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Simple Search

  • The Simple Search avoids the use of archives terminology and codes. The results are (as much as possible) written in plain English and the archives reference codes are replaced with the text they stand for.

  • There is an initial choice to search for ‘people’ or for ‘anything else’. The results will be the same for both, but you will get different advice & suggestions with each pathway.

  • The Simple Search initially runs a search for your keyword (or words) over the whole of the system.

  • The hits that are found can be at any level of description in the system. See more about the different levels below.

  • The simplest option is to view any records that have your keyword(s) in the title. This option is always at the top of the list.

  • However a better result may be achieved by choosing one of the other levels, such as series or agency, to explore. This is a less direct path but, by following the links, you may find other records that are relevant to your research and that didn’t contain your keyword(s). See more about searching in context below.

  • Once you have a list of records, by whatever pathway, Archway will give you the option to refine this by other criteria, e.g. by date range, or by the office of Archives New Zealand in which the records are held. See more about search criteria below.

  • The records also have an option to view more details about them. Click on the ‘more’ link to find out more about the record and how to go about ordering it from an Archives New Zealand office.


Advanced Search

  • The Advanced Search uses Archives New Zealand’s descriptive model as the starting point. See more about this model below. Using the diagram, click on one of the levels of description to begin your search.

  • If you choose to search directly at the records level you will be given a wide range of criteria to shape your search. See more about search criteria below.

  • Records returned by the Advanced Search are listed with the archives reference codes that identify where they came from and where they are now held.

  • The records also have an option to view more details about them. Click on the ‘more’ link to find out more about a record and how to go about ordering it at an Archives New Zealand office.

  • If you have a broad topic of research you may want to start with functions or jurisdictions. See more about searching in context below.

  • If you are interested in the records of a particular person or government department, choose agency. Alternatively, a search at the series and records levels can be narrowed down to a particular agency.

  • At each of these levels there is a range of criteria that you can apply directly to your search.

  • A search for Organisations, jurisdictions, functions, agencies or series will return a list of results. Each item in the list has links to other levels (including records). You can follow the links provided to broaden or narrow your search, or simply find out more about the item. Click on more detail… to find these links.

  • Choose the ‘Full Description’ to find out more about your chosen entity and everything it is linked to. The other options are ‘quick’ links to entities beneath it in the hierarchy.


Index Search

  • The Index is based on the functions or activities of government. The Index is still being developed but the data available so far will give you a flavour of how it will work.

  • It is particularly useful if you have a topic or subject in mind and don’t know who in government dealt with it.

  • The Index contains a wide range of synonyms and related terms, and these increase your chance of finding records on the topic you have in mind.

  • You can search the Index by entering a keyword or words, or browse all of the terms in the Index by clicking on the letters of the alphabet.

  • Any Index term that displays in gold letters can be selected as a starting point for your search.

  • You can then progress in a number of ways:

    Choose the Full Description to find out more about the function, its history and everything it is linked to.

    Choose the agency option to find out which agency (or agencies) principally carried out the function. From here you can follow the links down to the records that belonged to that agency.

    Or choose the jurisdiction option to widen your search in a broader sector of government activity.



There are six different levels (or types of description) in Archway. These deal with different aspects of the content or context of the records that are held by Archives New Zealand.

The individual descriptions or ‘entities’ are linked together by various relationships, as shown in the diagram below. You can use these relationship links in Archway to move between levels, e.g. to see what agencies have performed a function, and what records belonged to a specific agency.

There are also links within the levels, e.g. you can see which agency came immediately before or after the agency you are viewing, or you can find out if the agency controlled others.

organisation jurisdiction agency function series records

The organisation, jurisdiction, function and agency entities give you contextual information about how government has been structured and what it did. This will help you discover what records were created and where they can be found.

The series and records entities provide information about the content of the records and how they were organised and used. Click on the diagram above for more detailed definitions of each.

The model appears throughout Archway and will tell you what type of description you are looking at.



At various points in Archway you are given a choice of descriptive level to search on. For Advanced Search this decision is made at the beginning. For the Index and Simple searches your initial results will be broken down by level and this may give you multiple ways to proceed.

