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Reading the Maps

Thu, 09/06/2016 - 11:13am

Gracefield Estate

From recording place names to their aesthetic appeal, maps are a powerful record of our history and our encounters within Aotearoa New Zealand. However we can also glean mountains of family history from maps. Where did your ancestor live? What was the size and scope of their section? What was the town or landscape like at the time? And how do you find that treasured map in our collections?

In this talk Jared Davidson, Archives New Zealand, and Mark Bagnall, Alexander Turnbull Library, will highlight some of the best maps for family history held in the two institutions, and demonstrates practical search techniques to find them.

Date: Tuesday, 21 June, 2016
Time: 12:10 – 1:10pm
Cost: Free
Location: Tiakiwai Conference Centre, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington
Contact Details: Phone Joan McCracken on 04 474 3056 or email

No booking necessary.

Watch the National Library website for information about future talks and events

See Te Tiriti o Waitangi this Waitangi Day

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 7:15am

This Waitangi Day come in and view Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the day we commemorate its first signing in the Bay of Islands in 1840. See the original Treaty of Waitangi on display at Archives New Zealand and experience the presence of our nation’s founding document first-hand.

Staff will be providing tours of the Constitution Room and the Waitangi-themed display to help you learn more about its history. All nine sheets of the Treaty will be on display. They carry the signatures or marks of rangatira - Māori leaders -  from all around Aotearoa/New Zealand, collected by British officials, missionaries and traders during 1840.

The Treaty of Waitangi documents are recognised internationally by UNESCO as having universal significance to the Memory of the World. You can view the Treaty between 10am and 4pm on Waitangi Day the 6th February at 10 Mulgrave Street, Wellington – just a short distance from the Railway Station. Entry is free so visit Archives New Zealand and reflect on what the Treaty means for all New Zealanders.

The Register of Persons Naturalised in New Zealand before 1949

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 8:41am

This Register is now fully digitised and searchable on Archway Public. Naturalisation is the process by which a non-citizen becomes a citizen of a country. Most people in New Zealand were British citizens until 1948. Up to then Naturalisation gave British citizenship. After the beginning of New Zealand citizenship in 1949, Naturalisation gave New Zealand citizenship. Archives New Zealand holds Naturalisation records dating from the early 1840s onwards.

This register is a rich source of information for genealogical researchers and those interested in social history.  It is easily searchable as each page shows the first three letters of the top and bottom names.

For more information on Naturalisation records see our research guide.

Lost maps found in the archives

Fri, 24/07/2015 - 1:56pm

This article was first published in the Greymouth Star, the newspaper covering the Westland region.

Westlands Map 1

Westland explorer Charles Douglas was noted for his cynicism and wry sense of humour so it would be interesting to know what he would have said about his geological maps of Westland being exhibited as Wellington treasures.

The two huge maps have pride of place in the Archives New Zealand exhibition for the Wellington 150 celebrations even though they commemorate a corner of the world far removed from life in New Zealand’s capital city. This is the first time the maps have been exhibited publicly in over 100 years

Born to a wealthy Scottish family, Charles Douglas was too restless to settle down to life as a banker in Edinburgh. Sailing for Otago in 1862, where he worked briefly as a cadet on a farm, he was soon on the move again.

In Westland he found the place he had been looking for. Musing on his life in his ‘Soliloquy Letter’ of 1902, he wrote of the impulse that had driven him out into the world. An excerpt from the letter reads: “… but the desire to settle down must have been omitted. As here I am, after forty years, mostly crouched under a piece of calico or a sheet of bark a homeless almost friendless vagabond, with a past that has little to show – to the general public at least - of work done, and a dreary future. Still I have never regretted the life I have been leading and can see that even if I and hundreds of others fail in life and perhaps die miserably, the impulse which impells some people to search for knowledge in the unknown is for the benefit of the world and cheaply bought at any price … I have now been wandering about the uninhabited parts of New Zealand for over five & thirty years always finding something in nature new to me & the world. Whether I’ll ever give what I have found to the world, or leave it for someone to publish after I am dead, I neither know nor do I care.”

During a lifetime spent exploring the wilds of Westland, Charles Douglas became the stuff of local legend. He has left the region a wonderful legacy of diaries, reports and field books crammed with detailed information of local fauna and flora, exquisite paintings and acerbic commentary on life. His geological maps brought together all the data he had collected during his life as an explorer.

