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Hints for NZ Bound

Locating New Zealand Immigrant and Vessel Arrival Information

New Zealand Bound

Archway - Archives NZ | Mailing Lists | Searchable sites | Hints | Headstones

Calculate year of arrival:

A death certificate from the Dept. of Internal Affairs, for any member of the emigrant family who died after 1875 will show you 'how long in New Zealand', 'where born' and 'parents names'. info  Alternatives to a BDM certs.
    Caroline Freeman came out on the "Nourmahal"  to Otago in May 1858 and she died in August 1914 in Christchurch. On her record  you see  "Years in New Zealand": 50  rounded off.  She was actually in New Zealand 56 years.

Look on the WWI Military service record available from Archway, ArchivesNZ.
How long have parents been resident in NZ: Father 46 years
How long have parents been resident in NZ: Mother life

Pinpoint first New Zealand event - date of first birth, marriage or death.
All death and burial entries should be treated with some degree of suspicion. Many people are ignorant about their antecedents. Family members under stress are not the best at remembering details. E.g. place of birth, correct spelling of given names.  Just as bad can be obituaries and the eulogy presented by the presiding official at a funeral, believe me I have squirmed more than once when the clergyman pronounced the surname wrong.  The information on a death certificate (data collected) is only good as that provided by the informant, the information is often incorrect.  Extrapolating back from several death certificates for a family who came to NZ on the same boat in the late 1880s gave a range of years of arrival and countries but it did give a clue N.B.!  Certificates can contain mis-information, outright lies to hide the truth and spelling errors.  A man who marries a much younger woman may take several years off his age; a divorced woman who reverts to her maiden name may leave no evidence of her previous spouse beyond the date when the marriage ended. Also, only basic details appear on pre-1880 marriage certificates and pre-1876 birth and death certificates. The latter do not even record a place of burial. Provision for the information may have existed, but was not necessarily included. Death certificate data is put together by the undertaker with medical details being supplied by the deceased's doctor. Thus, there should be scant delay between the occurrence of these events and their being recorded in the Registrar-General's records. birth records info  marriage record info

BDM NZ Historical records searchable online site and then search Papers Past for a death notice. From 11 April 2021 you will not be able to login the NZ BDM site using Internet Explorer as that browser will no longer be supported. Instead use an alternative browser, such as: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge.
To obtain the DOB or DOD of an event - narrow the range down for records - post 1880 does give the correct date.
Sort by clicking on the headings at the top of the sorted page - will sort by any of the columns.
Anything post 1880 does give the correct date.
Order certificates online. Start a certificate collection.
WWII deaths were registered in 1945, not the year of the death occurred.
There are transcription errors especially spelling.
Check the old fiche system and District keys to work out locality if we want to differentiate by people of the same name
A locality can give us a clue where to look for a death notice or a burial record. Working out the date from the site entry can give us a clue when to look.
Make use of Archway in pinning down a possibility.
Births that occurred at least 100 years ago
Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased's date of birth was at least 80 years ago.
Marriages and eventually Civil Unions that occurred 80 years ago.
You can find siblings of a family you already know mother's maiden name under births:
No parent's names are included for births prior to 1870.
Abbreviations on public records.

As from 5 November 2018 New Zealand death registrations (and therefore certificates), in addition to deceased's living children, will record the age and sex of any predeceased children. (Names will not be recorded.)

 Records date back to

Marriages were not allocated to districts. Birth and death folio numbers were.  So you cannot trace a marriage place by the folio number.

  NZSG published District Keys to the New Zealand Registration Indexes, births and deaths organised chronologically from 1848-1900. An invaluable aid. Will identify the district were the event was registered or use the chart provided at either the beginning or end of the fiche (it varied year to year) or in one of the booklets produced which may accompany the set of fiche.  Early South Canterbury births  Birth and death fiche are 1848 to 1990. Within each year entries are organised alphabetically, the names of males and females intermingling, and there are volumes produced by the New Zealand Society of Genealogists, the District keys to the New Zealand registration districts. These show where births and deaths were registered up to and including 1955. Most births and deaths are registered in the city where the event took place or in the nearest sizeable town. Microfiche deaths from 1984 – 1990 have the deceased’s birth date at the right. The numbers: 03111936 indicate the person was born 3rd November 1936.

