Researching in New Zealand

I am writing  a post for each state of Australia and New Zealand with a list of great resources for researching ancestors in that particular place.  Tasmanian records are held mainly at Libraries Tasmania where both archive and library resources are on the one website.

In October 2021, our Twitter group #ANZAncestryTime had a session about New Zealand. The tips for great websites come from this chat.

All headings link to the website.

OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

BDMs in New Zealand

NZ govt Births Deaths and Marriages allows you to work out the day the event is recorded happening. You can order printout (not the certificate) for NZD25 and will arrive via email. Yes! It’s cheaper, and for older records it’s a copy of the actual register entry, whereas the certificate is usually typed/transcribed.

Archives New Zealand

Make sure you check the different portals and collections on the main page of the archives. Help is here for searching the collections.  They also explain how to search the collections using filters etc. You can also check the research guides for the archive.


This is the New Zealand equivalent of Australia’s Trove website where you can search newspapers to help tell the stories of your ancestors. As with Trove, you can also search diaries, journals, letters and books about New Zealand on this site. Make sure you read the help page so your searching can be done efficiently.

New Zealand Society of Genealogists

There are collections and resources available at this site but as a member there are other things to look at as well.

NZ Electronic Text Collection

Part of the Victoria University of Wellington Library. This includes digitized historical texts and manuscripts including the Cyclopaedia of New Zealand. To refine your search check out this help page.

Digital New Zealand

Millions of resources and lots of collections to check out. Check this out to explore by format, topic, place etc. Remember to check the help page especially for copyright and reuse of documents etc.

New Zealand History

Here you can search by topic, event, people or places. Most are sorted A-Z.

New Zealand Blue Books

Carmel Galvin has written a post about the New Zealand Blue books which can be found as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP). These books include lists of early colonial appointments.

NZ Genweb

Lots of links to various topics around New Zealand. Not sure when it was last updated.

Brogden Navies

Did you have a relative come out to work on the railways? Visit this site and click on link for thesis.


Readers: What are other important websites you use to gather information when researching ancestors in New Zealand?

Please read the comments as other family historians have added more websites to use.

Researching family in New Zealand?

David_Peterson / Pixabay

Which resources or record sets have you found the most useful when researching NZ ancestors?

Jane’s go to list

Fran’s go to list

  • My favourite is the NZ govt Births Deaths and Marriages as you can work out the day the event is recorded happening.
  • Also love the military records in Archway.
  • Next favourite NZ source is @PapersPastNZ because my Kitto family appears loads of times.
  • the Kiwi collection from the NZSG saved loads of time hunting out local materials such as school plus hundreds of other records. Now it’s available on a monthly or annual sub if you are a NZSG member.
  • 5th must use NZ #familyhistory source is the Electoral Rolls. Started collecting these at Archives at Wellington, NZ. Now mainly use @MyHeritage and @Ancestry.

Problem is, you go in looking for something specific and can so easily get waylaid reading other interesting things

I found loads of stuff on sons and daughters of my 3xgreat aunt and uncle that moved from UK, who travelled the world in the @PapersPastNZ

Was it ? You can order printout (not the certificate) for NZD25 and will arrive via email.

Yes! It’s cheaper, and for older records it’s a copy of the actual register entry, whereas the certificate is usually typed/transcribed.

My mother’s 31 scrolls covered in family trees! BDM Online, Papers Past, Wilson Collection, Cemetery Search, Archway, Ancestry (Electoral Rolls), various museums and libraries.

I have done much on my ancestors that moved to New Zealand, but best resource was the paperspast, these were a god send

I haven’t done enough NZ research. For my family it was kind of like a flying visit as far as direct ancestors go. My great-grandmother was born in Kaitangata to Scottish migrant parents. Resources: I ordered my ggm’s birth cert & have looked at some Kai newspapers

Papers Past has been useful, especially the advertisements for the businesses owned by my great grandparents. I’ve been able to narrow down the exact locations of some of the first businesses they owned in Blenheim and Pahiatua, respectively.

@WCC_Archives has also been great source of information and support.