The story is best told by Charles Douglas in his own words, with his unique spelling preserved. In 1896, in a letter to his friend and fellow explorer Arthur Harper he wrote of the Hokitika to Okarito map:  “I have been six months in Hokitika making up my geological map of Westland. It was a ponderous undertaking for one man to draw out a map eighteen feet long & five broad. It took me two months to arrange my old tracings and collect field books &c before commencing. It is now finished, but it is sealed up either till I die or finish overhauling the numberless reefs and lodes I know of & which are marked down in the map. There is a prospecting boom on at present, and I am not quite so green as to show the public my discoveries, till I find out whether they are any good. So I am now as it were washing up as the diggers say. Whether I will be able to finish I am doubtfull, as I am braking up fast, and whatever happens I’ll come out of it a cripple … Then no doubt some fraud will get hold of my map & notes & get any credit that is to be got out of them.”

The first map (Hokitika to Okarito) was completed in 1896. Two years later Douglas was busy exploring in the glaciers region and the Whataroa, Totara and Waitangi valleys.  He spent the winters in Hokitika working on his second geological map (Okarito to Big Bay) which he finished in 1906.

In all Douglas spent almost 40 years exploring the valleys of Westland from the mountains to the sea, enduring incredibly tough conditions. While his employers wanted him to find exploitable minerals and passes through the mountains, his own interests were much wider ranging. His interest in wildlife and conservation is apparent in his writing as is his interest in the diverse people of Westland.

Mildred Mueller, the daughter of his friend, surveyor Gerhard Mueller, said this of his work on the Okarito to Big Bay map: “(it) must be Douglas’s Swan Song. It could only have been done by someone who had all the time in the world, and few duties; which was Douglas’ condition for some time as he gradually became less & less able to do anything. It is beautiful – beautiful in colour and workmanship – detailed to the last degree. One can imagine that poor lonely-hearted man putting his soul into it – each detail of each valley, each river curve, mountain mass and mineral contents being put in with the remembrance of the thrills and intense interest the discovery & exploration of things gave him. In doing it, he must have escaped from the office, in spirit, and re-travelled hundreds of miles, hearing and seeing again (as aging people do, who work upon their past) all the loveliness, all the surprises, as well as the hardships that were theirs.”

Westlands Map 2

Both maps were displayed by the Mines Department in the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906-07. After this they disappeared from view and given Douglas’s cynical views on bureaucracy, this seems particularly ironic.  They somehow made their way to the Lands and Survey Department in Wellington from whence they were transferred to Archives New Zealand in 1976. Labelled  just as “Two Maps” they resided in obscurity for the next 40 years.  After a request by a researcher, a Wellington archivist spent several days digging through records of transfers from Lands and Survey and they were eventually found.

Obviously it was Douglas’s own intention that the maps should be kept from public view for a while, but he would surely have been amused that bureaucratic error and indifference kept them hidden for over a century.

The Douglas maps are easy to find now. They are listed on Archives New Zealand’s online finding aid . And with the best technology the twenty first century has to offer, Archives New Zealand also has available high resolution digital facsimiles. There’s nothing like the originals though and these maps are truly treasures.

Capturing Conflict

Mon, 13/04/2015 - 8:39am

Gerald Maurice Burn, HMS "New Zealand", 1915

The display “Capturing Conflict” will be run in parallel with the WW1 in Watercolours at Splash Watercolour exhibition held at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul opening April 18th and running until May 3rd.

Archives New Zealand will be supporting the WW1 in Watercolours at Splash Watercolour exhibition with the Capturing Conflict Display. The display will include scanned images from a number of our war art watercolours.

The display at Archives New Zealand will open on Monday 13th April and run until mid-July 2015.

The Author Jenny Haworth will be speaking in the Display area outside the Constitution Room on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th from 1pm to 2pm on the war art artists and their works that are held at Archives New Zealand.

The display at Archives New Zealand will include the following paintings,

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 456

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 494

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 415

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 532

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 539

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q407

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q408

Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q202

Tweets from Gallipoli

Thu, 02/04/2015 - 3:02pm

NZ & AUS Division Unit Diary, WA10 Box 8/ 76

As part of the official New Zealand WW100 programme, Archives New Zealand is involved in a Twitter project called Life 100 Years Ago. The project brings to life quotes from diaries, letters, and newspapers which are shared in ‘real time’ exactly 100 years on from the actual events – reliving history from the perspective of New Zealanders who were experiencing it at the time.