No need to quote the folio number when ordering copies of certificates as that index system is no longer being used to locate an entry.  The year the death is registered can be different from death year especially if the person died in December and is registered in January.  Be sure the registration was made in the year requested otherwise will might get a "no trace."  They will search for the event one year on either side of the year you quote, for the standard search fee. If you are not sure about the actual year when the birth, death or marriage took place you can ask us to search over a broader range of years, a fee for the first three years specified will be NZ$15, and each additional year specified will be NZ$1 Identity Services The indexes to BDMs contains many idiosyncracies.  Many a person know that their Christian names was read out at their baptism. However, at BDMs office, when asked for the name of the child, father may have given only the first Christian name.  It may not be till the offspring seeks to marry or claim a pension that he discovers that this is his official name.  Children on the birth fiche who share a surname and number are twins.  Should children with a common surname and forenames pop up within a few years of each other, it is likely that, in the latter case, parents are perpetuating the name of a deceased offspring. Should a newborn have a surname as its last Christian name, the mother of an ex-nuptial baby may be pointing to the identity of the father.  In the case of births and deaths, the folio indicates the office where the registration was made - helpful when you're looking for a common name and know where the family was at the time.

The Registrar-General's Office at Lower Hutt relocated April 2002, and is now situated on Floor 3, 47 Boulcott Street, Wellington (the same building as the Passport Office). The Central Registry in the Wellington and Auckland offices have microfiche readers that public can use to search the indexes of BDMs up to year 1990. No appointment is necessary.  Many public libraries, Family History Centres and other organisations also have copies of these indexes.  If possible check the index before sending off for a search. The revised fee structure for NZ BDM certificates was  implemented 1 September 2003.  In most cases these  electronic printouts will be a scanned image. Where the document cannot be scanned due to poor quality of the original a keyed in copy of the record will be supplied. 

The index fiche enables the researcher to see what is available, to pinpoint the years when the births, deaths and marriages of particular antecedents were registered. Marriage fiche are organised chronologically from 1854 to 1990. In marriages husband and wife share a common number. In pre-1947 marriages, men whose surnames start with 'A' are followed by women whose surnames start with 'A' and so on through the alphabet. From 1947 grooms are gathered together in one alphabetical list followed by brides in another alphabetical list. It is only from 1957 that an entry includes the family name of the partner. There are no District keys for marriages. It is the responsibility, not of the contracting parties but of the celebrant, to forward information about a marriage. Sometimes, in the birth and death fiche, there appear entries where details are written in by hand and where a vertical slash runs through the number. The digits after the slash relate to a particular year. In births these entries may relate to adoptions or to ex-nuptial children receiving new certificates when their parents marry. In deaths they may relate to a person who has gone missing in wartime and whose body has not been recovered. 

"Little Histories" - stories behind the BD&M registers. Describes the evolution of record keeping from beautiful old books, painstakingly handwritten, to computerised data systems. pdf (abt 4 MB)

A notable feature of the death fiche is the naming of war casualties in the 1914-1918 'War deaths'. The fiche entitled 'War deaths, 1939' covers people who lost their lives throughout the period 1939-1945. Alas, the fiche appears to omit those who died in the Boer War though service personnel who died in the Vietnam conflict are included in the normal death fiche with the information that they had died in Vietnam. Although, in peacetime a death certificate is not issued for a New Zealand citizen who dies overseas, families have, since 1995, been allowed to pay a fee and have recorded, with the Registrar-General, the fact that a loved one has perished beyond these shores.

Where did they settle?


Archives New Zealand (formerly the National Archives of NZ)10 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, in Wellington  
The NZ Shipping Co. passenger lists are in the large green books in the area to the left,  near the tables.  They will not photocopy these lists. Other photocopied passenger lists are also found here. Check indexes in the filing cabinets to the right as you enter.  The Reference Section of the Archives New Zealand accepts reference requests by electronic mail.  McInnes Phillips

The system is changing. Obtain a researcher number. Spend a couple of days in Wellington if on a genealogy research visit. It takes a morning to lock your bag away, look at the facsimiles and indexes and learn the system at Archives NZ and order a file so plan to arrive at 0900. You have to order files like wills and probate records - they come up every hour. Maybe hop over the National Library, on the corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets, Thorndon, Wellington and look at the old newspapers while waiting for something and come back.
The Alexander Turnbull Library (2nd floor National Library, Wellington) has the New Zealand Shipping Company passenger list indexes. Passenger lists after 1870 are held at Archives New Zealand, Wellington as the central government took charge of immigration. Records vary from different regions and different time periods.

Hints on Visiting the National Archives in Wellington
- Get reference details from Archway for your items before you go to the appropriate Archives NZ.  Not everything is listed on Archway yet. Flat fees Now you need to be registered as a researcher  and given a unique number.

