Births–Civil Registration

Births Civil Registration New Zealand – History

Birth NZ GenealogyCivil registration in New Zealand dates from 1848 when it was under the control of the Colonial Secretary’s Office. At first only births and deaths were recorded with marriages six years later in 1854. This applied to all New Zealand residents and was not compulsory until 1856. The separate registration of Maori marriages started in 1911 with separate birth and death registers starting in 1913. In 1961 the registration for both Maori and non Maori were combined. A timeline for changes in civil registration requirements is given at the end of this lesson.

You need to be very clear in your mind that the birth records described in this lesson are quite different from the baptisms or christenings that are recorded in parish registers. Births are recorded by a government department for a number of reasons and christenings/baptisms are events that occur after birth and are for religious reasons.

Births Civil Registration New Zealand – What is on the indexes ?

The civil registration indexes in New Zealand give more information that those for England & Wales. The earlier record may only give the child’s name, year of registration of the birth and reference number. It does seem to vary as I have seen entries for the 1859 that only give the child’s name and others for the same year that give the parents names as well. So bearing in mind these facts about the earlier years you can expect to find on the online birth indexes the following …

  • Year
  • Reference number
  • First name & Surname
  • Mothers first name/s
  • Fathers first name/s
  • Whether the entry refers to a stillbirth

There are two booklets that can be used in conjunction with these indexes to decipher the reference number thus giving the district in which the event took place. “District Keys to the NZ Registration Indexes 1848-1920” and “District Keys to the NZ Registration Indexes 1921-1955”. Both of these booklets are published by The New Zealand Society of Genealogists.


Births Civil Registration New Zealand – What is on the printouts ?

Printouts, which aren’t legal documents, have more information than clip_image00273certificates and are the preferred option for family history. However if you require a legal document for some reason then you will need to purchase a certificate. Printouts are cheaper than certificates. Printouts can be sent by email whilst certificates have to be sent by mail.

At various times different information has been required to be recorded in the birth, marriage and death registers. Below is a summary of what you can expect to find on a printout for a birth entry. Bear in mind that if the information was unknown or not given then there will be a gap in the printout.

Births prior 1875

    • Local registration number
    • When and Where Born
    • Names if any
    • Sex
    • Name and surname of father
    • Name and maiden surname of mother
    • Rank or profession of father
    • Signature, description and residence of informant
    • When registered
    • Signature of deputy registrar
    • Name if added after registration of birth

Births post 1875

    • When and where born
    • Name of child and whether present or not (child was with parent at time of registration)
    • Sex
    • Father’s full name, rank or profession, age, place of birth
    • Mother’s full name including maiden name, age, place of birth
    • When and where parents were married.
    • Informants name, description, address
    • If entry is a correction of a former entry
    • When registered, name of registrar
    • Name if added after birth

Births in the Māori Registers (1913 – 1961)

    • Entry number
    • When & where born
    • Name of child
    • Sex
    • Father’s full name, residence, tribe, description
    • Mother’s full name, residence, tribe, description
    • Informants name, residence, occupation, degree of relationship (if any) to child

Births post 1998

    • Name of child
    • Sex
    • Still-birth (if applicable)
    • Multiple birth (if applicable)
    • Where and when born
    • Citizenship by Birth (NZ) – Not applicable to births that occurred prior to 1 January 2006
    • Ethnic Groups
    • Maori Descent
    • Father’s full name, occupation, date and place of birth, home address,ethnic groups, Maori descent.
    • Mother’s full name including maiden name, occupation, date and place of birth, home address,ethnic groups, Maori descent.
    • Sex, date of birth, whether died or still born children of this relationship.
    • Date & place of parents marriage or type of relationship
    • Informants description, name and address
    • If any name changes date previous name last used, name changed from.

Births Civil Registration New Zealand .. Where can the indexes be found?

clip_image00253The historic civil registration indexes are available on the Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records website along with a facility to order copies of certificates and printouts. There are restricted time periods for these indexes births have to have occurred at least 100 years ago and stillbirths at least 50 years ago.