You can begin your search at any level. The simplest option is to view any results you have for records, but there can be advantages in starting at a higher level, such as agency, and using the links provided as a pathway to find what you want.

The relative merits of searching directly for records or searching in context are described below.

NB. Whichever level you start at, there will always be links that can take you to other levels or give you shortcuts to a group of records.

Searching directly for records

The records option is the most direct pathway to follow. You will immediately get a list of files, images, or documents, etc. that match your search criteria.

This search is very broad because it searches across all records in Archway. However you can end up with a large number of results, many of which may be off the topic. You can ensure you get a manageable result by using distinctive or uncommon keywords, or entering more than one search criteria where this option is provided (see search criteria below).

The limitation to searching at the record level is that any keyword search is based only on the title of the records. If your keyword is not in the title, the record (however relevant) will not be returned.

Searching in Context

An alternative approach is to search initially for a government agency, or function, or jurisdiction that is relevant to your topic of research. This can give you better results in the end and turn up records that may not readily be found by title.

Searching in context allows you to get an overview of an area or sector of government from which you can identify promising lines of enquiry, e.g. you might find a particular department that dealt with your topic of research and explore their records.

Navigating down through the levels of description gives you more ability to direct your search and ensure the most relevant records are reached in the end. You have the options to view the contextual information in its brief form, and use the quick links provided, or view the full description, which contains detailed scope and history information and a full range of links you can click to see related information.

The Index Search is a new option for searching in context. The terms in the Index will link you directly to the key agency (or agencies) that was responsible for your chosen topic.




You can search for records that have a particular word or words in their title.

Archway will look for matches to exact words unless you use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard in the ‘Keyword’ search line e.g. ship* would find:

shipyard etc.

If you enter more than one word you can also specify whether the words appear singly or in combination, adjacent or apart e.g.

Exact phrase (words together as entered)
e.g. ‘New Zealand Railways Department — general’

Any Words (any of the words)
e.g. ‘State Services Remuneration and Conditions of Service - Railways — Industrial Action’

or ‘Office Accommodation - Internal Affairs Department — Bowen State Building’

All words (all of the words, but not necessarily together)
e.g. ‘Provincial Secretary, Secretary For Public Works, Railways Office. Special Subject Files Vouchers - Immigration Department


You can narrow your results by excluding records that have a particular word or words in their title.

Archway will only exclude exact matches unless you use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard in the ‘Exclude’ search line e.g. ship* would exclude:

shipyard etc.

If you enter more than one word you can also use the ‘exact’ or ‘any words’ options.


You can search for records that relate to a period of time by entering a range of years or a single year.

NB. As many records in Archway are undated you have the option to include or exclude these from your results.


Records come in different formats, e.g. files, photographs, film, maps, paintings etc.

There are seven general formats that you can search for:

Moving Image
Sound Recording

Held At  

Archives New Zealand has offices in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington. Some government archives are also held in other repositories around the country.

Use the tick boxes if you want to limit your search to records that are held in a specific office (or offices). All offices are selected to begin with.


In the Advanced Search you can look for records that belong to a particular agency. If you know the identifying code for the agency enter this directly, otherwise search for the Agency you want by clicking on the find agency button.

NB. this criterion needs to be combined with another such as ‘Keyword’ or ‘Held at‘.

Simple Search

In the Simple Search you can narrow your initial search results by selecting only the records of a particular agency.

NB. This option is limited to the last agency (“department”) that controlled the records. This may not necessarily be the agency that originally created them as records can pass through a number of hands before they are archived.


In the Advanced Search you can look for records that belong to a particular series. If you know the identifying code for the series, enter this directly, otherwise search for the series you want by clicking on the find series button.

NB. This search will also look for groups of records that are not yet part of a series but are controlled as a single consignment or ‘accession’.


Use this field to search for all records that were transferred to Archives New Zealand in the same consignment (accession). You will need to know the accession number to run this search.

NB. The series criterion (above) is the main search for all current groupings of records (series and accessions).

