New Zealand Church Records

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The keeping of church records in New Zealand generally began when representatives of each religious organization arrived in the islands. Records of the English Church exist from 1814 while those for the Catholic church date from 1838, and the records of the Baptist church date from the 1850's. No one religion was ever predominant enough in New Zealand to be considered a "state church".  For more information about the various churches in New Zealand, see the "Church History" and "History" sections of this outline.

Civil authorities in New Zealand began registering vital statistics of European settlers in 1848, but registration did not become compulsory until eight years later. Registration of Maori marriages became compulsory in 1911 and births and deaths in 1913. Church records can contain information on many individuals who do not appear in the civil records.

Church records continued to be kept after the introduction of civil registration, but they generally contain less information than civil registration records, particularly after 1876. For birth, death, and marriage records after 1848, see the "Civil Registration" section of this outline.

Information Recorded in Church Registers

The information recorded in church or parish registers varies somewhat from religion to religion, and later records generally give more complete information than earlier ones. Most church registers provide the following information:


  • Birth and baptism dates
  • Place of baptism
  • Christian name of the child
  • Christian and surname of the father
  • Christian name of the mother (some include maiden surname)
  • Parents’ abode
  • Occupation of the father
  • Name of the officiating minister

Children were generally baptized within a few days of birth. If a child died soon after birth, death information was sometimes added as a note.


  • Date and place of marriage
  • Full names of the bride and groom
  • Parish of residence of the bride and groom
  • Marital status of the bride and groom prior to this marriage
  • Married by banns or license
  • In the case of a minor, whether with consent of parents
  • Name of the officiating minister
  • Signatures or marks of the bride and groom
  • Signatures or marks of witnesses

Marriage registers may also include other information about the bride and groom such as their ages, occupations, and names of parents. In cases of second and later marriages for a woman, they may include her former married names along with her maiden name.

Marriage registers sometimes include the published banns. These were announcements of intent to marry which were made for two or three Sundays prior to the marriage, and gave an opportunity for anyone to come forward who knew of any reason why the couple should not be married.


  • Dates of death and burial
  • Place of burial
  • Name of the deceased
  • Place of abode at time of death
  • Age of the deceased
  • Occupation of the deceased
  • Name of the officiating minister

Occasionally parents' names, cause of death, and even the date and place of birth are given for the deceased. Burials were recorded in the records of the church where the person was buried. The burial usually took place within a few days of death. Burial records exist for individuals for whom no birth or marriage record exists. In addition, stillbirths may have been recorded in a burial register when no baptism occurred.

Locating Church Records

The different religious denominations have central offices in New Zealand, but for the most part they are not repositories for the church registers. In most cases the church registers are still in the hands of the individual minister and/or officers of the church, and some are held in libraries. However, the denominational archive offices should be able to provide information on the existence and availability of records. You must know both your ancestor's religion and the town where he or she lived in order to obtain the records by correspondence. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for addresses of the archives. You may also be able to obtain addresses for current churches in New Zealand by referring to a church directory. See the "Church Directories" section of this outline.

When writing to New Zealand for information from church records, you should include the following:

  • Full name and the sex of the person sought
  • Names of the parents, if known
  • Approximate date and place of the event
  • Your relationship to the person
  • Your reason for the request (family history, medical, etc.)
  • A request for a quote for the cost of supplying information
  • A request for a photocopy of the complete original record if possible
  • A self-addressed envelope and two or more International Reply Coupons, which are available from your local post office

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has a few church records on microfilm for New Zealand. You can determine whether the library has records for the locality your ancestor came from by checking the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the town where the church was located. Keep in mind that the church may not have been located in the town where your ancestor lived. Look in the catalog under: