Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui



Genealogy is the art of tracing your family's bloodline, and is one of the few times you actually start at the end of something and work your way back in time.

If you're just getting started, the first thing to do is start talking. Talk to your parents, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, anyone who has a link to your family, no matter how remote. The tiniest piece of information could be your biggest lead in finding a long lost relative. Once you've started down this track, you will need some tools to help you piece it all together. This is where the library comes in. What follows will help you piece together the branches of your family tree.


Seriously folks, books are a wonderful source of information. Especially when you are just starting out. Most resources will be at the Central Library, although there will be a small amount of material at branches also. The majority of our genealogy books are shelved in one area (those that can be issued that is). They can be found on the 2nd floor of Central library and you need to look for the Dewey area starting at 929.1.

Here are some booklists to get you started, whether you're a beginner or a more seasoned researcher:

NZ Booklist:

  • Tracing family history in New Zealand, by Anne Bromell.
    A good book for those just starting out. Originally published in 1988, it has been revised and updated every few years. Have a look on the shelves at 929.3 BRO or follow the catalogue link above to reserve it.
  • Writing your family history : a New Zealand guide, by Joan Rosier-Jones.
    Another local guide helpful when preparing to go into print. Have a look on the shelves at 929.1 ROS or follow the catalogue link to reserve it.

General Booklist:

Syndetics book coverUnearthing family tree mysteries, by Ruth A. Symes.
This updated edition approaches genealogy research as a detective unravelling a mystery, plotting out the steps to answering questions in our own stories. Thanks to digital indexes empowering searchers, each year, more mysteries are solved. This book shows how a variety of sources including birth, marriage and death certificates, censuses, newspaper reports, passports, recipe books, trade directories, diaries and passenger lists were all used to uncover more, and how much can be detected by setting the characters from your family tree in their proper historical backgrounds. (Publishers summary)
Syndetics book coverMāori oral tradition : he kōrero nā te ao tawhito, by Jane McRae.
This book introduces readers to the distinctive oral style and language of the traditional compositions, acknowledges the skills of the composers of old and explores the meaning of their striking imagery and figurative language. And it shows how ngā kōrero tuku iho -“ the inherited words can be a deep well of knowledge about the way of life, wisdom and thinking of the Māori ancestors. (publisher summary)
Syndetics book coverHow to use Evernote for genealogy : a step-by-step guide to organize your research and boost your genealogy productivity, by Kerry Scott.
This comprehensive user guide explains how to organize all kinds of genealogy clues--from notes and e-mails to vital records and audio files so the information is easily searchable, accessible on any device, and automatically backed up in the cloud. Step-by-step instructions show you how to file research materials, analyze research clues, collaborate with cousins, and share your family history. In this book, you'll find Evernote tips and strategies specifically for genealogy researchers, with real-life examples, step-by-step instructions for managing different types of genealogy information, tricks for using Evernote to speed up research tasks, ideas for enhancing Evernote with external apps, worksheets to help you organize your notebooks and stacks. This will show you how this free tool can make you a better, more efficient genealogist. (Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book coverJourneys home : inspiring stories, plus tips and strategies to find your family history, by Andrew McCarthy, & the National Geographic travel team.
Contains 26 intriguing stories about authors' roots with tips and recommendations on how to begin your own explorations. Each story offers a personal take on seeking unknown relatives, meeting family members, or perhaps just visiting countries to get a feel for one's roots. Well-illustrated with social history links, images of family heirlooms, photos, recipes.
Syndetics book coverFamily history : digging deeper, by Simon Fowler.
As the sub-title suggests this may not be the first resource to try if you are an outright beginner. It assumes a little knowledge but is by no means for advanced searchers or experts. Includes interesting peripheral topics such as the abuse of geneology by the Nazis. A problem-solving section incldues experts tackling common difficulties to provide answers to the brick walls often reached when researching your ancestors.
Syndetics book coverReunion : a search for ancestors / [Ryan Littrell].
Where do I come from? That question sets Ryan Littrell on a fascinating journey that crosses centuries. An anonymous letter reveals the first clues about his family story, and soon those clues lead to country graveyards, long-lost cousins, and a shocking DNA discovery. And as one hint follows the next, he uncovers his place in a tragic struggle--a tale of heartbreak, betrayal, and unfailing strength. A real-life account, Reunion shows how our ancestors are still a part of us, and how our story began long before we were even born.
Syndetics book coverWriting a non-boring family history, by Hazel Edwards. (2011)
This is packed with heaps of practical advice written in the form of checklists of helpful questions for you to consider, across a range of topics. It may seem obvious that your target audience is likely to be 'family' but who are you aiming to buy it? Are there different generation or branch interests that need to be catered for? Some families are peeved if their favourite stories are not included while others are offended when what they consider private was published abroad. Anyone venturing across this tightrope would be served by reading this book before launching forth.

