About the Civil Registration, Death Index, New Zealand, 1840-1972
General collection information
This collection contains an index of death records from New Zealand between 1840 and 1972. Per New Zealand law, death records are accessible to the public 50 years after the death occurred, or the birth certificate of the deceased is at least 80 years old.
Using this collection
Records in the collection may contain the following:
Please note that this collection does not contain specific death dates or places, however, it contains excellent clues to help your research. In addition to an approximate death date, each file lists a death registration number that correlates to a full death record. Full death records will contain more details.
Please note the place where the death was registered may differ from the place where the death occurred.
If your family is Māori, it's likely their records won't be found here unless they died after 1913. This is because Māori communities were not required to register deaths with the government before this period. Oral traditions are of great importance in Māori culture and history and many chose to follow tradition rather than government registration.
Collection in context
Although part of Aotearoa New Zealand was contained within the geographical zone claimed by the British when they colonised New South Wales in 1788, it was not of significant interest for several years. Sealers and whalers established camps along the shorelines, and communities of Māori and Europeans (often called Pākehā) developed in some coastal areas. In the 1830s, the British Colonial Office established their first official presence, and in 1841, New Zealand split from New South Wales and became a separate crown colony.
As a British colony, civil registration was widely based on the British civil registration system, which was introduced in 1837. New Zealand civil registration was introduced in 1848, when all births and deaths were required to be reported to the Registrar-General. However, the civil registration system was not standardised until 1856. Due to parish registers, some earlier deaths are also recorded.
Beginning in 1913 and continuing on until 1961, Māori deaths were recorded in a separate register. This institutionalized practice of keeping Māori and Pākehā registers separate continued until the 1960s.
New Zealand Government. "Search Historical Birth, Death, and Marriage Records." Last Modifiied July 7, 2021. https://www.govt.nz/browse/history-culture-and-heritage/search-historical-records/search-historical-birth-death-and-marriage-records/.
National Library. "Family History." Last Modified 2022. https://natlib.govt.nz/researchers/guides/family-history.
Archives New Zealand. "Life Events." Last Modified June 22, 2022. https://www.archives.govt.nz/research-guidance/research-guides/identity/life-events.