New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: New Zealand, Probate Records, 1878-1960 .

Record Description

This collection contains digital images of probate records from the New Zealand Archives. The records were created by local courts throughout New Zealand regions. Images are being published as images become available.

The probate records are categorized in order by county, record type, date range, and volume. The earlier probate packets are arranged in three series arranged alphabetically by surname. The more recent records are filed by date.

Anyone of legal age and sound mind, who owned property (real or personal) in New Zealand, had the right to leave a will. The probate process began with a testator executing a will, followed by witnesses attesting and subscribing the will. After the death of a testator, the will was probated by the executor, usually at the court nearest the deceased’s place of residence. 

Some wills were not probated in a court. If the estate was small and there were no disagreements among the heirs, it was not necessary to probate the will. Many such wills are found only in family papers or in the private files of the lawyer who drew up the document. 

An individual who left a will is said to have died testate. Someone who did not leave a will (or a valid will) died intestate. The disposition of an intestate person’s estate is found in letters of administration. 

A will disposing of property only in a foreign country could not be probated in New Zealand. In this instance, it is necessary to determine the deceased’s country of origin or the area where property was owned to access appropriate probate documents. 

Primary records of genealogical value created in the probate process include wills (those disposing of land or real property), testaments (those disposing of personal property), letters of administration and probate register books. Often a will and testament are included together in one document.  

Whereas a will was the only record necessary for the transfer of property and belongs to family and close friends, disagreements often occurred. To solve such disagreements, all those involved instigated a probate. The records in this collection represent the eventual conclusions of those probate hearings. 

While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they must be used with some caution. For example, they may omit the names of deceased family members or those who have previously received an inheritance. The spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned, or relationships noted in the will may not have the same meaning as they do today. 

Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person's estate after he or she dies. 

Even though probate records were not created for every person who died, they are very helpful for research because civil authorities began recording probate actions earlier than they recorded birth and death records. 

For a list of records by localities and dates currently published in this collection, select the Browse.

This collection covers the years 1878-1960. 

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information for collections published in Source citations include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

Supreme Court. New Zealand, Probate Records. National Archives, Wellington, New Zealand.

Digital images of originals housed at various municipal archives throughout New Zealand.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.

Record Content

Key genealogical facts found in this collection may include:

  • Name of testator
  • Death date
  • Occupation
  • Names of heirs
  • Guardians and executor
  • Relationships
  • Residences
  • Addresses of property owned
  • An inventory of the estate (including trade and household goods)
  • Names of witnesses

How to Use the Record

Beginning Your Search

To begin your search, it would be helpful if you knew the following information.

  • Name of ancestor
  • Ancestors last residence
  • Year of death

Searching the Images

To search the collection you will need to follow this series of links:
⇒Select the "Browse" link in the initial search page
⇒Select the "Probate Court" category
⇒Select the "Record Type, Date Range and Volume" category which takes you to the images

Look at each image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine which one is your ancestor. You may need to compare the information about more than one person to make this determination.

Other Information About Using This Collection

The earliest probate packets are arranged in 3 series arranged alphabetically by surname. The more recent records are filed by date.

An index is available on the Archives of New Zealand website, which will give the probate record number associated with a name. When you search for a name on the index, it will bring up a list of documents that mention that name. When you find the entry you are looking for, click on "Order Details" to find the probate record number. On FamilySearch find the range of record numbers that includes your record number. Be prepared to sort through the files as they are often out of numerical order at the beginning of the set.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for a Record Found in This Collection

"New Zealand, Probate Records" images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 August 2012),> Blenheim Supreme Courty > Probates 1955-1956 rec 3485, 3447, 3426-3504 > Image 506 of 854; Joseph Harvey Michelle, 8 November 1955; citing Court Records; Probate files, 1925-1926, rec, 2215-2252, images 1-14; National Library of New Zealand, Aukland, New Zealand.