Questions & Answers

This list of popular records and frequently asked questions, with their accompanying answers, has been complied to help researchers understand the types of records and services Archives New Zealand offers.

Archives New Zealand has a range of research guides that give in-depth information on some of our most popular holdings. These research guides can be a perfect place to begin when trying to understand the types of records held at Archives New Zealand.

Do I need to pay?

Access to records in the Archives New Zealand is free, if you require copies after consulting these records please see our copying charges.

If you are unable to visit our reading rooms, Archives New Zealand offers remote reference and copying services for a fee.

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Births, Deaths and Marriages

For research regarding births, deaths and marriages researchers are advised to approach the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages first, particularly for births and deaths. The address details are:

Central Registry
Births, Deaths and Marriages
PO Box 10-526
Wellington 6143
Wellington Counter
Archives New Zealand – Ground Floor
10 Mulgrave Street Wellington 6144
Phone (in NZ): 0800 22 52 52
Phone (international): (+64 4) 474 8150

Records of historic births, deaths and marriages can be searched via the online database compiled by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

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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.

A card index to notices of Intention to Marry in the Wellington Reading Room gives access to notices in the registers for the period 1856-1881.

The registers are organised in three monthly periods and by place of registry roughly from north to south, but alphabetical within regions. After 1881 researchers need to know the approximate date and the place of marriage.

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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. Access to divorce registers is open. However, access to all divorce files is restricted for 60 years from file closure.

For the restricted files, either of the couple involved can, on clear proof of identification, access a copy of the Decree Absolute and the Decree Nisi.

Access to a whole restricted divorce file requires the researcher (including either of the couple) to present a letter of permission from the appropriate court.

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

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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.

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

Archives New Zealand offices have a probate database on computer of (most) probates filed in New Zealand up to 1920, and later for some courts. Many probate references, particularly in the regional offices, are also on Archway. Some offices have probate indexes.

Outside the periods of the databases and indexes (electronic and paper), a researcher needs the date of death and a place where probate was likely to be filed, so the relevant probate register (or microfilm version) can be searched to find a file number with which a probate file can be requested.

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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.

Researchers will simply need to know when the death occurred to search these records.

Access to coroners’ indexes and registers is open, but access to coroner's 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

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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].

To search the records researchers will need to know:

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New Zealand Defence Force personnel files

Archives New Zealand holds individual personnel files from the Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902 [AABK 18805 W5515]. Unfortunately individual records include very little about actual service, but references to records may be found by name in Archway.

Archives New Zealand also holds individual personnel files from the period 1914-1920, including the First World War. All files are searchable by name on Archway, which gives individual file references.

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 providing digital copies which can be received electronically.

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

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World War Two personnel files

Personnel files for service after 1920, including the Second World War and later, are mostly held by the New Zealand Defence Force. Their contact address is:

NZDF Personnel Archives & Medals
Private Bag 905
Upper Hutt 5140
Phone: 04 527 5280

Archives New Zealand does hold World War Two personnel files for:

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In the Nineteenth Century the New Zealand Medal was awarded to nearly all British troops who served in New Zealand in the 1840s and 1860s. However, it was awarded only to New Zealand colonial troops who, on application, could prove they had come under enemy fire during their service.

Archives New Zealand Wellington holds an alphabetical war medal card index in the Reading Room which gives references to one or more of the following, depending on what force the individual served with.

Most citations for World War One appeared in the London Gazette – see: Wayne McDonald Honours and Awards to the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in the Great War 1914-1918, Napier 2001.

Medals information requests continue to be dealt with by the Medals Office at the New Zealand Defence Force. Please contact them directly with your enquiry at:

NZDF Personnel Archives & Medals
Private Bag 905
Upper Hutt 5140
Phone: 04 527 5280

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Naturalisation is the process by which a non-citizen becomes a citizen of a country. Most people in New Zealand were British citizens until 1948. Up until then naturalisation gave British citizenship. After the beginning of New Zealand citizenship in 1949, naturalisation gave New Zealand citizenship.

Archives New Zealand holds naturalisation records dating from the early 1840s. Later naturalisation records, especially from 1939, are often closely linked to alien records.

