New Zealand Civil Registration

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Civil Registration

Background

In 1848, when the European population of New Zealand was becoming substantial, civil registration was began. As a British colony, the format and system was broadly similar to the system of civil registration that had been established in England in 1837. At first it was voluntary and no marriages were recorded. In 1854 marriages were included and it became compulsory for Europeans in 1856. Changes in 1875 and 1880 increased the detail recorded in the registers, making them very rich sources for genealogists. Specific Maori registration was introduced in 1911 for marriages and 1913 for births and deaths, but suffered from non-universal coverage.

New Zealand, like Britain has a system where Indexes were created each quarter or year listing names only. These are easily accessible for free, but the original certificates must be ordered for a fee.

For birth, marriage and death records prior to 1848, see New Zealand Church Records.

Information Recorded in Civil Registers.

Births

Birth records generally give:

  • Child’s name
  • Child’s sex
  • Date and place of birth
  • Names of the parents-including the maiden surname of the mother. From 1875 their ages, birthplaces and marriage date were also included.
  • Father’s occupation
  • Parent’s signature
  • If a child’s name was changed after the registration of birth, then the altered name may be given.

Some points to keep in mind include the following:

  • Births were generally registered within a few days of the child’s birth by the father, a close relative, or a neighbor.
  • For Stillborns, see under "Deaths" in this section.
  • Late registrations of births were kept by the Registrar General for registrations occuring at least two years after the birth. The name appears in the index for the year the birth was registered.
  • In 1894, an act of Parliament allowed for the re-registration of the birth of any child born out of wedlock in cases when the parents married after the child’s birth.
  • In September 1986, it became law, that if you were adopted, you could send for your original birth certificate.  Please see the link further down the page, to order your original Birth Certificate.

Marriages

Marriage registers give:

  • Date and place of the marriage
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Ages of the bride and groom. From 1880 their birthplace was also recorded.
  • Marital condition (whether single, widowed or divorced)
  • Occupations
  • From 1880 onwards, residences of the bride and groom.
  • From 1880 onwards, the names of both parents of the bride and groom, including maiden names and the father's occupation.
  • Signatures of the bride and groom (helpful in cases of a common surname)
  • Names of witnesses

They often include other information about the bride and groom such as their residences, and the name of the person giving consent. In cases of second and later marriages, they may include the names of previous spouse and the death date.

If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a record of the marriage, search Records of Intent to Marry notices from 1856 to 1920. These are indexed from early to 1880. These notices provide a bit more information than that which is found in the certificates of marriage--including the name of the consenting adult for the minor and the length of residence. To find these in the FamilySearch Catalog, look in the Place Search under:

NEW ZEALAND - CIVIL REGISTRATION

Deaths

Civil registrations of deaths generally give:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Date and place of death
  • Place of residence
  • Cause of death
  • Sex of the deceased
  • Age of the deceased
  • Rank or occupation of the deceased
  • Name, description and residence of the informant (especially helpful in cases of young children who died under the age of 18 as the informant is usually a parent)

From 1876 the following additional information was recorded:

  • Birthplace of the deceased
  • When and where buried
  • Full names of parents--including the mother’s maiden surname
  • Father’s rank or occupation
  • To whom, where and at what age married
  • Age of surviving spouse
  • Sometimes religious denomination
  • Ages and gender of living children
  • Length of residence in New Zealand

Civil registrations of death often exist for individuals for whom there are no birth or marriage records. Deaths were usually registered within a few days of death and they were recorded at the office of the district registrar in the district where the death occurred.

In 1913, stillbirth registration began. The laws of New Zealand provided that when a child died within a few days of birth, it was recorded as a stillbirth. If the still birth was unregistered as a birth, it was to be registered as a death. Always be sure to search for it in the registrations of death.

Divorce Records

Civil officials began keeping divorce records in 1867. The Family History Library does not have New Zealand divorce records in their collection. You can obtain information from divorce records by contacting the Registrar General Office. The address is given later in this section.  Archives New Zealand also holds divorce records. See New Zealand Archives and Libraries.

Accessing New Zealand Civil Registration

See the FamilySearch tutorial "New Zealand Births, Deaths, and Marriages Online"

To access an original New Zealand civil registration record is a two step process:

  1. Find the record in the index
  2. Order the original certificate.

Indexes

The official indexes can be found on BMD Historical Records, run by the Department of Internal Affairs.

The index is also available on Ancestry ($) and FamilySearch:

Ancestry

New Zealand, Birth Index, 1840-1950

New Zealand, Marriage Index, 1840-1937

New Zealand, Death Index, 1848-1966

FamilySearch

When searching in the indexes, you can determine the registration district of an event by its corresponding code number. A helpful guide for determining a registration district via code numbers is:

Neill, Mary et. al. District Keys to the New Zealand Registration Indexes (Family History Library book 993.1 V2n Index v. 1-3.)

An event may be found under a date later than expected because it was registered later, was a child re-registered following the marriage of it's parents or the registrar had forwarded the record to the central authorities late.

Originals

The originals can only be ordered from the Department of Internal Affairs, on the same site where indexes can be searched. Any other site that offers this service will mark up the price.

There is an option between a Printout and a Certificate (either Standard or Decorative). The Printout is NZ$25, and is recommended for genealogists not only because it is cheaper but mainly because it is a photocopy of the original. The Certificates are NZ$33 and are designed for legal purposes. They contain a typed transcription of the record which may contain errors or omissions. This is not suitable for genealogical research.

Tutorials

See the FamilySearch tutorial "New Zealand Births, Deaths, and Marriages Online"