Do they have things online? I looked ages ago however cannot remember what I was researching.

They have a selection online, and items can be digitised for a fee. Lovely staff, I must add.

Some great photos on some museum sites online, eg this on Canterbury Museum website is a photo of my two great-aunties.

Blue Books of Statistics for New Zealand are available via the AJCP in Trove for 1840 – 1855. If you had an ancestor who worked for colonial govt in any capacity they are likely to be mentioned with position wage etc.

Another gem is the Gisborne Photo News, for 20th century research – have found photos of my parents and grandparents on here.… There’s another photo news for other regions as well, though can’t remember them off top of my head

Also Archway (NZ Archives) especially for military records. And Family search for probate records and passenger lists.

I don’t think I have NZ ancestors. However, I have ancestors who lived in NZ; found some extraordinary documentation to support this at Archives New Zealand. A file full of handwritten and typed letters, as well as official documents.

The Canterbury Historical Society was extremely helpful when I contacted them. It’s always worth asking

Auckland Cenotaph Online is my go-to place for any male.

BDMs, Papers Past electoral rolls are the ones I use constantly, plus cemetery records – some have photos of graves online, eg Timaru District Council

I have used Archives NZ, BDMs, Libraries, Paperspast and Family History and Historical Societies

congerdesign / Pixabay

Have you found much migration between NZ and Oz? What records help with these discoveries?

Lots of trans-Tasman crossings in my family. Interestingly the Aussie branches of one line seem to have lost all knowledge of my 2X-grt-grandmother, who had at least 500 descendants in NZ!

The family New Testament. Family stories. NZ and Aussie records. My grandparents married in Williamstown in 1882, came to Whanganui on their honeymoon to join his brother, then the rest of his family came later that year. Hers is still there

our family bible went to NZ- my grandmother tried to get it returned & that branch had no descendants so I guess it went to landfill

Others suggest ebay and google alerts however I am not sure how you could word it. Don’t think there would be a load of bibles found in NZ so just old bible might work. Really needs a person that likes returning stuff to a home

Items like that often come up on TradeMe (NZ version of ebay)

I find it tricky getting the journey, but can pick them up in other records on either side of the ditch, helps piece a timeline together at any rate.

I have a great grandfather that was a cook on ships between NZ and Aus so found a few trips. Probably @FamilySearch and odd web sites that look like they are 20 years old. Never recorded correctly as always planned to go back. When I did many links lost. This is typical…

One of my great grandfathers lived there for a time as a young man. I have a book that states other ancestors were there, but I’ve found no evidence of that. Makes me wonder if this was not true. Did they stow away? Yet another mystery to solve.

There was a bit of back & forth for my ggm. I think she kept leaving ggf in Australia & heading back home to NZ. But the shipping record I really want to find is the Scotland-NZ one. Abt 1879 based on births of children. Where should I look?

Have a look on FamilySearch (though indexing not complete):… I also found googling on surname + passenger list + year/ship can be fruitful. Check Papers Past for arrival notices. Also

I found the England-NZ passage on….but I don’t think we ever found the passage from NZ to Australia.

Don’t know if this will help anyone but IF they left from Victoria they may appear in this index for outward passengers. I’ve used it a fair bit.

Awkwardly I discovered that my grandfather was still living in NZ after my mother and grandmother came to Australia in 1935 from his police mug shot on Ancestry. I’d love to know what he did

My mother was from NZ and her father born in Australia but went back. His father was born in NZ but came to Australia. My father’s uncle went to NZ from Ireland but later moved to the Darling Downs. Lots of crossing but not a shipping record found yet

It is the shipping records that always seem to elude me

Yes me too! I can find every trip my NZ relatives took overseas but not their voyages to Australia.

found a young marriage in Tas. In 1863 then she moved to NZ and married again in 1869 husband still alive in Tas

A number of my husband’s lines emigrated to Aus and then on to NZ … haven’t had much luck with shipping records between Aus and NZ … mainly pieced things together from range of evidence records incl. BDMs, Cyclopedia of New Zealand etc.

