New Zealand Research Tips and Strategies

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Purpose of Research Tips and Strategies Wiki Page

The New Zealand Research Tips and Strategies page consists of links to specific research strategies for New Zealand. It also contains general tips and other resources for finding your ancestors in this locality.

Young Maori man dancing.jpg

Additional Research Strategies[edit | edit source]

Beginning Maori Research[edit | edit source]

When beginning research, one should begin at home and then among the relatives of our ancestor. This approach saves a lot of unnecessary expense, time and frustration. It also provides the researcher with the best information to help with further research.

Step 1: Talk to Tribal Elders[edit | edit source]

A researcher should first talk to the Kaumatua or a Kuia, which transmit oral genealogies.  Old people pass away and take their knowledge with them, requiring one to search elsewhere and possibly leading to inaccurate information.

When visiting a Kaumatua or a Kuia for information, they will not always permit us to write the Whakapapa down as it is given. BUT, they will expect us to memorize what they tell us. The best way to do this is to go back often until we can remember the genealogies. Some will be happy for us to take notes and maybe use a small recorder. If a recorder is used, we should always ask first if they would mind. The old people have some traditions in their lives that we should respect.

Step 2: Gather Family Records[edit | edit source]

Look for treasures kept by family members, such as:

  • Christening records
  • Family Bibles – with names & dates of children – marriages Etc.
  • Documents – Wills, Etc.
  • Letters from other families
  • Books with Whakapapa and histories written
  • Pieces of paper with names written
  • Civil records – Original Birth, Marriages and Death
  • Photos with names on back (hopefully)
  • Maori Land Schedules – names of blocks of land owned by ancestors including names and ages of family members entitled to possession are often held in family files.
  • Family graves are often on the land near the home, especially if they lived in the country areas.

Step 3: Interview Relatives[edit | edit source]

Visit older members of your family.

Do not bombard them with questions at first.

Sit quietly with them and talk about their lives of yesteryear.

Puts the focus on them and not on yourself.  Before you know it, they are giving out information you are looking for without any questions at all.

Let them know that you will respect and not misuse any information given. 

It is sometimes better not to have someone in the family that is too young ask for information.  The old folk may not be willing to give sacred information to younger people, because of experience with younger people not respecting Whakapapa.

Older folk may also be able to assist by giving the name of someone else in the district who has knowledge about your family.

When writing letters to relatives for information, focus on the person to whom you are writing and never ask for too much at first. It is good to make general comments that may lead to the information that you seek. 

Step 4: Look for Records[edit | edit source]

Look for records in the places where your ancestors lived.  There will be many available sources. The following list names a few of them, but you may find others.

Cemeteries[edit | edit source]

Almost all Maori people erect headstones on their family graves. They are usually done a year after the burial date of the person. These headstones sometimes have the birth dates, tribe, names of parents, and/or children inscribed, along with a picture of the person. Headstone information can give us a guide to further research, though sometimes the data is not authentic.

Please remember that Maori cemeteries can be very Tapu (Sacred) and permission is needed before we enter the graveyard. Someone living nearby can instruct us of traditions about their cemetery. For instance, some cemeteries have certain days of the week we can visit there, and other traditions. It is important that we respect the wishes of the local people.

Some burials took place on the land where the ancestors once lived. These may not have headstones, but the families will know about them. They usually are fenced in by a white paling fence. Some Maori cemeteries in New Zealand have had the headstones transcribed and microfiche and microfilms of these are available at our local Family History Centre.

Maori Land Court Records[edit | edit source]

Maori Land Court recordsare an excellent source for research of early and ancient ancestry and should be used, but we should be careful to check out that the names given in the recital of the Whakapapa are correct.

In the year 1862, the New Zealand Government changed the Native Land Act, to have the courts decide who were the rightful Maori owners to blocks of their tribal land. Then in 1865 another Act was passed and the Native Land Courts were set up. Between 1893 and 1906 the Native department was joined into the Justice Department. These courts later became known as Maori Land Courts.