Access to naturalisation files is restricted until 100 years after the birth of the person documented or 40 years after death, whichever is sooner. An individual may see his or her own file on providing satisfactory proof of identity. Permission to access restricted files is to be obtained from:

Director Citizenship NZ
PO Box 10 526

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Census records

The New Zealand Census was not historically kept by the New Zealand Government.

Only a select few early regional and Māori census records have survived, for example:

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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.

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Government employment records

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 general lists of public service employees or in the records of specific government departments, though most departmental records are far from complete.

For more information relating to government employment please consult our Government Employment research guide.

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Education records

Archives New Zealand holds a variety of education records, many of which are of interest to family historians because they record individual schooling or the employment of teachers. Policy and administrative records are less useful.

Most school records useful to family historians come from education boards. Others have come from the Department of Education, and a few schools have deposited material directly.

Some schools retain their own records, but others have deposited their records in local libraries, museums, or similar institutions, throughout the country.

Most Archives New Zealand offices hold education board records for their regions. The exception is Dunedin. Otago Education Board records are held in the Hocken Library, Dunedin, and Southland Education Board records are held in the Invercargill Public Library.

For more information relating to education please consult our Education research guide.

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Māori Land Court Minute Books

Archives New Zealand holds the Māori Land Court Minute Books for the whole of New Zealand from 1865-1975. These records are a good source of information for those interested in whenua/land and whakapapa/genealogy.

The information in the minute books has been indexed up until 1910, this index is available in our Wellington Reading Room. After this date you will need to know the names, dates and court in which you are interested.

The minute books are available via microfilm and reproductions in our reading rooms, the holdings vary between the regions.

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Why is a record restricted?

Restrictions are placed on records by the agency that created them. The reason is primarily to protect privacy, but can also relate to material deemed to be of a sensitive nature.

Access to restricted records can only be provided with the written permission from the agency responsible for the restriction.

Information on why an item is restricted, and how to apply to for permission to access these records, can be found on the ordering screen in Archway.

Some records are restricted by Archives New Zealand for preservation reasons. In these cases reproductions of the material are often accessible.

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Can I order records before I visit one of the Archives New Zealand reading rooms?

Yes you can pre-order up to five records through Archway to view in our reading rooms if you are registered as a reader with Archives New Zealand.

Please be aware that old Repoman reader numbers are no longer valid and you will need to visit one of our reading rooms to be re-registered as a reader. Until you have re-registered you will not be able to order via Archway.

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Can I register as a reader online?

You cannot pre-register for a reader card before you arrive at Archives New Zealand. You can prepare for a visit by reading our research guides, reading room guidelines and by searching in Archway.

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Can I use a camera to copy archives?

Yes you can. We encourage you to bring your own personal camera to our reading rooms to make copies of records.

You will need to comply with our camera policy.

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What are Archives New Zealand’s opening hours?

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Is parking provided?

Each Archives New Zealand office has disabled parking available on-site. Please contact our offices before you visit to ensure a disabled park is reserved for you.

Unfortunately Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office does not offer general on-site parking. However this office is located is located within easy walking distance of the train station and the central bus exchange.

At the Dunedin office there are six free carparks, one disabled persons carpark, all are sign-posted at the street vehicle entrance. Bus routes: Normanby, Opoho, Pine Hill - get off at Albany St stop - one minute walk north.

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Where can I view the Treaty of Waitangi?

The Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi is now housed at the National Library in a new state of the art exhibition, He Tohu. The exhibition also holds the Declaration of Independence and the Women's Suffrage Petition. Further information can be found on the He Tohu page.

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Can I view a New Zealand Defense Force personnel file in a reading room?

Although many of the New Zealand Defense Force personnel files held at Archives New Zealand are listed as open access these records cannot be physically made available to researchers. This is because the records contain fragile pieces of microfilm.

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

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If I order a file in a reading room how long until it is available for me to view?

Retrieval times vary between each Archive New Zealand office.

At the Archives New Zealand Wellington Reading Room the first retrieval of the day is at 9.00am and the last is 4.30pm.

Retrievals take approximately 45 – 60 minutes to reach the reading room. Once it has reached Held Out status it will be available for you to view for no more than one week.

Retrieval times will vary according to demand at other offices.

If you have any further questions please consult our research guides or make an enquiry.

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