There are some updated passenger lists on @findmypast recently… Can be useful to trace family alongside Trove and Papers Past shipping notices.

A lot of travel across the Tasman, though almost all my ancestors came directly to NZ. There are some passenger lists around, but not comprehensive. Shipping notices in Papers Past can be useful, but may not list passenger names,

My great grandfathers older sister moved to NZ with her Indian husband. They married in Tasmania, had many children there and then headed to NZ. Think he worked as a railway worker near Raetihi on the north island

evidence of marriages in NZ then finding subsequent families in Aust. in Trove.

Barni1 / Pixabay

Tūrangawaewae – a place to stand – is the Māori concept of a place, or places, where we feel connected, empowered. What is your special place in Aotearoa and why? (Or other place if no Kiwi connection.)

Victoria University of Wellington Easterfield Building. I met my 1st husband there, studied and worked in it.

Born in Whanganui on the river bank in the house my father lived in as a teenager. It was still there in February as a back packer place, but closed.

I really struggle with this. My 5xggf gets credited with “discovering” Milford Sound. But of course he didn’t “discover” it, Piopiotahi, he just gave it an English name & put it on British maps.

Getting there by land would have been challenging so a bit of a pioneer even if not the first there

Not by land. He was captain of a sealing ship. He gave English/Welsh names to a few places. Is there a Mt Grono?

Yes, in Fiordland.… It was named for early 19th century sealer John Grono.

Ruth Graham wrote a great piece in the last @SocAustGen Descent mag. I can’t stop thinking about it: To research & acknowledge the impact of colonisation on Indigenous Australians [& Maori] is something I want to take forward in my own family history research…

Tūrangawaewae, my place in NZ, last home before moving to Aus. Most beautiful view. No matter how bad you felt you came right looking out to Rangitoto Is., Bucklands Beach, Panmure, Waiheke Is., Waitematā Harbour and all the yachts and ships sailing by. Peace.

Lived in Aust so long now I have forgotten many Māori stories. (Ashame) I do know that even before the Pākehā came that ferns were important to the Maori. To me I think of the ponga tree as the under leaves are silver.

I feel connected to Auckland because my mother was born there and I love the city. ( I live visiting NZ) I also feel connected to the Canterbury Plains because I have researched other ancestors there

Haining and Frederick Streets in Wellington, as this was the closest Wellington had to a “Chinatown”

But also Pahiatua has become a bit of an obsession for me, as I try to locate exactly where the Pahiatua Seed Company, owned by a Great Grandfather, was.…

I’ve been to NZ several times but had no idea any ancestors had lived there until recently. Had some special times in Auckland. Also driving around the South Island/parts of the North Island. BLUE water like I’ve never seen before!

In NZ it would have to be Raetihi where the Maru family still live. I actually visited the Maru family on Raetihi and got lots of photos of the family. Have written post about the visit and what I learned. But otherwise Hobart or Tasmania where I always come back to after my travels. Born and raised in Hobart.


crystal710 / Pixabay

It’s Family History month in NZ (& Aus). Have you or will you attend any online or in-person events this month? Which virtual international events have you enjoyed in the last year?

I need more time for work, life, and FH as it seems every week is another great virtual event. One hour to multiple days. One of the few good things happening currently.

Yes NZ events this month … Wellington #FamilyHistory Research Day on 7 Aug (enjoyable day but caught ‘flu) … OK now. Virtual international – #RootsTechConnect

No, too busy finishing off a research project I started in 1970. Set myself the goal of having this one done by Christmas, so will need to keep my head down. I spend enough time on my computer as it is without attending events.

Just back from a great weekend at Auckland Family History Expo, and was hoping to get to Chch this weekend – will be a virtual event now. Have LOVED @scottishindexes conferences over the last year: international time-zone friendly and so well organised.

RootsTech, The Genealogy Show, Fran’s MyHeritage presentation on spreadsheets, Shauna’s Diaries, Letters And Archives, and many other free webinars as they pop up in my Feedly blogs

I am running two sessions at local library – one on using newspapers to help write your family stories and another on starting your family history journey.