When this took place, the Kaumatua (older man) appeared at the court along with members of the family to claim possession of their ancestors land. The Whakapapa would be recited of the ancestor down to the person appearing. It was written down in minute books by the Clerk of the court. Judges were responsible for what was written. All of the Maori Land Courts have in their archives minute books containing the records of the court sessions dealing with the particular land block of the family attending the court.

The owners of the land had to prove their rights to the block of land in question and sometimes the Whakapapa may not be quite correct, but it will be a good lead or clue. Along with genealogies, we can find histories relating to the people concerned with the block of land. All this is a great help to our research.

The original books are held at the Maori Land Courts. All of the minute books in all of the Courts in New Zealand Land Court districts have been microfilmed. The Districts throughout New Zealand are: -
TAITOKERAU – Whangarei Land Court Office
MANIAPOTO – Hamilton Office
WAIARIKI - Rotorua Office
TAIRAWHITI – Gisborne Office
AOTEA – Wanganui Office
TAKITIMU - Hastings Office
TE WAIPOUNAMU (includes Stewart and Chatham Islands) - Christchurch Office

To be able to do any searches in the Minute books we would need to know the following:
• The names of the person we are seeking that succeeded to the block of land.
• The names of the block or blocks of land the ancestor owned.
• A schedule of owners in the land is very helpful.
• Approximately when the person died that we are searching for.
• The person’s Christian name, as most indexes list persons alphabetical by Christian name.

We can contact Archives New Zealand, P.O. Box 12 050, Wellington, for Guides to Maori research. They have an extensive list of helps.

Most land courts prefer that customers go into the District Offices themselves to do research. In some district courts, the staff have access to records on computer.
The records are not usually listed by tribal areas.

The Maori Land Court Offices are situated in the following localities:

You may find other records at some Courts that will be helpful in research, such as Adoption records, Application files, Probate or Letters of Administration, Succession orders, Etc. The Staff is always very helpful. Some Maori Trust Boards and otherIwi organizations have copies of records relating to their tribal lands.

Whakapapa Books [edit | edit source]

As more occasions to attend the Maori Land courts to claim rights and successions to family land became necessary, more Whakapapa was needed.

In the early 1900’s, many of the Kaumatua travelled around New Zealand visiting other older people, gathering genealogies from those who couldTatai (Recite). They spent long hours into the nights and many days in korero (talking) together about their ancestors. Usually a scribe accompanied them to write as they recited their oral genealogies. This is how Whakapapa books came into being.

Today many families have in their possession old hard covered ancient ledger books filled with Whakapapa and histories. But, sad to say, many of these precious books have been buried with the dead or burned by younger people after the burial of their ancestor. Hence so much is lost.

These Whakapapa books, though owned by a particular Kaumatua or family, do not have just their own family genealogies in them. As they met together at a Hui or in various homes around the country, the Tatai was written of other people who were present. Hence, today, we have many family’s names written in many different Whakapapa books.

As Whakapapa can never be totally authenticated, because it was given orally in ancient days, we need to look at as many different books for research with exactly the same genealogies. This helps families to compile, as near as possible, accurate records!

Some of the travellers we know who wrote Whakapapa books were:
Stuart Meha
Te Ao Wilson,
Hohepa Heperi
George Watene
Taranaki Tarau
Martin Pohatu
Rangi Davies
W. Naera
Elder William Cole
Elder Elwin Jensen
Elder Waddapps
(These three Elders were early missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to New Zealand)
and others.

NOTE: The Whakapapas collected by William Cole have been microfilmed. There is an alphabetical index by surname of the persons recorded on the Maori family records. The written records are shown on the microfilm, including family group records and pedigree charts. The microfilms are accessible through Family History Centres. The Microfilm numbers with Maori records are:1358003, 1358004, and 1358005.

Maori School Records[edit | edit source]

There are many Maori schools throughout New Zealand, some from before 1879 when the Department of Education assumed control from the Native Department. Some early settled areas of New Zealand organized small schools and later bothMaori and early settlers’ children from Britain & other countries attended the local school in the area. These records are so reliable.

Here we can find that English names were given to many Maori children, because the teachers could not pronounce the children’s Maori names. These records can help families compile all names that the ancestors were known by, and helps to prevent duplication of temple work.