WW1 service records index is on Archways, Archives NZ. Memorial Archway at the entrance to the Waimate Gardens.2001. Image courtesy of

Archway, Archives New Zealand
Go to Archway
Advanced search
Keywords  WWI N/N
For WW1 records add:  AABK as the Agency, 1914  1919 for years and Held at Wgtn
Officers as well as other ranks had a Regimental Number in the NZEF.
For South Africa extent the date to 1899 and look for SA.
WWI defence service personnel files are online at the main ArchivesNZ in Wellington

- Before you go to Archives NZ make sure you know what you want to research, have the dates written down and stay focused.
- Pre-ordering by email - check with Archives NZ to see it there is a charge, not yet. "The turn around time for pre-orders is two working days from the receipt of the enquiry. You must be registered as a reader to use this service. Please supply your reader number and full archives references for up to five items if you wish to use this service. Please be aware that charges apply in many instances. More detail is available on our website."
- Go to the the Archives a day before and get registered and submit your first batch of requests. You can only order up five items at any one time. These items will then be waiting for you the next day - items are held out for a day or so before being reshelved.
- staff will help you learn how to use their terminals, you have to use them yourself , Archway for searching and Repoman for ordering.
- Make certain that you have all the references - i.e. where the courts were etc.
- Archives Wellington holds Probates (up to 1977-79, 1987 or 1990-91, depending on the Court) from the Wellington, Blenheim/Marlborough, Napier, Nelson, Palmerston North, New Plymouth/Taranaki/Hawera/Patea/Stratford and Wanganui Courts (Archives Auckland, Christchurch & Dunedin hold Probates from other Courts). Note that Public Trust probates/intestates were all at Wellington until c1950.
- Archives has various resources that do not have to be ordered through the batch system (e.g. many photos, many passenger lists & associated card indexes, Register of people naturalised before 1840, Register of Aliens (1917), annual lists of Public Servants, index of signatories to the Women's Suffrage petition, etc, etc). Maybe browse through them while waiting for your ordered items to appear.

It is important to fossick around and
find out what information is held where before you write or visit. Try and narrow your query down to a three month period in which you would like the Archives to search, and as give the Archives many details as you can, including which port you think they entered. If the Archives finds the passenger they can provide name of ship, master of ship, what steerage they travelled in, tonnage of ship etc. The research room is not open on a Saturday.  Only the exhibitions. Email the right regional office, they do not hold duplicates. E.g. Wellington does not hold copies of material deposited in regional archives but there are a few exceptions. If the record is in Dunedin, email Dunedin. 
General enquiries     - [email protected] 
Wellington Office    - [email protected]
Auckland Office       - [email protected] 
Christchurch Office - [email protected] 
Dunedin Office         - [email protected] 

Archway is the national on-line finding aids system, tol allow researchers to search the holdings from the four offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Archway is meant to make it easier for professional and amateur historians to find archived records, stored in binders in offices in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.  Records back to 1840.  The online search facility will put documents in context by linking to the history of each government department and its relationship to other departments.  These development plans include:
On-line ordering
On-line access to digital images
Inclusion of supplementary indexes
Access to electronic records

Remote Reference Service designed to assist researchers intending to visit or unable to visit. In order to be as specific as possible with your enquiries, it is recommended that you undertake background research at local libraries and consult Archives New Zealand's publications and online reference guides before contacting us. Each office of Archives New Zealand has printed copies of the reference guides which can be obtained free of charge. A reading room service, which includes guidance from trained staff, is also available at all four offices of Archives New Zealand. This service is free, except for copying charges. Family historians should note that all New Zealand birth, death and marriage certificates are available from the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

NZEF personnel record:
Probate file:
Passenger lists
Intention to Marry notice: $8 per record
These charges include up to 40 pages of photocopying per enquiry.
General Research (per request)
All other enquiries: $25 per half hour
This charge includes up to 20 pages of photo-copying per half hour of research.

To Submit a Remote Reference Enquiry
If you would like to make a remote reference enquiry to our Wellington office, please go to our online request forms and select a relevant form. Please note that some fields are mandatory and need to be completed correctly to enable your request to be processed. Email can be used to contact all four Archives New Zealand offices to make remote reference enquiries, or to order archives in advance of a visit. Alternatively, you can post or fax your enquiry to us. Please note that we do not accept remote reference enquiries over the telephone. You will also need to select the office to which you want to direct your enquiry.
The inclusion of your full postal address in all enquiries (including email) is essential, and your request will not be processed until we have this information.

Mailing lists Beginning March 2nd, 2020 the Mailing Lists functionality on RootsWeb will be discontinued. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on RootsWeb  A mailing list for family history (genealogy) and local history researchers searching NZ items.   

