skip to content

New Zealand (Emigration)

Nature of Source

Records generated from those leaving the UK for New Zealand. The majority of people who migrated did so either voluntarily or were forced against their will because of religious persecution or for economic reasons. Others were encouraged/assisted to move from their country of origin. The Empire Settlement Act of 1922 formed a key piece of legislation, providing assistance for migrants from the UK to move to New Zealand. This encouragement continued after WWII and finally came to an end in 1975.

The country is comprised of two major islands, North and South and fell under the control of the British Crown in 1840 following the Treaty of Waitangi. Some settlers arrived in New Zealand via Australia but New Zealand was never used as a destination for convict transportation. New Zealand gained full independence in 1931 having attained dominion status in 1907.

Civil registration of births and deaths began in 1848 and marriage in 1854 and are organised and collected centrally by the Department of Internal Affairs. The records are available to search online. Copies for births are only available for events over 100 years ago, for marriages over 80 years ago and deaths over 50 years ago or the deceased was at least 80 years old. Archives New Zealand hold the Intention to Marry Notices covering 1856 to 1956. The Archives also hold the Divorce Registers. Church registers date from around 1814 with the arrival of the Anglican church which is sometimes referred to as the English Church. Nonconformists and Roman Catholics also established churches. See below under 'Online Databases and Indexes' for details of Presbyterian registers available online.

The very few surviving census returns are not available to the general public. Other sources such as directories and Electoral Rolls can act as substitutes. Wills are held at the High Court in the region where probate was granted. Wills over 25 years are transferred regional Archives New Zealand except where Courts have kept their own records.

New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Records Archives holds the files of all those who served in New Zealand's military forces from the 1st January 1921 to the present day. Earlier files for those who served in the South African War and WWI have been transferred to Archives New Zealand in Wellington.

Immigration records are a major source for New Zealand research. Immigration from Britain and Ireland increased markedly during the 1870s and 1880s with many attracted to the region following the discovery of gold in 1861. Archives New Zealand holds the records which are mostly passenger lists for those who arrived as government-assisted immigrants for the period 1840 to the 1880s. Those on this scheme accounted for about half of those who emigrated. Other passenger lists from 1883 until 1973 are held in the archives of the Social Security Department. The New Zealand Maritime Museum holds further information on immigration, passenger lists and shipping companies. The site hosts the NZ Maritime Index and the NZ Maritime Record.

For details about the ships and voyages and surviving logs consult Ian Nicholson's Log of Logs and Henry Brett's White Wings (see below for more details). The books are available at the British Library, The Society of Genealogists, The National Archives Library and other larger reference libraries.

Also consider records of land transactions which are held at Archives New Zealand and always check with local public libraries for historical and family history information.

See also
Emigration Records (Including Scotland)
Emigration Records (Ireland)
Passenger Lists
Transported Convicts

Where Found

Archives New Zealand (The main repository for national government records dating from 1835. The holdings include marriage notices, school records, shipping and passenger lists, probate records and wills, military records and land records. The site includes a number of Research and Family History Guides)
Department of Internal Affairs (Civil Registration)
New Zealand Society of Genealogists (The Society assists members with their family history and genealogical research. The website includes research guides, details of resources available to members and members interests section. The online shop contains books and CDs relevant to New Zealand research such as the New Zealand Early Settlers Locator, by Diane Wilson and the New Zealand Burial Locator)
The National Library of New Zealand (The library holds birth, marriage and death indexes, trade and commercial directories, electoral rolls and family histories and pedigrees. The site includes family history guides)
Alexander Turnbull Library (Collection includes books, manuscripts, documents, newspapers, journals, photographs, maps, paintings and sketches)
Auckland War Memorial Museum (The site hosts the Cenotaph Database which is a biographical database of New Zealanders died in the New Zealand Wars, South Africa, WWI, WWII, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam as well as service records from WWI)
Museum of New Zealand (New Zealand's national museum)
Diocesan Record Offices (Church registers)
The National Archives (CO 212, War and Colonial Department and Colonial Office: New Zealand Government Gazettes, 1841-1925; DO 50, New Zealand: Government Gazettes, 1926-1980; CO 208, New Zealand Company Original Correspondence, etc, 1837-1861)
Society of Genealogists (Birth, marriage and death indexes, 1840-1900, cemetery records up to 1900; convict lists; directories, voter lists; MIs; probate records; voter registers; 1882 freeholder and others)
Merseyside Maritime Museum (Maritime Archives and Library: Liverpool was one of the main gateways for emigration from the UK to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Canada during the 19th and 20th centuries. The library hold a number of sources for emigrant research including passenger tickets, correspondence and other ephemera, ship registers, diaries and letters and sailing information. A series of detailed information sheets dealing with emigration are available at the web site)
For more details on other museums and libraries see the searchable website NZMuseums.

Period Covered

1788 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names addresses, occupations. Dates and places of birth, marriage and death. Family relationships.