Many schools in the rural areas have been closed down and many buildings have been demolished. This means that school record books of enrolment are still held in family homes or local museums. To locate these records, try the follolwing:
Archives New Zealand, in Auckland, have many records available. Contact the Auckland Regional office.
• Enquire in the district among older people.
• The nearest Board of Education holds many of the original old books
• Some schools that are in our area of research may have old records – it is good to ask!
• Some books have been microfilmed, such as Okaihau Old School – Port Fitzroy (Great Barrier Island) and others. We can check at our local Family History Centre for a list of school records ofNew Zealand that have been microfilmed.

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints[edit | edit source]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may have kept records of many of our ancestors who became members of the church from when the Church first arrived in New Zealand. There will be records dating from as early as the 1860’s. We should check these record books, if our ancestor was in fact a member.

Some early record books were kept at-
RAGITOTO BRANCH - Auckland, Great Barrier Island, & surrounding districts.
TAKAHIWAI - Near Whangarei.
The first baptism recorded was for Hariata Hona Te Horo, born 1854 and baptised by Elder Hollingworth in May 1894.
TE HORO - Pipiwai & country areas - (Microfilmed)
MANGAKAHIA - Covers Kaikohe, Hokianga, Mangamuka and other areas in the North (Microfilmed)
GISBORNE - Covers the East Coast area
HASTINGS - Covers the Hawkes Bay area
NUHAKA - Covers Mahia Peninsular, Wairoa, Morere and other area (Microfilmed)
And many other places throughout New Zealand as the Church expanded.

Some of the early branch records have been microfilmed, and some of these books are still held by members in the areas. These records are an excellent resource for information. Please remember to check with older family members – they would know who in our family were early baptized members of the Church.

Parish Records[edit | edit source]

When Clergy from England began to arrive in New Zealand as early as around 1813-15 in the North of the North Island and soon after elsewhere throughout the country, the Maori people were committed to the advice and wisdom given by the men in the white shirt with the collar turned backward.

They were told that they needed to be baptised and married, so not understanding much of what the white man was saying, they agreed to do as they were taught. Children were christened in many areas of New Zealand. Marriages took place and burials as well.

Marriages according to Maori custom were legal because they were married by Tribal Law. In compiling our Whakapapa we still regard this law of marriage. But, because of the language barrier, we find in early Parish Records that our ancestors may have been married to the same person several times by different religions. This is an important resource because it gives the names of the people in the family, and gives a date and place in the record.

Some of the parish registers we can obtain are:
• CHURCH OF ENGLAND (Anglican) – 1813 onward – these records are held for North of New Zealand to south of Auckland, at the Auckland Diocesan Office.
• HAMILTON - TARANAKI areas – at Hamilton Diocesan Office.
• TOLAGO BAY – WAIUPU Parishes – some held at Tolaga Bay and other places on the East Coast. (Tolaga Bay records are Microfilmed)
• WAIMATE NORTH areas – Copies of Vol 1-7 of these records are at Kaikohe Public Library & other Libraries.
• ALL other places in New Zealand where the Clergy travelled.

Other Churches that hold early N.Z. Parish records are:
• Other churches later.

Most of the Offices of the different Churches in New Zealand will help by looking up records for us, but most will charge a fee to do this.

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Some early Maori census records of New Zealand have family information. Census records today are destroyed after a few years and do not hold information that could be used as a source for research. The early ones that are available are located in some Libraries. When we go to a library, we should always ask about them.

Civil Records[edit | edit source]

Registration of Birth, Deaths, and Marriages began in New Zealand in 1840 when the legislation went through parliament that all these events should be registered by clergy and the registrars in the country. In 1848, compulsory registration was really in force, but there are some registrations from 1840 available.

Maori Registration[edit | edit source]

Compulsory registration for Maori people in New Zealand did not come into being until 1911. Not many registrations happened among Maori people until 1914-1918.

About 1935, the family benefit came in. A lot of legal marriages took place and children were registered at birth from 1935-1961. These registrations are quite helpful for finding family history information. During this time (1911-1960’s) the registration gave the Tribe or Sub-tribe of the person and/or parents belonging to a tribe. This is a great help to our research.

