Deaths–Civil Registration

    Deaths Civil Registration NZ – History

    Deaths 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.

    Deaths Civil Registration NZ – What is on the indexes ?

    The civil registration indexes in New Zealand give similar information to those for England & Wales. You can expect to find on the online deaths indexes the following

  • Year
  • Reference number
  • First name & Surname of deceased
  • Age at death, sometimes in the earlier entries this is not recorded and the letter NR are given (not recorded)

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.

Deaths Civil Registration NZ – What is on the printouts ?

Printouts, which aren’t legal documents, haveNZ Genealogy more information than certificates 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 death entry. Bear in mind that if the information was unknown or not given then there will be a gap in the printout.

Deaths 1847 – 1875

  • Local reference number
  • When and where died
  • Name of deceased, sex, age, rank or profession, cause of death
  • Signature, description & residence of informant
  • Date death registered
  • Signature of deputy registrar

Deaths 1875 – 1998

  • Local reference number
  • When and where died
  • Name of deceased, rank or profession or occupation, sex, age
  • Where deceased was born, how long in New Zealand,
  • Where deceased was married, age at marriage,to whom married
  • If deceased has children still living the number, age and sex of issue
  • Cause of death, duration of last illness
  • Medical attendant by whom certified and when he last saw the deceased
  • Name of father, rank or profession or occupation
  • Name of mother including maiden name
  • When and where buried
  • Name and Religion of Minister or name of witness of burial
  • Signature, description and residence of informant
  • If the entry is a correction of a former entry signature of witnesses
  • Signature of registrar, date of registration

Maori Deaths 1913 – 1961

  • Where and when died
  • Name of deceased, sex, age, residence, Tribe,
  • Name of husband or wife
  • Name of father, residence and Tribe
  • Name of mother, residence and Tribe
  • Degree of Māori blood
  • If deceased has children still living the number and sex of issue
  • Cause of death, duration of last illness, name of medical practitioner, date when medical practitioner last saw the deceased
  • When and where buried
  • Name and religion of minister
  • Name, residence, degree of relationship to the deceased and occupation of informant
  • Name and signature of registrar
  • Date of registration

War deaths 1918 and 1945 – Register of Deaths out of New Zealand of Members of Expeditionary Forces and Other

  • When and where died
  • Name of deceased, occupation, usual residence in NZ, sex, age
  • Where deceased was born, marital status
  • Name of father, rank or profession or occupation
  • Name of mother including maiden name
  • Military or other rank or rating
  • Place of burial
  • Cause of death
  • Proof of death
  • Name, description and residence of informant
  • Signature of registrar
  • Date of registration

Deaths 1998

  • When and where died
  • Name of deceased, sex, age at death, birth date, occupation
  • Where deceased was born, ethnic group
  • Whether deceased of Maori descent
  • Home address
  • Where deceased was married/civil union, age at marriage/civil union,to whom married/civil union, sex and age (if still living) of partner
  • If deceased has children, age and sex of issue
  • Cause of death, certifying doctor, date last seen
  • Date of burial or cremation
  • Name of father, occupation
  • Name of mother including maiden name, occupation
  • Signature, description and address of informant

Deaths Civil Registration NZ – Where can the indexes be found?

Civil Registration NZ HistoryThe 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, deaths have to have occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago.


Timeline of Changes to Civil Registration in NZ

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.

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.

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.


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.


Minimum Age of Marriage raised to 16 years. Prior to this it was 14 years for males & 12 years for females.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

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.

Bilingual birth certificates introduced. Addresses printed on back of certificates.


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.

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.