Box 752)]

Christchurch Office:

All probate files are indexed on computer, as part of a long-term indexing project by the Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. A printed version of the index is available in the finding aids.

Up to about 1950, all Public Trust wills were probated in the Wellington Supreme Court.

Ashburton Magistrates Court
Probate Register 1891-1909 [CAHY CH145]
Probate Files 1891-1909 (indexed) [CAHY 3155 CH145]
Before and after these dates refer to Timaru Probates for Ashburton. Everywhere north of the Ashburton racecourse is included in Christchurch Probates.

Christchurch Supreme Court

Greymouth Supreme Court
Probate Files 1868-1979 (indexed) [CAIF CH300]
Probate Files 1980-1992 (indexed) [CAIF 3387 CH845]

Hokitika Supreme Court
Probate Files 1865-1953 (indexed) [CAIF 20702 CH300]
Reefton Magistrates Court Probates 1885-1909 (indexed) [CAIF 20703 CH300]

Timaru Supreme Court  (includes Oamaru from 1 April 1973)
Probate Files 1871-1977 [CAHY 3155 CH1009]
Probate Files 1979-1981 [CAHY CH369]
Probate Files 1982-1984 [CAHY CH928 (–196/1984)]
Probate Files 1984-1986 [CAHY CH729 (197/1984–)]
Probate Index 1977-1986 [CAHY CH369]

Westport Supreme/District Court
Probate Files 1875-1970 [CAIF 3387 CH300]

Dunedin Office:

The information from most registers for probates filed at the Dunedin and Invercargill Supreme/High Courts and the District Courts, is on a computerised database in the Dunedin Office. The database, available for public use, is searchable by name, probate number, locality or occupation.

Up to about 1950, all Public Trust wills were probated in the Wellington Supreme Court.

Dunedin Supreme Court (includes Oamaru to 31 March 1973)
Probate Files 1862-1991 [DAAC 9073-9076 D349]
Indexes to Case Files c1863-1907 [DAAC 9318] for Lawrence, Naseby, Oamaru, Queenstown & Dunedin

Invercargill High Court
Probates & Letters of Administration 1864-1988 [DAFG 9066-9069]

Lawrence Magistrates Court
Probate Index c1876-1909 [DAAC 9319]
Probates & Letters of Administration 1876-1909 [DAAC 9077-9078]

Naseby Magistrates Court
Probates & Letters of Administration 1899-1902 [DAAC 9079-9080]

Oamaru Magistrates Court
See also Dunedin Supreme Court to 31 March 1973 and Timaru Supreme Court (Christchurch office) from 1 April 1973.
Probate Index c1873-1908 [DAAC 9322]
Probates & Letters of Administration c1873-1909 [DAAC 9081]

Queenstown Magistrates Court
Probates & Letters of Administration 1877-1909 [DAAC 9082-9083]

Stamp Duties Department /Inland Revenue Department
Succession Duty Registers 1867-1926 [DAGI 9008]
Legacy Duty Registers 1867-1913 [DAGI 9007]
Testamentary Registers 1876-1983 [DAGI 9010]
Testamentary Decisions 1911-1921 [DAGI 9011]

Western Otago District Court
Probates & Letters of Administration 1872-1909 [DAFG 9071]

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Access to adoption records is restricted. Furthermore, the adoption records held by Archives New Zealand are only a small proportion of all adoption records. Most records are held by Births, Deaths & Marriages. Researchers are advised to work through the Adoption Information and Services Unit of the Department of Child Youth and Family.

Adoption Information and Services Unit
Department of Child Youth and Family
8th floor Grand Central Building
76-86 Manners Street Mall
Private Bag 6901 Marion Square
Phone: 04 917 1155
Fax: 04 918 0029


Archives New Zealand holds many records of aliens in New Zealand. Alien index cards and files can give basic life data. See Research Guide: Citizenship.