Later in the 1960s, all records were combined into one filing system at the Registrar general’s Office in Wellington. Your local family history centres have the Registrar general’s indexes to all births, marriages & deaths - including Maori indexes and also War Records of Deaths on microfiche.

The cost in the year 2003 for a photocopy of any entry is $30.00 (New Zealand currency)

Public Libraries[edit | edit source]

In local libraries in the areas where our ancestors came from, we usually find that there are written histories of the City, Town, and District or Village that will give us good information and clues for further research. Most have a Guide to MAORI LAND COURT MINUTE BOOKS – A collection held at the Auckland University Library which holds information sources including computer database indexes.
The staff is very willing to help. Some of the local libraries where we reside also have Microfilms and Microfiche of many records that will help us find information about our ancestors.

SomeLibraries and a brief description of what they hold in their collections are:

Kaikohe Public Library[edit | edit source]

Has many books on early history of the North of New Zealand along with other books. Also has a copy of the WAIMATE NORTH early church records – Vol 1 – 7 in their collection. This is a research must for Maori researchers.

Whangarei Public Library[edit | edit source]

In the Northland Room, reference material for Maori research includes Maori resources at the National Archives, Auckland, New Zealand. Also includes books by Charles Royal.
Te Haurapa – researching tribal histories by Nigel Cooper
Ngati Mahanga – a family search for Maori families, and many other research books.
The Address is: - Forum North, Private Bag, 9023, Whangarei, New Zealand. Email: -
Web site:

Auckland City Library[edit | edit source]

This library has a New Zealand Room with an extensive holding of research reference material, which includes Microfilms and Microfiche. That will be of great benefit.
The Address is: P.O. Box 4138, Wellesley St, Auckland, New Zealand


Auckland War Memorial Museum Library[edit | edit source]

There is not a lot of material here for searching Maori Whakapapa, but what is in this library will be very helpful. Among their collection they have some Manuscripts by Walter Gudgeon. And by John R. Lee, who is well known for his writings on Whakapapa in the north of N.Z.

Web site:

The Waimate North Church Registers, 1815 – 1970 hold many names of Maori people who were Christened, Married and Buried by Church of England clergy.

• Jennifer Curnow, “Nga Pou Arahi” (1995)
This Book Contains details of all the Maori manuscripts held in the Museum Library and a number deal with Whakapapa.

• John R. Lee, “Hokianga” (1987) and “Bay of Islands” (1996)
These books contain information of Maori peoples of the North of New Zealand.

• John Steedman, “ He toto: Te ahu matua a nga Tupuna” (1996)
This book contains origins of the peoples of Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty.

The Aukland War Museum Library has a Maori Personal Name Index.
This is a card index of Maori names. Information has been taken from a large number of resources including Appendices of the Journal of the House of Representatives, TheDictionary of New Zealand Biographies, The New Zealand Gazette and many other books held in the library.
The Address is: Private Bag 92018, Auckland, New Zealand.

Hamilton City Library[edit | edit source]

This library holds many books relating toTaimui, the Confederation of the Waikato region. They are too numerous to mention heret,but some of the better-known writers among this extensive list are Thomas Buddle, Rua Cooper, William Hammond, Pei Jones, Leslie Kelly, Jack Lee, Isla Nottingham, (Hauraki and Coromandel areas). Joseph Pomare, (Maori Genealogies). Enid Tapsell, (Legends of Tainui & Arawa), to name a few.

This Library also holds information on the following Hapu: Ngai Tai, Ngati Awa, Ngati Haua, Nagti Kinohau, Ngati Mahanga, Ngati Mahuta, Ngati Maniapoto, and Ngati Toa Rangatira. The Address is:
P.O. Box 933, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Web site:

Wellington Libraries[edit | edit source]

Alexander Turnbull Library is a heritage library, housed within the National Library of New Zealand, and has the largest collection of Books in Maori (BIM); and both creates and supports the National Newspaper collection, the largest of its kind in New Zealand, housed within the National Library of New Zealand.

