New Zealand Civil Registration

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Civil registration is the government administered registration of births, marriages and deaths. The records refer to critical events in a person's life. Civil registration records are an excellent source for information on names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths.

Civil registration records are crucial for research in New Zealand. They cover a large part of the population and the records are indexed from 1848. They are easily accessible and contain a rich amount of genealogical information.

For birth, marriage and death records prior to 1848, see the "Church Records" section of this outline.

General Historical Background

Civil authorities began registering births, marriages, and deaths of the European population in 1848. After this date, most individuals residing in New Zealand were recorded. From 1867, civil registration also included records of divorce. Compulsory registration of Maori marriages began in 1911. Registration of Maori births and deaths followed in 1913, though not all Maoris complied at that time.

Civil registration required individuals to register vital events, with the local district registrar and a copy was sent to the Registrar General’s Office. Not all events were properly registered because:

  • Registration was not compulsory until 1856.
  • Some district registrars occasionally held off sending in registration of an event for a brief time, and you may find the year of the registration later than the actual year of the event.

Information Recorded in Civil Registers

The information recorded in civil registration records varied over time. The later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones.

The most important civil records for genealogical research are photocopies of original entries from the registers of birth, marriage, and death. Certified copies (certificates) are legal documents which normally do not provide all the information given in the original entries, and are therefore not as valuable for genealogical research. Photocopies of original entries are also less expensive to obtain than certificates.

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
  • 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:

  • After 1876, birth records provide additional details, such as the birthplace and age of the parents. After 1880, the date and place of the parents’ marriage and their length of residence in New Zealand is provided.
  • 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.

Marriages. Marriage registers give:

  • Date and place of the marriage
  • Ages of the bride and groom
  • Marital condition (whether single, widowed or divorced)
  • Names of the bride and groom
  • Occupations
  • Signatures of the bride and groom (helpful in cases of a common surname)
  • Names of witnesses

After 1880, marriage records also give the full names of parents (including mothers’ maiden names), the occupations of the fathers, and the birthplace and the residence of the bride and groom. 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. CD 3282 New Zealand Marriage CD is available at Family History Library, SLC, from 1836-1956. 

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 Family History Library Catalog, look in the Place Search under:


The following records document the legal completion of a marriage.

  • Certified Copy (Certificate). This is a legal document, issued by the Registrar General, which normally does not provide all information given in the original registers of marriages.
  • Photocopies. A photocopy of the original entry from the marriage register gives all of the information that was provided when the marriage was registered and is the most desirable documentation for genealogy and family history.
  • Marriage registers. Church ministers recorded in register books, the marriages they performed. Marriages often occurred where the bride resided.

Deaths. Pre-1876 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)

Deaths. Post-1876death registers give:

  • 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 the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline.

Locating and Searching Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records are kept at two locations in New Zealand:

  • General Registrar’s (Central Registry) Office. Copies of the certificates of births, marriages and deaths were sent to this office from the local registration district offices. Indexes were produced from the returns of these certificates.
  • Local churches. You may visit the church where an event was recorded.

To obtain certificates, visit the Department of Internal Affairs Births, Marriages and Deaths Web site.

As of 2007, the mailing address for obtaining civil registration records is:

Births Deaths & Marriages

PO Box 10-526
Level 3, Boulcott House
47 Boulcott Street
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150
Fax: (+64 4) 382-3515 (for certificate and printout orders)
Fax: (+64 4) 382-3613 (for general enquiries)


Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages

PO Box 6147
Level 6, AA Building
99 Albert Street
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150
Fax: (+64 9) 362 7908


Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages
Private Bag 25-211
NZI House
Level 6
96 Hereford Street
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150
Fax: (+64 3) 366-9141

Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages
PO Box 76-222
Level 1
Corner Amersham Way and Osterley Way
Manukau City
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150
Fax: (+64 9) 262-2404

Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages
PO Box 10-526
Level 3, Boulcott House
47 Boulcott Street
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150
Fax: (+64 4) 474-8147

Contact Centre
Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)
Telephone: (+64 4) 474-8150

Births, marriages and deaths were registered in the registration district where they occurred. The name of the registration district may be different than the name of the place where the actual event occurred. In the large cities, there may be several civil registration districts. When searching in the indexes, you can determine the registration district 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.)

Indexes to Civil Registration Records

Births, marriages, and deaths were registered as they occurred and thus are arranged chronologically. Indexes can help you find your ancestor more easily. The Civil Registration records are indexed from 1848 to the present. In addition, there are indexes to marriages for 1840-1847, which were compiled from entries in church registers. Content of the indexes include the given name, surname, and a reference number. They are indexed annually (except the first three years after civil registration commenced). The Family History Library has copies of the indexes to 1920 on microfiche. Look in the Family History Library Catalog, Place Search, under: New Zealand, Civil Registration Indexes.  CD 3282 Marriages from 1836-1956 is available at the Family History Library Salt Lake City, and perhaps many Family History Centres, or Libraries may have this CD.


Online indexes to Civil Registration are available at  Certificates can be purchased online at this website.

The indexes are arranged by year and cover the entire country. To use the indexes, you must know the name, the approximate year when an event took place and at least generally, the place of the event. To protect the rights of privacy of living persons, most modern records have restrictions on their use and access.

Be sure to contact the Registrar General’s Office for current fees for obtaining civil registration records. Some of the certificates and services you can obtain through the office are:

  • A photocopy of a birth, marriage or death entry
  • A certified copy of birth, marriage or death
  • Personal inspection of an entry
  • A search of the index for one name for a specified year
  • Continuation of a search per each year

When writing to obtain a certificate be sure to send the following:

  • Check or money order (in $N.Z. if writing from outside of country).
  • International Reply Coupons, available from large post offices (or extra for postage)
  • 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.
  • Reason for the request (family history, family, etc.).
  • Request for a photocopy of the complete original record.

If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records that may have been filed in the district registration, or in the church registers (if you know the church in which the event took place).

A useful online index matching brides and grooms, to be used in conjunction with the Registrar General's Marriage Index, is Varcoe's New Zealand Marriages Indexfound at

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has only the indexes to the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths in New Zealand. The indexes are on microfiche. The years covered are 1840 to 1920 for births and marriages, and 1848 to 1920 for deaths. Some Family History Centers in New Zealand as well as public libraries have the indexes on fiche up to 1990.

At theFamily History Library there is a New Zealand  Marriage  CD number 3282, available on the British Floor B2.  Marriages from 1836-1956 have been entered, and you can match the spouse straight away, and also the Folio Number, should you require a Certificate.

To find the microfiche call numbers for the indexes, look in the Family History Library Catalog, Place Search under :


District Keys to New Zealand Registration Indexes 993 V22n

These indexes cannot be circulated to the Family History Centers. Perhaps listing a query on a Genealogy site, folk would be willing to find the Registration District for you.  One would have to quote the year,  Birth or Death - the name of the person, and the number beside the name, if you are unable to get to Salt Lake City. 

For other civil records, look in the Family History Library Catalog, Place Search under:




External Links