Using our online search
Archway is the online database for records held at Archives New Zealand, listing over 7 million records. Archway allows researchers to search and order records to view in our reading rooms.
This guidance will explain how to use Archway to search for and order records.
Already know what you want? Use the search below or go straight to Archway.
What is Archway?
Archway is the online database for the records held in our archives.
Archway searches by the title of records. It can also search the agencies that created the records. Archway doesn’t search the content of records. To find out what’s inside a record you need to view the record in person or request a copy of the record is made.
Archway is different to a library catalogue. It lists records by title rather than by subject.
There are two ways to search Archway. You can use either a simple search or an advanced search. Advanced search allows you to use more details than simple search.
If you are searching for a person, simple search is a good place to start. If you were looking for records from an agency from a certain year, advanced search would give you better results.
How is Archway structured?
Archway is structured using the different ways of describing a record. These show the features of the content or context in which the record is in our archive.
The different descriptions work together to give information on the creation of the records and functions of the agency that created it.
Organisation, Jurisdiction, Function and Agency show how record fields relate to each to other to show the structure of the government at the time the record was created.
Series and Records give details about the content of the records and how they were organised and used.
A record is an item within a series. It can be a single item such as a document, map, film or sound recording. It can also be a sequence of items such as a file, volume, or photograph album.
A series is topic based and organised by the agency that created the records in the series. For example, school attendance registers, general inwards correspondence and coroners’ inquest files.
An agency is a state sector organisation such as the Treasury or Department of Conservation. A Department can be made up of smaller business units like Archives is a business unit of the Department of Internal Affairs. An agency may also be a person such as a minister or a company such as Opus.
You can see a list of state sector organisations on the State Services Commission's website.
An organisation is the state of the New Zealand Government at the highest legal level at the time the record was created. For example, New Zealand has been a 'Crown Colony of Great Britain', and a 'Dominion', and is currently a 'Realm'.
Jurisdiction covers areas of government responsibilities. These can be grouped by portfolio such as Health, Māori affairs or Education. They may also be grouped by sector like the judiciary, or by a grouping of functions such as Armed Forces.
A function is an area of government activity or responsibility. A function may be a single activity such as teacher registration or a group of related activities such as maritime safety.
A disposal authority is an approval from the Chief Archivist for the transfer of records to our archive. It also allows regulated organisations to destroy, alter, sell, deposit or discharge records.
Which type of search should I use?
Simple search is best suited for finding information on people.
Enter a name in the search box and click GO. Archway then searches all items in our holdings for that name. This produces search results where the name appears in the title of a record, and the name or description of an agency or series.
Any record search in Archway will only be successful if your name appears in the title of the record. Often people who are the subject of the record are not named in this way. You may need to search the indexes instead.
For advice on searching for people please see our research guides .
Photographs, maps and artworks
You can search for records by format such as a map or photograph.
Use the Advanced search and choose the Records option. Here you can choose which format you would like to search by such as:
You can run a search on just the format, but this will give you many results. To refine this, add other details such as keyword, date range, or the name of the agency that created the records.
You can refine simple search results by format. This can be applied after you've run your search and have a list of records. Click on ‘Refine Search’ to bring up a list of search criteria including format.
You can find film records by refining your search using ‘Moving Image’ in the format field.
Films on Archway are only listed by title, not by their content. If you want to search by subject it helps to start with our research guide on audiovisual records .
Understand Archway search terms
Code – Also known as the ‘R’ number. You can use this number to search for a record.
Keyword – You can search for records that have your subject in their title. Archway will look for matches to all forms of words, e.g. "ship" would find:
You can add an asterisk after your search words to find more related words.
To choose if Archway searches for the words by themselves or in combination with others:
Exact phrase words exactly as entered . For example, ‘New Zealand Railways Department — general’
Any words. For example, ‘State Services Remuneration and Conditions of Service - Railways — Industrial Action’
All words. All of the search words, but not necessarily together. For example, ‘Provincial Secretary, Secretary for Public Works, Railways Office. Special Subject Files Vouchers - Immigration Department’
Years – The years that the contents of the record were started and finished. If this information is not known the record is undated. You can choose whether to include undated records in your results.