Timeline of Changes to Civil Registration in New Zealand

1848 Birth and Death Registrations Introduced (Colonial Secretary’s Office).
1854 Marriage Registration Act Introduced.
1854 Registry Office Marriages Introduced.
1876 Marriage details/age and birthplace of Parents recorded on birth registrations. Occupation, parental details, where born, when and where buried, marriage details, ages of children of deceased, length of time in NZ recorded on death registrations.
Oct 1880 Parental details recorded on Marriage registrations and the residence of each party to the marriage.
1911 Separate Registration of Māori Marriages introduced.
1912 Age of widow and degree of Māori blood recorded on Death registration. Official registration of stillborn births provided for, however some stillborn births were registered prior to this date.
1913 Separate Registration of Māori Births and Deaths introduced. Age and sex of live siblings recorded on Birth registration plus number and sex of deceased siblings.
1914 Recording of First World War deaths.
1915 Introduction to re-register the birth of any child “subject to an adoption order”. Original birth entry closed. New entry registered stating adoptive details.
1920 Dissolution endorsements recorded on marriage entries.
1924 Registration of births not registered within 2 years. No set time after 2 years to allow the Register-General the authority to register birth. Prior to the above there were other Acts allowing the Registrar-General to register a late birth, however there were specific times set e.g. within one year. Acts were called Extension or Amendment Act.
1930 Word “Illegitimate” to be omitted from birth registration. Registering Deaths of Naval forces. Amendment to the Coroners Act by permitting inquests to be held in cases where the body is irrecoverable and the deaths able to be registered.
1933 Minimum Age of Marriage raised to 16 years. Prior to this it was 14 years for males & 12 years for females.
1935 Births, Deaths & Marriages transferred from the Department of Internal Affairs to the Department of Justice. Change made to information registered on Māori Births and Deaths.
1943 Registration of children born overseas and adopted in New Zealand.
1944 Recording of Marriage relating to a Service person solemnised outside New Zealand. Cause of death could be amended if error disclosed by post mortem examination.
1945 Recording of Second World War plus any future Service personnel death e.g. Korean, Vietnam.
1952 Separate Māori marriage registration now combined into General Register.
1954 Deed poll Endorsements recorded on Birth Registrations. Prior to the above Deed Polls were lodged at the nearest Supreme Court to where the applicant lived. No provision to notate the relevant birth registration.
1955 Issue of Certificate of No Impediment to New Zealand citizen wishing to marry in a foreign country. Introduction of the Marriage Act 1955 which is still in force today.
1962 Separate Māori Birth and Death registrations combined into the General register. Adoptions made in the Māori land court ceased. All adoptions then processed by the Magistrates Court.
1972 Birth and Death registrations now in A4 loose leaf form (previously recorded in large registers).
1985 Adult Adoption act provided for requests of Pre Adoptive birth certificate by adoptee. Vetoes on disclosure able to be lodged by either adoptee or birth parents.
1990 NZ Post Office agencies withdrawn. Local authorised agencies established. Commemorative birth certificates available for the year marking 150 years of the Signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
1995 Births, Deaths and Marriages transferred from the Department of Justice to Department of Internal Affairs. Became known as the Central Registry. Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1995 came into force. The associated Registration Regulations included prescribed information and forms.
1998 Centralisation of registration processes.
1999 Computerisation / Imaging of Pre 1998 Birth, Death and Marriage registrations commenced.
2000 Commemorative millennium birth certificates available for children born in 2000. All birth and death agency work withdrawn from the courts and local authorisation agencies. All register books archived.
2001 Computer imaging of registrations completed.
2004 Bilingual birth certificates introduced. Addresses printed on back of certificates.
2005 Civil unions introduced. Status of children legislation allowing for ‘other parent’ to be included on a birth registration. Human Assisted Reproduction Technology legislation introduced allowing registration of donors & donor offspring through fertility clinics.
2006 Citizenship status determined for children born in New Zealand after 1/1/2006.
2008 Decorative birth certificates introduced and available for all births.
2009 Amendments leading to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Act came into force on 25 January 2009 changing access requirements. Allows for internet services to be introduced. Name change register was established to record name changes processed after this date for overseas born persons.