Whakapapa research

Two places to start for whakapapa research are:

Official Records Indexes

Births, deaths & marriages

These are held on the second floor of Central Library and are for "in-library" use only.

Each of the microfiche held is an index of names divided into years. Alongside each name you will find a number, this number relates to the registery record held at Levin House in Lower Hutt. Having this number (usually referred to as a 'folio number') makes things easier if you do wish to apply for a copy of the certificate.

Note: The indexes to many historical NZ births, deaths and marriages are now online through The Department of Internal Affairs website.

Births (1840-1990):

Up until 1956 just the name of the child is given in the indexes. Between 1956 and 1960, the place of birth is listed. From 1960 the name of the mother and the place of birth is listed.

Deaths (1848-1990):

Until 1957, just the name is given in the index. Between 1957 and 1960, the place of death is listed. In 1960 the age of the deceased was added. 1961 saw the addition of the quarter in which the person died. In 1984 the age (at death) is replaced with the date of the person's birth.

Marriages (1840-1990):

Until 1957 each year had a list of grooms in alphabetical order and a list of brides in alphabetical order. From 1957, cross-referencing occurs. Looking up a groom will also give you the bride's name, and vice versa.

Tips & tricks:

When requesting a certificate, ask for a photocopy of the registry record. Although they are the same fee, you might get extra information that has been added or might not be needed on the full certificate.

New South Wales:

We also hold copies of the New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages microfiche from 1866-1890.

Cemetery Records

A very morbid, but useful way of finding long lost relatives.

Online records can be incomplete, relying on volunteer support, but try the local Council website which will outline what is available (e.g. Wellington, or Dunedin). Another option is the Cemetery Transcription Library for NZ brought to you by Interment.net.

Our microfiche are divided into regions. Each region has an index of names with a reference number. This reference number relates to a transcript of the epitaph of each headstone in each cemetery within that region. Wide coverage, but not fully comprehensive. A transcript of the Bolton cemetery is available in print format in the Local History Cabinet; please ask at the desk for the Karori cemetery.

Why is this useful?

Headstone inscriptions not only give the name of the deceased, but will quite often give the name of a spouse, how many children the marriage produced, and if more than one person is buried in the same plot, they will be listed as well.

Wellington cemeteries:

New Zealand electoral rolls

You've discovered a name, on the Marriage or Death microfiche, but aren't quite sure if the person is who you're looking for. The electoral rolls can give you those few extra clues needed.

Electoral rolls will give you the town/city the person was residing in, their occupation, and because they are in alphabetical order, a quick scan can give you the name(s) of anyone at the same address. Very useful if you also have a spouse or child's name.

Electoral Rolls, 1853-1981 :

View in-library on Ancestry database. The Maori lists are also available there for 1908 and 1910. Otherwise :


Up to 1943 these are on microfiche, so please ask at the enquiries desk on the 2nd floor of the Central Library.

1946 onwards:

The library also holds electoral rolls from 1946-current in paper form. These are shelved on the South side of the 2nd floor in the Central Library.