Deed Poll

A Deed Poll is a record of change of name. Up to 31 March 1954 a deed poll to change a name was entered in a Supreme Court register, usually a Miscellaneous Register or sometimes, earlier, an Agency Register. Some of these registers are held by Archives New Zealand offices.

A researcher needs to identify the relevant court where the change of name was made, and look for an entry and file number in the appropriate registers. The file may then be retrieved from the court records. Note that court records are held regionally in the four Archives New Zealand offices.

A few changes of name before 1920 are entered in Internal Affairs Indexes under ‘Name, Change of’. There is also one incomplete alphabetical list, of changes both to and from, in the Internal Affairs Index 1913-1932 in the Register Room [IA 3/3/29 pp208-209]

Registers of name changes from 1 April 1954 are held at Births, Deaths and Marriages of the Department of Internal Affairs. Most of the files to which these registers refer are held at Archives New Zealand in Wellington.

Access to deed poll files is restricted for 60 years from their registration.

Electoral Rolls

The most comprehensive collection of Electoral Rolls is held in the Family History Collection at the National Library in Wellington on microfiche. Researchers are advised to consult that record.

Archives New Zealand does not hold a full set of Electoral Rolls. Some are held in hard copy and some on Microfilm, but not all are available to researchers. The available holdings are:


Archives New Zealand Wellington holds Microfilms of Electoral Rolls for the period 1893-1935. These are available in the Reading Room. [MICRO 3351-3433]


Archives New Zealand holds only a few early Electoral Rolls in hard copy, mostly of the Wellington area.
1866-1878 (some electorates) [EL ROLLS (Box 1)]
1879-1880 (most electorates) [EL ROLLS (Box 2)]
1903-1905 (Wellington electorates only) [EL ROLLS (Box 3)]
1908 (Wellington electorates only) [EL ROLLS (Box 4)]
1911 (Wellington electorates only) [EL ROLLS (Box 5)]
1931-1941 (Wellington electorates only) [EL ROLLS (Box 6)]
1946-1947 (Wellington electorates only) [EL ROLLS (Boxes 7-9)]
1949 (mostly Wellington electorates) [EL ROLLS (Boxes 10-12)]
1953-1975 (mostly Wellington electorates) [EL ROLLS (Boxes 13-28)]
1978-1985 (Electoral Rolls covering the whole of New Zealand) [EL ROLLS]
1986- [AAME 8755 & ABCL 8755]

Current Electoral Rolls are held in the Wellington Reading Room.


Archives New Zealand holds many records of naturalisation in New Zealand. Later naturalisation files in particular may give life data. See Research Guide 1: Citizenship.

Telephone Books

Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds a considerable number of telephone books from throughout New Zealand. [AAMF 7580 W3327]
These telephone books originated in the Post Office / Telecom Museum. In some places the telephone books begin as early as 1909 and they all continue through to 1988. The early books do not usually list exact street addresses.

Telephone books held are:

Researching Elsewhere

Not all records which give basic life data are held at Archives New Zealand, or are best researched at Archives New Zealand.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

Most Births, Deaths and Marriages records are held by Births, Deaths and Marriages, Department of Internal Affairs. See address page 1.


Local bodies have responsibility for cemeteries. Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds only a few plans of Mäori burial ground reserves [MA 1/21] and there may be the occasional cemetery plan in Lands & Survey Department records.

The Christchurch office of Archives New Zealand holds quite extensive cemetery records, for the Christchurch City Council and the Waimairi District Council. There are various paper and computer indexes.

Military Personnel Files

Military Service personnel files can provide much life data. They exist from the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902. The Wellington office of Archives New Zealand holds files which were closed before the end of 1920. These include most First World War files.

See Research Guide: War.

The New Zealand Defence Force holds later Military Service personnel files, including those from the Second World War. Contact details are:

NZDF Personnel Archives & Medals
Private Bag 905
Email address:
Phone: 04 527 5280

Download the PDF version here: Personal Identity

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