Questions & Answers

This list of popular records and frequently asked questions, with their accompanying answers, has been compiled 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
Email: bdm.nz@dia.govt.nz

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

More information is available in our Personal Identity Research Guide.

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Intention to Marry registers

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.

The registers are restricted for 80 years from the date of record closure.

More information is available in our Personal Identity Research Guide.

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Divorce

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 100 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.

More information is available in our Personal Identity Research Guide.

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Probate/Wills

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 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.

More information is available in our Personal Identity Research Guide.

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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. Coronial files created up to and including 1978 are restricted for 50 years. Files dating from 1979 to 30 June 2007 are restricted for 70 years. Coronial files from 1 July 2007 onwards are restricted for 100 years. Access permission is required from:

Information Advisor
Coronial Services Unit
Specialist Courts
SX11159
WELLINGTON

Email: coronial.information@justice.govt.nz

More information is available in our Personal Identity Research Guide.

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Immigration

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:

More information is available in our Migration Research Guide.

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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.

More information about the digitised New Zealand Defence Force personnel files are available on our Discover World War One page and in our War Research Guide.

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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
Email: nzdf.pam@nzdf.mil.nz

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

More information is available in our War Research Guide.

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Medals

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
Email: nzdf.pam@nzdf.mil.nz

More information is available in our War Research Guide.

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Naturalisations

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. The Register of Persons Naturalised before 1948 is available digitally on Archway.

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:

New Zealand Citizenship Office
PO Box 10-680
Wellington 6143

More information is available in our Citizenship Research Guide.

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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:

More information is available in our Census-type Records Information Sheet.

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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 until 1910. This index is available online from the University of Auckland's Library. 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.

More information is availabe in our Māori Land Court Minute Books Information Sheet.

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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.

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Can I register as a reader online?

You can pre-register for a reader card by filling out our Research Pre-Registration Form. This is only needed if you intend to visit one of our offices in the near future. It is not needed if you already have a Reader Card, or if you only want to place an enquiry. This registration will be processed within two working days.

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.

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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.

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What public transport should I take?

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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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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 Wellington Reading Room the first retrieval of the day is at 9am. The last retrieval is at 4pm.

Retrievals take approximately 45 – 60 minutes to reach the reading room. Records are 'Held Out' for you to view for at least five working days.

Retrieval times at other offices will vary according to demand.

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More questions? 

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

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