Further References

Arnold, Rollo. The Farthest Promised Land: Victoria University Press, 1981


Arnold, Rollo. New Zealand's Burning - The Settlers' World in the Mid 1880s: Victoria University Press, 1994


Brett, Henry. White Wings: Brett Printing Company, 1928


Bromell, Anne. New Zealand Beginner's Guide to Family History Research: Whitcoulls, 2004


Brown, Kevin. Passage to the World: The Emigrant Experience 1807-1940: Seaforth Publishing, 2013


Charlwood, Don. The Long Farewell: Settlers Under Sail: Penguin Books, 1983


Harper, Marjory & Constantine, Stephen. Migration and Empire: Oxford University Press, 2010


Kershaw, Roger. Migration Records: A Guide for Family Historians: The National Archives, 2009


Kershaw, Roger & Pearsall, Mark. Family History on the Move: Where Your Ancestors Went and Why: The National Archives, 2006


King, Michael. The Penguin History of New Zealand: Penguin, 2003

 

McKinnon, Malcolm. New Zealand Historical Atlas: David Bateman, 1997

 

Nicholson, Ian. Log of Logs; A catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters, and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788 to 1998, for Australia and New Zealand, and surrounding oceans, 3 vols: Roebuck Society, 1999

 

Simpson, Tony. The Immigrants: The Great Migration from Britain to New Zealand, 1830-1890: Godwit, 1997

 

Websites

www.nzhistory.net.nz (Produced by the History Group of the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the site deals with the political, economic and social history of New Zealand. The site has a War Memorials section with information, a memorials register and links to sites offering transcribed data. The site also has an Immigration section and a monthly calendar of historic events)
www.archway.archives.govt.nz (Catalogue of Archives New Zealand)
www.teara.govt.nz
(The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand)
http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/FamilyHistory (Guide to family history resources)
www.childmigrantstrust.com
(Child Migrants Trust: The trust offers counselling and support  for those affected by child migration as well as information, advice and family research to former child migrants and their families)
http://archives.govt.nz/resources/research-resources/research- guides (Archives New Zealand Research Guides: Subjects include births, deaths and marriages, divorce, coroner inquests, electoral rolls, directories, probate, naturalisation, shipping records, immigration and military records)
http://thecommunityarchive.org.nz (The Community Archive: Online catalogue describing the material held by museums, libraries, local government, archives and other organisations. Previously known as the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts)
https://natlib.govt.nz/directory-of-new-zealand-libraries (National Library of New Zealand: Directory of New Zealand Libraries)
https://natlib.govt.nz/researchers/guides (National Library of New Zealand:Research Guides: Family History; Starting with family history)
www.genealogy.org.nz/NZ_Research_243.aspx (New Zealand Society of Genealogists Guide: New Zealand Research)
www.unlockthepast.com.au (Unlock the Past: The site Promotes history, genealogy and heritage in Australia and New Zealand and includes guides and articles relating to Australian and New Zealand research)
www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/wpg_URL/Services-Births-Deaths-and-Marriages-Index?OpenDocument (Information on birth, death and marriage registers)
http://shadowsoftime.co.nz (Information that appears on BMD certificates)
www.yesteryears.co.nz (New Zealand Yesteryears. Includes transcribed passenger lists. Genealogical resources for each province, other general resources and links to online genealogy databases)
http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/FamilyHistory/PassengerLists/WhichPort (Guide to passenger lists)
www.newzealandshipping.co.nz/History/Passenger/index.htm (Guide to Passenger Lists)
www.genealogylinks.net/newzealand (New Zealand Genealogy Links)
www.cyndislist.com/newzealand.htm (Cyndi's List New Zealand)
www.nzhistory.net.nz/handsonhistory/genealogy-links (Genealogy links)
www.telusplanet.net/public/mtoll (Mary's Genealogy Treasures: Immigration, Naturalization, Passenger Lists and Ships)
www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/listGuides.aspx
(Liverpool Maritime Archives and Library Guide: Emigration to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa)
http://genforum.genealogy.com/newzealand (New Zealand Genealogy Forum)
www.nzetc.org (New Zealand Electronic Text Centre. Digital library of books many downloadable)
http://newzealand.govt.nz/browse/history-heritage (Links to sites dealing with History and Heritage)
http://libguides.bgsu.edu/newspapers (Bowling Green State University Historical Newspapers Online: Links to historical Australia & New Zealand newspapers that are freely available on the Internet)
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sooty/nzsites.html (New Zealand Online Genealogical And Family History Research Sites)
www.army.mil.nz (New Zealand Army. Includes a section on applying for service records)
www.nzdf.mil.nz/personnel-records/nzdf-archives (The New Zealand Defence Force Archives. Details on applying for service files and the information contained in the files)