The library holds The Dominion and The Evening Post on reel to reel microfilm.

We hold:

  • The Dominion, September 1907-2002; The Dominion Post, 2002 onwards
  • The Evening Post, February 1865-2002

You can use these to look up Birth, Marriage and Death notices, but there is no detailed personal name index - so you will need to know the date.

Why is this useful?

As with cemetery records, newspaper notices will, more often than not, include the names of spouses, children and grandchildren. If a complete list of names is not given, a number will usually be mentioned.

E.g. Joe Bloggs - died 18 Sept 1925. Beloved husband of Jane Bloggs, father of 10 children and Grandfather of 23.

This will give you some idea of how many people you are looking for.

Other Microfiche/CD-ROM indexes

The library has a wide range. Two recent examples are:

UK official records

1881 British census and national index England, Scotland, Wales, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and Royal Navy is available on CD-ROM at the Central Library, 2nd Floor. Please ask at the enquiries desk.

Note: The Library does not hold the St Catherine's Index. Please contact the National Library, in Molesworth Street if you need access to this.

Alexander Turnbull Library Indexes

Some of the indexes compiled by the Alexander Turnbull Library to their scrapbook collection are held at the Central Library, 2nd Floor, in microfiche.

New Zealand Post Office Directories

Commonly known as Wise's (Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directories). These were published between 1872 and 1961 and contain an alphabetical list of persons and business firms by name. Think of them as a combined Yellow Pages and Electoral Roll. They can be used to trace the movement and occupation of a person over an extended period of time.

Although an entire nuclear family may not be listed, you may find a sibling or other relative living in the same area.

Local Histories

Published to commerate the founding of a town or district, these can feature families of prominence in the area. Either the families played a role in the early settlement of the area: a member of the family held a position of power at some stage, eg. Mayor, Councillor, or Doctor; or the family ran a business of some importance in the area.

Local histories are usually written with the help of books, diaries, manuscripts, personal papers and letters, recollections of the locals and material found in archival repositories. Use the information found in the bibliographies, found at the end of any local history, as a springboard for further information.


Start going through those old photos at home, find out who's who in those family get togethers such as 21st birthdays and weddings. After you've exhausted the photos at home, start sourcing them from elsewhere. Some public libraries have photographic collections. If your luck holds out, they may have had them card indexed.

Wellington City Libraries has a large collection of historical photographs. Unfortunately, they aren't currently indexed - but browsing through these photos can be an enjoyable way of filling in a wet afternoon in town.

Alexander Turnbull Library also holds a large collection of images from New Zealand's history. Online access is offered through their TAPUHI catalogue:

TAPUHI provides access to descriptions of the unpublished Manuscripts and Pictures Collections of New Zealand and Pacific material in the Alexander Turnbull Library. To use the original material you need to visit the National Library in Wellington, New Zealand.

Description taken from the National Library website.

The Timeframes online database, also from the National Library, allows you to search through and see some of the images indexed in TAPUHI.

Local Historical Societies

Do not overlook your local Historical Society as a source of information in your hunt for long lost family members. Repositories of a wealth of information (pictorial, written and oral), they can be found in most areas. You may be lucky enough to have a district wide society as well as a town society.

Contact information for Historical Socities can usually be found at the local library. You may be lucky enough to find the historical society even has a website. One such society is Horowhenua Historical Society in Levin. The site allows you to search an ever expanding collection of scanned images.

School and church history booklets

Use these in a similar way to Local Histories. They are usually published to commemorate a school reunion or jubilee. Full of information about the school, its teachers, principals, students of prominence. You may be lucky enough to find one that has included a complete list of all students who ever attended the school over the years. Below is an example taken from the Horowhenua College 50th Jubilee book:

School history book example.

This example gives the name and years between which each person attended the school. Looking at a "family name" it might be possible to assertain the names from particular generations. It might also be possible to work out birth dates, which is a link back to the registry birth index.