Former Arch Ref  

Records are sometimes known by codes that belong to an earlier descriptive system e.g. the Record Group system. If you have an old archives reference you can enter it in this field.

NB. For the best results enter just the beginning of the reference (e.g. “MA” or “OP”) Archway will automatically extrapolate from this to find the most useful set of results available.

Record Number  

Records can be numbered by government agencies according to a classification scheme, in which case the numbers will represent a subject or function.

e.g. In the record number 3/2/1 an agency may have used the number 3 to represent ‘Human resources’ and the number 2 ‘recruitment’.

The Record Number search lets you retrieve records that start with the same classification and are thus on a similar topic.

NB. This criterion is best combined with a search for a single agency (see agency criterion above) or a single series (see series criterion above).



Film, photographs, maps & artwork

A search will return all types of records - audio visual as well as textual. To narrow your search to a particular type of record, use the Advanced Search and choose the records option. The criterion to apply is Format and the options available are:

  • Artwork
  • Map/Plan
  • Moving Image
  • Object
  • Photograph
  • Sound recording
  • Text

You can run a search on just the format (the only exception to this is text) but if you want a smaller results set, add other criteria such as keyword, date range, the name of the agency which created the records, or the office of Archives New Zealand which holds them.

Searching by format is also an option in Simple Search but you can only apply it after you have run your initial search and have a list of records. Clicking on the button will bring up a range of search criteria including format.


The Simple Search is best suited for finding information on people. Enter a name in the “Person’s Name” box and click GO. This will search across all levels of description for that name.

A summary of the results will be shown for the records and series levels. Any other hits will be grouped together under the heading “government of New Zealand”.

NB. Any record search in Archway will only be successful if your keyword appears in the title of the record. It is often the case that the people who are the subject of the record are not named in this way. Their names may be captured in indexes, which cannot yet be searched on-line.

Check the Suggestions at the bottom of the results page for advice on sources that a name search might overlook. This information is also repeated in the Family History Research page.


Record Numbers & Codes

Individual records are identified by a sequence of codes and numbers known as the Archives Reference. If you want to search all or part of the Archives Reference, use the Advanced Search and click on the “short cut to RECORD SEARCH BY REFERENCE CODES” link that appears at the bottom of the introduction page.

This can also be reached by choosing the ‘records’ option and opening the MORE SEARCH CRITERIA… link.

For more information about the different options see Search Criteria above.


A Subject

Try the Index Search. The terms in the Index are broadly similar to subjects.

For more information see Index Search above.



Sorting your results - use the chevrons in the column headings to sort a list by a particular column. Click the sort chevron twice to reverse sort (descending order). A bold chevron shows which column the list is currently sorted by.

Clearing your search criteria - in the Advanced Search you can click on the appropriate level in the diagram to clear your search, or choose ‘new search’ from the top of the screen.

Wildcard searching - Archway will look for exact matches unless you use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard, e.g. ship* would find:

shipyard etc.

Boolean searches - including ‘exact’, ‘all words’ and ‘any words’ are offered for most keyword searches.

Help - you will find a link to the help pages in the top right-hand corner of most screens.

Getting around - the options ‘back’, ‘new search’, and ‘home’, can be found at the top of the screen. Click on ‘back’ to go back through your search a step at a time. Archway will also keep track of your search path and you can use this list to return to key places in your search. The descriptive model also acts as a ‘new search’ option in Advanced Search. In other places it will show which level you are at.

Too many results - you can reduce the number of results by using distinctive or uncommon keywords in your search, adding additional keywords, or using more than one search criteria where this option is provided.

Too few results - including too many words can reduce the effectiveness of a search. If this is the case, try removing some words and running the search again. You may also improve your results by adding an asterisk (*) as a wildcard (see above), trying alternative spellings (especially for names), or changing the Boolean search to ‘all words’ or ‘any words’.

Notes - the note icon indicates that there is more information. Click on the note to read it.

Find - If you are looking for the occurrence of a word in a body of text use Ctrl F (a standard Microsoft Windows feature) and type in word you want to find. Note that this feature may not be supported by some web browsers.