I am fairly new to such events. Looking forward to hearing more about them. I attended my first ever genealogy webinar last week (Society of Australian Genealogists).

Readers: What resources have you used when researching NZ ancestors?

Ancestors in the military

With Remembrance Day being 11th November here in Australia and New Zealand, tonight the chat was totally about military  – records, websites, resources, blog posts

The four questions were:

  1. What records, repositories, books, diaries or military histories have you used to research your military ancestors?
  2. Have you researched ancestors in other wars eg Vietnam, Korea, Boer war, Crimea or even Napoleonic war.
  3. What non-military service did your family members give during war time?
  4. Have you inherited any special memorabilia or discovered an unusual story about your service people?

So today’s post is going to be a lot of links to websites and resources for researching your ancestors in the military. Then we will look at some personal memories and finally blog posts and books to read and videos to watch.

AD_Images / Pixabay

Websites and resources

Australian military

Australian War Memorial records including:

National Archives of Australia records including:

Canadian Military

War grave registers on Ancestry

Military Heritage at Libraries and archives

New Zealand military

Members of the New Zealand Tunnelling Company in their bunks below the ground at La Fosse Farm

Other countries and general resources about war

Commonwealth War Graves including:

Red Cross

British Military Forces

Wounded World War I soldier being cared for at a field hospital

Great websites about WWI in general

Holocaust searching

Personal memories

Hilary: I found the best resource was looking at who got the effects of those who lost their lives

Pauleen: remember to check Facebook groups for POW camps and POWs

Merron: I have found the names of around 500 men & women connected to Hamilton, Vic who enlisted and written bios of around 150. My usual starting point is The AIF Project. Easy to search, can search by town and results give lots of info. I also use Monument Australia for honour boards, @UkNatArchives as some enlisted with the British forces including a number of nurses I have researched.

Hilary: we have a photocopy of a letter sent to my grandmother from her brother before he died, original with orphanage where she was living

Brooke: I was reading a unit diary. I very quickly formed an attachment to the writer. Suddenly it stopped. I was heartbroken.

Pauleen: My father’s cousin was MIA then KIA in Korea. I have researched his service history and the documents around it, and the unit diaries. When I blogged about him I received comments from people who knew of him.

Sewing room at Government House, Melbourne

Sue: I have one ancestor in the militia rolls in Bedfordshire in the 1700s I think. Was found for me by another person in Bedfordshire while I found out about her convict in Tassie

Maggie: I’ve researched the first husband of my gg grandmother who died during the First Anglo/Boer war. I found a book online that detailed how he died

Margaret: I’ve not found anyone in those wars but have in the American Wars. One possibly in the Crimea. I’m looking at the Napoleonic Wars next for some of my family.

Jill: Just remembered I found lots about an Australian soldier in local newspapers at The British Library as his mother lived in a small town in England and they reported on him.

Pauleen: I had forgotten that a Kent relative had served in the Maori wars. Any Kiwis with relatives they’ve traced to these?

Maggie: A ggg grandfather was in the Taranaki Militia that fought at the Battle of Waireka in 1860. Want to research more, even if I won’t like what I find

Brooke: I also have a very Jane Austen scenario. In 1793 the Staffordshire militia marched to Devonshire and was finally quartered at Plymouth. Edward Holmes of the militia married a local girl Charlotte Masters. My 5th great-grandparents.

Fran: My mother and her 2 sisters worked on the land north of where they lived in Wellington, NZ. There was a big USA camp nearby. This lead to my mother marrying a US soldier.

Brooke: An Anzac I’ve written about was a prolific letter writer and appeared to have a buddy at the local paper. So many of his letters were published, providing a first-hand account of his experiences.

Jennifer: There are a few WW1 and WW2 nurses in our family. An aunt was in the land army in WW2

Jill: I find reading fiction set in the war years give a good insight into life during those periods


Merron: For Victorians, check @PRO_Vic for probate files of soldiers who died. I have found amazing letters between a soldier and a woman who gave birth to his baby after his departure in his probate file. They were used to prove her right to be a benefactor.