Books in Māori, 1815-1900 : an annotated bibliography / compiled in the Alexander Turnbull Library [by] Phil Parkinson & Penny Griffith = Ngā tānga reo Māori : ngā kohikohinga me ōna whakamārama / i hangā i Te Whare Pukapuka o Alexander Turnbull &

National Library of New Zealand The National Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library are both Legal Deposit Libraries for New Zealand. If only one copy of a book has been deposited under the auspices of the Act, then that copy will go to the Alexander Turnbull Library. The Alexander Turnbull Library does not loan out collection items, unless it is a surrogate, such as microfilmed newspapers and manuscripts. However, the National Library of New Zealand supports the interloan system and provides catalogue records to New Zealand Public Libraries, as well as online digitised collections in a range of formats at DigitalNZ One of the most popular and useful digitised collections published by the National Library is Paperspast initially just digitised historical New Zealand newspapers, it has grown to four separate collections - Newspapers - Magazines and Journals - Letters and Diaries - Parliamentary Papers. (1854-1950) & Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand 1868-1961 The Māori magazine Te Ao Hou (The New World) was published from 1952 to 1975. All 76 issues are available free online and are fully searchable.

Wellington City Libraries

Archives New Zealand Is not a library but rather collects records of Government departments and agencies that are considered to be of historical value.

Head Office, 10 Mulgrave St, P.O. Box, 12 050, Wellington New Zealand.

Web site:

Auckland Regional Office, 225 Mt. Wellington Highway, P.O. Box 91 220, Auckland, New Zealand

Christchurch Regional Office, 90 Peterborough St, P.O. Box 642, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dunedin Regional Office, 556 George St, P.O. Box 6183, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Christchurch City Libraries[edit | edit source]

Canterbury Public Library has an extensive list of various resources for Whakapapa research. Much too much to list it all, but there is a Booklet titled WHAKAPAPA - A guide to resources held in the New Zealand collection. Web site:
There is an extensive list of Microfiche that is available of Land Claims in various places throughout New Zealand, and other sources that will lead us into our research. To List some:
Index to Maori Names by H.J.Fletcher, 910.3 FLE
IWIDEX: Ngapuhi (1993), 016.993011.IWI
NGA MOTEATEA, by Apirana Ngata 899.4421 MOT
HE PUKAKI MAORI – A guide to Maori sources at National Archives. 993.01 NAT.

Family Histories[edit | edit source]

There are many Books available also written by better-known authors such as:
Nick Roskruge, Bruce Briggs, Nigel Cooper, Dradford Haami, and Joan Leaf; and large local libraries and the National Library hold large collections of family history and iwi history publications.

Te Puna Search can help with finding where books are held by New Zealand Libraries.

The Maori Land Court Minute books are among the holdings of the following places:
South Island
Chatham Island
Titi Island
– which covers the island around Stewart Island
Ikaroa – which covers the area from Blenheim across to the Kahurangi River on the West Coast, then North to Marlborough Sounds.

The Māori Land Court Minute Books Index holds references on the following: Taitokerau, Waikaoto-Maniapoto, Waiariki, Aotea, Tairawhiti, Takitimu, and Te Wai Pounamu. Auckland University Library has made this resource freely available, but many New Zealand Libraries provide access to Knowledge Basket's Taonga Collection which includes the index and other resources

There are also Microfilms, which include the following:Maori Voters’ Roll, 1908; Maori Newspapers such as Nga Hiringa I Te Whetu (1896); and Te Hou Maori (1895)
They also have Visual and Audio resources, Waiatas, etc.

Christchurch Polytechnic Library[edit | edit source]

This library also has an extensive list of Whakapapa research helps. There is too much to list in
this booklet, but libraries in Christchurch have a vast amount of resources to help us with Maori research in all areas of the North and South Island.

Hocken Library – Dunedin[edit | edit source]

The Hocken Library contains a vast collection on early settlers in New Zealand and includes an extensive list of resources for Maori research. Among the manuscripts in the collection: James Beattie, Sir Peter Buck, Sir Frederick Chapman, Walter Gudgeon, Thomas Hocken, Walter Mantell, Hauraki Paora – (Ngati Whatua), Piri Sciascia, Edward Shortland – (Journey’s of expeditions with Governor Grey in April 1842 and other expeditions), Tainui Canoe - (includes genealogies), Hana Wesley – (Maori Genealogies), John Brown Williams – (Journal 1842-44 Bay of Islands).