Online Databases

www.bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/Home (Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records. Search and order New Zealand Government records for births that occurred at least 100 years ago, deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago and marriages that occurred at least 80 years ago. The site includes a glossary and timeline)
www.findmypast.com.au (Australian & New Zealand Records: Passenger List Records; Electoral Rolls,1878; Police and Government Gazettes; Directories; A Return of the Freeholders of new Zealand, 1882; New Zealand War Medal Roll; New Zealand Railway Employees, 1896)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(Travel & Migration Records: Datasets include Outbound Passenger Lists,1890-1960. The dataset includes passenger lists in extracted from TNA series BT 27 and includes long-haul voyages to destinations outside Britain, Europe and the Mediterranean. Countries that feature strongly include Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. Irish ports before partition in 1921 and all Northern Irish ports after partition are covered. The lists also include those travelling onwards from British ports)
www.findmypast.co.uk (New Zealand Birth, Marriage and Death Index. The births in this index include people who were born 120 years or more ago and stillbirths that occurred 50 years or more ago. Deaths included in this index are those that occurred at least 50 years ago or where the deceased's date of birth was at least 80 years ago)
www.findmypast.co.uk
(New Zealand Registered Teachers 1906. New Zealand, Teachers' Examinations 1906-1907)
www.findmypast.co.uk (New Zealand Billion Graves Cemetery Index. Are your ancestors buried in New Zealand? Have you been unable to locate precisely where they were buried? Search this extensive record set to find the exact location of their burial as well as their birth and death dates)
www.ancestry.co.uk (New Zealand, Cemetery Records, 1800-2007. Access to more than 1.6 million digitised records spanning two centuries from 1,400 cemeteries across the country from original headstone transcriptions by The New Zealand Society of Genealogists)
www.ancestry.co.uk (The Anne Bromell Collection, 1842-1981 including electoral rolls, naturalisation records, Army WWI records, jury lists, directories and land records)
www.archway.archives.govt.nz (ARCHWAY: Search individual names across Archives New Zealand catalogue, including Military personnel files)
http://shadowsoftime.co.nz (Various transcriptions)
www.dnzb.govt.nz (Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: Online access to the biographies of 3,000 prominent New Zealanders)
www.yesteryears.co.nz (New Zealand Yesteryears: Transcribed passenger lists)
www.ozships.net (Transcribed passenger, convict and crew lists of vessels arriving and departing from Australia and New Zealand, 1788-1968. The site also includes details of the ships and shipping movements. Much of the site's content is available on CD)
www.elephind.com (Search historic digital newspaper collections using key words and phrases from the US, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand)
www.presbyterian.org.nz/archives (Index of registers of New Zealand Presbyterian Marriages, 1848-1930 and Baptisms, 1848-1920)
http://innz.natlib.govt.nz (Index New Zealand: Indexed journal articles published in New Zealand over the past 20 years)
http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast (Papers Past: National Library of New Zealand Historic Newspaper Collection: Access to digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 90 publications from all regions of New Zealand)
www.marlborough.govt.nz/Services/Cemeteries/Search.aspx (Marlborough, New Zealand Cemetery Records from 1890)
www.familysearch.org (FamilySearch in partnership with Archives New Zealand: Immigration Passenger Lists, 1871-1915, passenger lists of immigrants arriving at New Zealand ports mostly from the British Isles; Digital images of probate records from the Archives of New Zealand, 1878-1960)
Familysearch.org
(Historical Record Collections: Australia & New Zealand)
www.findmypast.co.uk (New Zealand WWI Soldiers: Access to New Zealand WWI service personnel and reserves)
http://archives.govt.nz/world-war-one (Discover World War One - Archives New Zealand: Database of all known New Zealanders that served in World War One. Archives New Zealand holds the New Zealand Defence Force [NZDF] Personnel Files for all known New Zealanders who served in the First World War. This is a unique collection of records that exists across 15 different archival series)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Roll of Honour 1915; Roll of Honour 1840-1902, Defenders of the Empire Resident in NZ; The Defenders of New Zealand & Maori History of the War; The Auckland Regiment)
www.genesreunited.co.uk (New Zealand WWI Soldiers: Index of 288,526 both male and female service personnel from 1914-1919)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Wise's Commercial Directory 1872-73; Stone's Otago & Southland Directory 1934)

CD Roms

Ozships (Australian Shipping Arrivals and Departures 1788-1968: Over 100,000 arrivals and departures for Australia and New Zealand including ship's captains, crew, passengers and convicts with details of the ships and shipping movements)
New Zealand Society of Genealogists (Combined Electoral Rolls 1881, 1893, 1896, 1911; Return of Freeholders, 1882: Provides the names, addresses and occupations of owners of land throughout New Zealand; Jim Pearce Index of Obituaries: Librarians working for the Evening Post in Wellington assembled this collection between 1927 and 1977. The index was created by members of the Kilbirnie Branch NZSG. The Kilbirnie Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists Inc indexed this collection over a long period on a voluntary basis to produce this index)