Searchable Sites

Google images - try searching by name of ship and passenger list e.g. Caroline Coventry passenger list

Arrivals Australian Ports National Library of Australia Ships and shipping

A few of the vessels on the Melbourne - NZ run
1861 -1863
Benjamin Heape
City of Hobart
Ellen Simpson
Gil Blas
Prince Alfred
Southern Cross
Te Anau

Other Emigration databases

"I always thought they came via England, but via Hamburg by the German, Reichtag, was apparently a better choice considering the comparison between this ship and English ships in general made by the superintendent. You are right about, the tensions, (a very diplomatic understatement) between Danes/Denmark and Germany back then. This is, however, a century old pursuit among Germany's neighbours. It always takes a couple of generations to forget about last war's horrors, and then a new war with Germany began. Oh well, by now things are fortunately improving in that respect. Anyway, from the passenger list I can see that the Danes outnumbered the Germans on said journey to NZ. Under all circumstances, no matter what nationality they had, these emigrants did share a common uncertain future in an unknown country, which hopefully made the trip peaceful."


  Ship & Surname Search


Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness
Books We Own  
Patsy McMillan's NZ research help page

NZ Look Ups 

Britain's Census dates Year Night
1801 10/11 March
1811 27/28 May
1821 28/29 May
1831 30/31 May
1841 6/7 June
1851 30/31 March
1861 7/8 April           
1871 2/3 April
1881 3/4 April
1891 5/6 April
1901 31 March/1 April   (60,000 enumerators are engaged in taking the census in the UK 1891)
1911 2/3 April
1915 Parochial Census re Aliens Act
1921 19/20 June
1931 26/27 April (destroyed by fire)
1941 No census taken, due to World War II
1951 9 April
1961 24 April
1971 26 April
1981 6 April
1991 22 April
2001 29/30 April 
2011 27 March

The 1939 Register contains the names, addresses and occupations of everyone in England and Wales at the time with  41 million people captured in one day in September 1939, and was used as the basis for rationing, identity cards and, in post-war Britain, the NHS. (National Health Service) and the closest likeness to a census from that period. In 2015 Find-My Past volunteers have conserved, scanned, transcribed and digitised over 1.2 million pages from 7,000 volumes.


Due to the passage of time, some records may be incomplete, inaccurate or illegible.
Remember: You may never be able to identify which vessel an immigrant ancestor was aboard but your research can still lead back to the old country!

Henry Dench must have been hiding in the bilges if he arrived when he said he did - 1851 into Canterbury. That is not him on the Travancore

Many jumped ship, stowed away or came in their own vessels.
99.9% of the stowaways were male, but there were some females too.

Otago Witness April 17 1880 page 14
April 9. The s.s. Wakatipu has arrived in Sydney. Seven stowaways were found aboard after her departure from Wellington.

Timaru Herald January 29 1894
Christchurch, January 28
Upon arrival of the barque Grasmere from Sydney yesterday, two young men named William Chevrill and Michael Purcell, stowaways, were arrested upon charge of assaulting a Sydney constable. Warrants were issued for their arrest, but they escaped for the time being by stowing away on the Grasmere.

The Times, 9 Aug 1928 Escaped Stowaways in London.
Three stowaways who escaped when the s.s. Matakana reached the Royal Albert Dock on Tuesday, from New Zealand, were being sought for yesterday by the police. The men are believed to have hidden in the ship while it was at Wellington, New Zealand, and on being discovered during the voyage were placed in custody, to be handed over to the authorities on arrival in this country. The names and  descriptions of the men are given as:-
Francis Grosser, 22, height 5ft. 10in., dark complexion, dark brown hair, blue eyes, wearing a blue suit;
David Mackenzie, 26, height 5ft. 5in., fresh complexion, wearing a dark suit and light raincoat;
David Hume, 19, height 5ft. 5in., fair complexion, wearing a light suit.
Grosser is stated to be a native of Melbourne, Australia, and the two others are believed to be Glasgow men.

Otago Police Gazette No. 59 3 Dec. 1866
CURRAN, Robert, stowed away ship Rangitoto from Wellington to Port Chalmers. Arrested by Sergeant Frederick Mallard 356 Port Chalmers Water Police; 1 month's hard labor.

The Star Friday 11 February 1876
Lyttelton, Magisterial
Stowaway - William Smith was charged with stowing away on board the s.s. Phoebe from Wellington. The Bench ordered accused to pay 2pounds  passage money and £2 fine; the fine was not paid.

 "but as he doesn't appear in the shipping records, I suspect he arrived as a crew member, not a passenger."


"Strays" could be those people who are found outside of their home county in the "Old Country.  People who migrated and died abroad fall into this category.  A little research will show that they were not all born in the place listed on a passenger list or in fact came from that county.  The NZ SG Strays and More Collection was a database e.g.  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z  wayback A "stray" is a person living outside of their usual place of residence when involved in some recorded event. Strays can be found in most genealogical records e.g. Cemetery Transcriptions

  41  Strays and More     
43   Pre-1856 NZ Marriage Records Collection
44   Certificates
45   NZ First Families