Making contact with this Library will always be a help to us with our research because it is a University Library and there are University libraries in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. The Address is:
P.O.Box 56, Dunedin,New Zealand.

All of our local Libraries will have some information to help us with Whakapapa research. Most Libraries in Australia will have access to Websites of libraries in New Zealand where we can find resources that will help us.

Resources available through the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

On the Internet, go to Choose the Library tab and then FamilySearch Catalog. Type in New Zealand. Print the items you are interested in.

Next, we can type in the name of the village or districtwhere our ancestors came from to see if any records were made on that level and print out the lists we get, then click on the record types that interest us.

To get a listing of all of the oral genealogical interviews taken by Irene Davies in the 1970s:
We should get the catalog description under the author New Zealand oral genealogy project. The microfilm number for the transcripts of these interviews is 990404. About 61 interviews are included, but a transcript was not made of all of the tapes.

We can also use a Film/fiche number search and look at the descriptions of other microfilms, all of which contain information about Maori records in New Zealand: 1031511, 1031512, 1031513, 7194117, 1675576 Item 2, 1675265 item 4, 1308916, 1308917, 1308918, 1308919, and 1014417.

The Cole Jensen Collection

William Cole and Elwin Jensen collected most of these records. They were collected over a 50 year period. Many were put into pedigree charts and family group sheets.The original collection was kept in 51 binders in the Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City until 1984, when the binders were microfilmed. They are found on microfilms 1358001 through 1358009. An index was made of these microfilmed records in 2003-5. Following is a list of the microfilms which contain New Zealand Maori information.

1358003: Hawaii and New Zealand Maori genealogies and Europeans of New Zealand from Binder 14;

The index to Binder 15; an index of a genealogy collection of Polynesians, mostly Maori from binder 14;  

An indexed genealogy collection; New Zealand and some Samoan genealogies from Binder 16.

1358004: Some New Zealand genealogies, along with genealogies from other islands. From Binder 23.

1358005: Nga Moteatea, Maori Pedigree Whakapapa, Misc. genealogical papers by Wm. Cole, Roberton articles - Maori, Ancient Maori Life by Wilson, from Binder 27.

Pedigree chart of of Meiha Te Keepa ancestry, and other New Zealand Maori of various lineages.  From Binder 28.  Binders 29 and 30 also contain some N.Z. Maori items.

1358006:  Book 2 of Nepia Pohuhu whakapapa;, book 3 of Moihi to Matorohangi whakapapa;, Book 4 of Moihi Te Matorohanga whakapapa, Item A: Manuscripts of New Zealand Genealogies, Item B "Ancient History of the Maori: by Tainui, New Zealand, Tribe by J. White. From binder 31.

Book 2 complete, Book 3 incomplete of 1865 Moihi Te Matorohanga genealogy collection;, various N.Z. genealogies, typewritten with no index, various other items, and a History of the Maori language (281 pages).  Beginning Volume 4 Nepiha Pohuhu;, Records of Rihari Te Hamatua written February 1901 (63 pages)..From Binder 32.

N.Z. Lineages (30 pages), Maori gamily group records (430 pages) , correspondence. From Binder 33.

Names, dates, and places in alphabetical order. 550 pedigree charts. Pedigree charts from other Pacific islands are also on this microfilm. From binder 35.
1358007: Family pedigree charts from Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tahiti, Japan, China, Tonga, and the Philippines. From Binder 36 and Binder 37. A few from Binder 38.

1358008: A few New Zealand family pedigree charts from Binder 38.

1358009:  Memoir No. 3;, Wakatane, N.Z. Historical Society "Tradition and History" by Roberton, genealogy charts, studies, comparisons of N.Z Maori tribes. From Binder 51.

See also New Zealand in FamilySearch Research Wiki.

New Zealand Research Tips[edit | edit source]

Civil Registrations.   Births, marriages and deaths.   New Zealand Birth Marriages and Deaths Online

Probate Records.   New Zealand Probate Records 1843-1998  FamilySearch