Finding NZ Birth, Death & Marriage Records

GenealogyInterested in researching your family history?
From time to time we’ll be posting genealogy facts and advice here on the News Blog.  Our first entry is on Birth, Death and Marriage records (BDM), which are a good starting place when researching your family history.  Official registrations in NZ didn’t start until 1848 but there are some earlier records taken from church and place registers dating back to 1840.

Historic BDM Online
New Zealand historic BDMs are now accessible online through the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) website:, and the great thing about this site is that it is updated daily.

What is a historic BDM and what information is actually available online?
A BDM qualifies as being historic if it was a

  • birth that occurred at least 100 years ago, or a still birth that occurred at least 50 years ago
  • marriage (and eventually Civil Unions) that occurred at least 80 years ago
  • death that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago.

This is a searchable index only, and does not give full record information, nor are you able to see a copy of the original record online (records need to be purchased from DIA).
However some information is given:

  • births (year, parents’ names when available)
  • marriages (year, spouse name when available)
  • deaths (year, age or date of birth when available).

Records after these years can be still obtained, but the index is not online. For more information from DIA click here.

BDM on microfiche
These can be found on the 2nd floor of Central Library and are for “in-library” use only.
These are indexes divided into

  • births, deaths and marriages
  • then into years
  • then into names alphabetically.

Only limited information is given, generally the person’s name and a folio number.
A folio number can be checked against a district key and shows where that BDM was registered (great when you have multiple entries with same name and year).

What years can I search and what other limited information is on the index?
Some records go as far back as the 1840s and our BDM microfiche go up to 1990.
On the Births microfiche:

  • before 1956 – only the child’s name is given
  • 1956-1960 – place of birth is also listed
  • after 1960 –  name of  mother is also listed

On the Marriages microfiche:

  • before 1957 –  each year lists grooms alphabetically and seperately lists brides alphabetically
  • after 1957 – cross-referencing occurs, so looking up a groom will also give you the bride’s name, and vice versa

On the Deaths microfiche:

  • before 1957 – only the deceased’s name is given
  • after 1957  – age of the deceased is also listed
  • after 1984 – age is replaced with date of birth

What about Māori records?
Separate Māori and general registration systems were kept from 1911 until 1961 (some Māori are registered in the general system, so it pays to search both).
Find the Māori BDM Index microfiche and a searchable computer database on the 2nd floor at the Central Library.

I can’t find what I’m looking for!?!?
There can be a couple of reasons you can’t find what you’re looking for:

  1. Spelling – So try different variations (Smith, Smyth, Smithe….). For a female death try a maiden name on the website search.  For a marriage try the other partner’s name.  Even try reversing given and family names (John Smith or Smith John).
    On the 2nd floor at Central Library, we also have some Indexes on cdrom (put out by New Zealand Society of Genealogists) that have a “sounds-like” search, and some go further than 1990.
  2. Actual vs. registration date – Sometimes there may be a time delay between a BDM and the registration of the BDM, so try looking at surrounding years.
  3. Sometimes people bend the truth – maybe Granny got it muddled or just plain told a fib for any number of reasons, or Mr Smith neglected to tell anyone about his first marriage…
    Please come chat with us and we may have some creative ideas to help your search.

Our Genealogy Popular Topic page has more information on the resources we have to help you out in your family history researching.

1 thought on “Finding NZ Birth, Death & Marriage Records”

  1. Thanks guys! I didn’t realise about Māori records being in a different place so that was handy to find out.

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