Format – Records come in different formats and there are seven general formats that you can search for:
Held At - Which of our four archives across the country the record is located in. Either Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin. Some government archives are also held in other repositories around the country.
Use the tick boxes if you want to limit your search to records that are held in a specific archive.
Agency - The public sector organisation that transferred the records to us. This is shown as a four-letter code.
If you know the code for the organisation enter it. If not either search for the organisation you want by clicking on the ‘find agency code’ button. or .for a list of agencies and their associated number visit data.govt.nz.
Series - A group of records that are related to each other. For example, probates, coroner’s inquests, military personnel files. This is shown as a short numerical code.
If you know the identifying code for the series, enter this, otherwise search for the series by clicking on the ‘find series code’ button.
Accession - A group of records that were transferred to our archive at the same time. This is shown as a numbered code beginning with the letters W, A, D, or C. This letter tells you which archive the record is held in. Either Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin. You will need to know the accession number to run this search.
Former archives ref – These are Agency codes which were used before Archway was created. They are simple letter codes, such ‘MA’ for Māori Affairs, or ‘J’ for Justice.
Record Number - Records are sometimes numbered by agencies according to their systems. If you have this information you can use it to search.
Record Number search also finds records that start with similar numbers and may be on similar topics. Try using an asterisk for this kind of search. For example, searching ‘14/*’ would bring up all records beginning with ‘14/’.
General tips for searching Archway
Sorting your results - Use the chevrons in the column headings to sort a list by column, such as date range. Click the sort chevron twice to reverse sort (descending order). A bold chevron shows which column the list is currently sorted by.
Clearing your search criteria - Choose ‘new search’ from the top right-hand corner of the screen.
Help - You will find a link to the help pages in the top right-hand corner..
Getting around - The options ‘back’, ‘new search’, and ‘home’, can be found at the top right-hand corner of the screen. Click on ‘back’ to go back through your search a step at a time.
Too many results? Try using unusual keywords in your search. You could add additional keywords or use other search fields such as ‘Years’.
Too few results? Try removing words so your search is less specific. You could add an asterisk, alternative spellings which is useful for names, or change the search to ‘all words’ or ‘any words’.
Notes - The folded note icon indicates that there is more information available about this record. Click on the note to read it.
Find – Try using your browser’s search function Ctrl F to find specific words in a body of text.
Simple search uses keywords, such as the names of people, places, or events.
Enter your keywords in the search box and click ‘Search’.
Archway will then search all the items in our holdings for your keyword. This covers any instances of the keyword in the title of a record, and the name or description of an agency or series.
A summary of the results will be shown separated by records and series. Any other results will be grouped under the heading “government of New Zealand”.
To view all listings, select ‘go’ for the first option in the list – ‘Items’. Archway will show you a list of the titles of the records, some information such as the agency that they came from and the years covered, restriction information, and where the record is located.
To find out more information on an individual record click ‘Order Details’. This will open the record listing. Here you will find the full archives reference for the record, more information on who created the record, and the full access statement. From here you can place an order or enquire about the record.
Advanced search gives you more options to refine your search. You can add in details such as years or formats. You can also search by Agency or Series.
To search for specific records, select ‘GO’ on ‘Find out about the RECORDS created by the Government’.
This will open the Records Search, here you can search using several search fields at once. For example, you can search by keyword, year, and format combined. This will give you a narrower search result. Making it easier to find the record you need.
The search results will show you the series name, archives references, record titles, record numbers, years, restriction status, and where the records are located.
To find out more information on an individual record click ‘Order Details’. This will open the record listing. Here you will find the full archives reference for the record, more information on who created the record, and the full access statement. From here you can place an order or enquire the record.
You can find more on the creation and background of this record in ‘Further Details of this Record’ by clicking ‘more detail’.
By clicking on the links to the series, accession, and agency in the search results, you can find out more about the record and the context of its creation.
How do I order records through Archway?
On the record listing you will see the following form:
Here you can order a copy, request more information or order the record to the reading room for viewing.
The record location tells you what archives location the record is held. You can request a copy be made and delivered to you digitally using the enquiry form.
If a digitised version of the record is already available the record listing will appear like this:
Clicking view or download digitised record will take you to the digital listing for this record.