Hilary: not sure what my grandfather did during WW2 but he worked at the docks and was probably busy helping to load and unload ships

M. Smith: My English grandfather was in St John’s in his home town in WW1 and in the Heavy Rescue Unit in WW2 and went to Coventry when it was bombed.

Margaret: What counts as non-military service? My parents sent food parcels to the UK. When I was born, I was sent a soft toy as a gift. They used the wood boiler for hot water, saving electricity.

Sue: I had a few who were given exemptions during WWI as they had to look after elderly parents or was only son to work the farm.

Pauleen: My dad, and both grandfathers worked for the railway and so were essential services. Dad told me how he supervised some Italian POWs doing labour for the railway in WWII

ANZ: I think all contributions and sacrifices counted. Some families got heavily involved with fund raising or making walking sticks while their sons (usually) were away.

Brooke: So glad you asked this question. In WW2 my grandfather, a carpenter/joiner for Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (AUSNC) in Sydney, was required to adapt ships to be troop carriers.

Pauleen: My mother was a volunteer with the Women’s Air Training Corps and the Volunteer Air Training Corps doing plane spotting at Brisbane during WWII. My grandfather enlisted in WWI when they called for experienced railwaymen to work on the lines to the Western Front.

Jennifer: I just had a memory of the letters I wrote to a soldier in Vietnam War when I was 13. I was given his name by a minister because he had no family to send him mail

Gunner Ernie Widders writes a letter from Vietnam

Jill: My Mother was a social butterfly who worked in the GPO and from her photo albums I can see that she and her 4 sisters spent a lot of time entertaining the troops through the ANZAC House younger set

Sue: My mum remembers her father digging a bomb shelter for them in Sandy Bay and helping to dig the trenches at Albuera Street School. Also have some ration cards from WWII belonging to my grandmother.

Margaret: My father was away some of the time as he was at Featherston POW camp. He features in the book that was written about the incident!

Brooke: I want to do more research on reserved occupations. The lists changed as the war went on depending on need. There was badge issued to show they weren’t cowards. Does anyone have a reserved occupation badge from their ancestor?

Paul: one branch of my family served as Auxiliary Fireman and including my Great Aunt who sadly lost her life in the largest ever loss of life in one incident for the London Fire Brigade


Pauleen: I have inherited WWI medals from my grandfather Denis Joseph Kunkel. They will be passed on to my grandchildren

Carmel: we have my husband’s father’s pilot log book WW2

Jill: I have Dad’s kit bag, a pair of his khaki shorts, his medals and some photos. I have quite a collection of photos from Dad’s time in the army. The pictures from Tarakan are particularly interesting. In contrast I have a collection of a distant ancestor’s memorabilia including honours medals and the invitation to his investiture at Buckingham Palace.

Brooke: When I received my grandfather’s WW2 records I discovered he was AWOL… a lot! His excuse was priceless…he had to sing on the radio to earn money to pay off a debt. (I don’t know how to determine the truth of this. Old recordings from radio station?)

Jennifer: My father never applied for his medals. He arrived in Japan at the end and was there for peacekeeping and felt he didn’t deserve them. I was able to get them for him but he was still not interested. Said he felt like a fraud accepting them

Jill: I just wish my father would have talked about his war experiences. Like many returned men he just didn’t open up

M. Smith: One of my most favourite books is Helene Hanff’s book “84 Charing Cross Road” set in WW2. It gives a great insight into life in England from a US point of view. Great humour too.

Jennifer: The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff is the last one I read. Another recent release war novel set in Paris The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester

WAAAFs in action

Blog posts and books to read and videos to watch and photos to see

Carmel’s book recommendations for WWII background

Jill’s book recommendations with war as a tag

Monash 100 Stories video collection – Sue’s blog posts relating to the Future Learn Course WWI – 100 stories videos

Digital New Zealand – search for camps eg Trentham

Different Flickr accounts for images: The Commons, National Archives Australia, Great War Archive,

Readers: You might like to answer one of the questions we were asked in last night’s twitter chat.