New Zealand Death Records

old new zealand map

If your ancestors lived in New Zealand, you can use historical government death records to help you create your family tree. These records include valuable information about New Zealand residents and their families.

Finding Death Records Online

In 2009, the New Zealand government created an Internet site for vital records, called Births, Marriages, and Deaths Online. You can use this site to search death records and request copies for your genealogy files. The site limits access to records that are more than 50 years old or records for New Zealand residents who were born more than 80 years ago. To search the official government death records, you'll need the name of your ancestor and the individual's approximate date of death. The online death record search is free. However, if you want a printed copy of the record, you'll need to pay a small fee.

Available Death Records

Researchers believe that the indigenous Maori population first settled in New Zealand in about 1300, which makes the country one of the last areas on the planet to be settled by people. Although Europeans first discovered New Zealand in 1649, they did not settle in the area until the early 1800s. Immigration increased throughout the 1800s. By 1848, New Zealand began keeping official government records of births and deaths.

After more than a century and a half of record keeping, the New Zealand government now has a database of over 2.4 million death records. The information contained in these records varies significantly depending on the age of the record.

Early Death Records

Although New Zealand began keeping death records in 1848, many of the early records are fairly basic. Pre-1875 death records typically include the following information:

  • Full name of the deceased person
  • Date and place of death
  • Gender, age, and occupation of the deceased
  • Cause of death
  • Basic information about the informant

Later Death Records

In 1875, New Zealand enacted the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, which had a dramatic effect on the keeping of vital records. Post-1875 New Zealand death records are a goldmine of information for modern-day genealogists. You can expect to find the following details in records after 1875:

  • Full name, age, gender, and occupation of the deceased person
  • Date and place of death
  • Cause of death, including the duration of the illness and name of attending medical official
  • Birthplace of the individual and the length of time the person lived in New Zealand
  • Full name of father and mother of deceased person and father's occupation
  • Name of deceased person's spouse, place of marriage, and age at marriage
  • Names, ages, and genders of deceased individual's children
  • Location and date of burial
  • Name of minister performing the burial service, as well as the minister's religion
  • Name, address, and describing details for the informant

Maori Death Records

Finding records for Maori ancestors may be a bit more challenging. The Maori did not keep formal records of deaths before 1913, nor did they consistently report deaths to the New Zealand government. However, if your Maori relative died after 1913, you may be able to gather the following information from the Maori Registers kept by the New Zealand government:

  • Name and last residence of the deceased individual
  • Tribe of the deceased person
  • Information about the deceased person's parents, including their names, tribe, residence, and percent of Maori ancestry
  • Informant's name, relationship to the individual, address, and occupation

New Zealand War Death Records

New Zealand also keeps information for individuals who died in World War I or World War II, even if their deaths occurred in other countries. If you have a New Zealand ancestor who fought and died in one of these wars, you can expect to find the following details on the death record:

  • Full name, age, gender, and occupation of the deceased person
  • Military rank of the individual
  • Deceased person's usual New Zealand address and place of birth
  • Whether the individual was married
  • Details of the death, including the date, location, and cause
  • Burial details
  • Full names of both parents and father's occupation
  • Informant's name and address

Helpful Research Tool

For descendants of early New Zealand residents, death records represent a wealth of useful information. Be sure to record the details of your search in your genealogy software files or family tree diagram so you can access it later in your research.

New Zealand Death Records