From 9 April, Archives New Zealand will be adding its own unique voice to the project by sharing excerpts from the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign.

A divisional diary of the campaign was created from 9 April – 31 August 1915, with entries made from the official Unit diary of the NZ & AUS Division, as well as the reports of Major General Alexander Godley (Commander of the Division), Major General William Braithwaite (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) and Lieutenant General William Birdwood (Commander of the ANZAC Corps).

Written from the perspective of these officers, the diary complements the personal accounts of soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli, and contains artillery reports, official orders, statistics of casualties, and other campaign information

The tweets allow us to experience some of what happened 100 years ago at Gallipoli. ‘At dawn… the roar of guns at the entrance to the Dardanelles was deafening’ recalled the first entry for 25 April. By the end of the day, the diary noted major casualties, including ‘Lt Col Plugge, commanding Auckland Battalion,’ who was  ‘wounded by a bullet which lodged in his wrist… Fighting had been continuous… our troops, considerably outnumbered, had difficulty holding on.’

Follow the tweets at, or check out the diary itself, which has been digitised and is available at

Recordkeeping Review Terms of Reference

Mon, 22/12/2014 - 3:34pm

The Chief Archivist has decided to review recordkeeping practices of the Prime Minister in regard to text messages which may/may not be considered public records between the period November 2008 and November 2014 in relation to a request about a possible breach of the Public Records Act 2005 (the Act).

The Recordkeeping Review terms of reference are as follows:

1. Background

Based on statements relating to the deletion of text messages made by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 27 November 2014, James Shaw MP requested an investigation regarding what he considers to be a potential breach of the Public Records Act 2005. The request was to cover the period that the Prime Minister has been in office, and whether there has been any change in his practices over time.  Mr Shaw has also asked for the Chief Archivist to provide direction and guidelines on the deletion or retention of text messages.

2. Review

The review will examine:

  • Any recordkeeping policies and procedures for managing text messages, supplied by relevant public offices during the period concerned;
  • Whether the requirements of the Act have been met;
  • The application of existing authorised disposal schedules;
  • The adequacy of advice or guidance provided to the Prime Minister; and
  • Any other matters the Chief Archivist considers appropriate to review.

The use of private mobile phones and devices and personal text messages on ministerial phones and devices are explicitly excluded from the scope of this review.

3. Mandate

Under s31(a) of the Act, the Chief Archivist may give notice in writing directing the administrative head of a public office to report on any specified aspect of its recordkeeping practice.

4. Contact for enquiries

The Chief Archivist will not comment while the review is underway, but will publish a final report when the review is complete.

Appointment: Chief Archivist and General Manager of Archives New Zealand

Mon, 10/02/2014 - 2:56pm

The new Chief Archivist and General Manager of Archives New Zealand is to be Marilyn Little. The appointment follows the resignation of the previous Chief Archivist, Greg Goulding.

Marilyn Little is currently the Internal Affairs General Manager Policy. She previously worked for the Office of the Auditor-General and the Department of Labour in senior roles. The appointment, for one year,  was announced today by Internal Affairs Deputy Chief Executive (Information and Knowledge Services) Sue Powell.

"I recommended the appointment to the Chief Executive based on an assessment of Archives New Zealand's immediate needs and the availability of strong managers within the wider department. This is one of the strengths of the placement of Archives New Zealand within a larger organisation: transitions in management can be much smoother because of the wide pool of talent.

"Marilyn has been a leader in the development of Strategic Information Management policy across the department, and is also a strong people manager. She has built a team of more than ninety people into one of the most effective policy teams in government. In Archives we are moving on to the implementation of the review of government record-keeping standards which will mean a new way of working for central government agencies, local government, and tertiary institutions. Marilyn's background and skills, combined with Archives existing in-depth technical expertise expertise, will be a powerful combination".

Marilyn Little takes up her appointment on 17 February. Her priorities will be to meet staff and stakeholders, implement the outcomes of the record-keeping review and ensure initiatives for better management of, and access to, archives are progressed effectively.


Media Contact:  Sandra Bennett

Communications Account Manager, Information and Knowledge Services

The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua

Phone 64 4 495 6024 mobile 64 027 839 1606


Recordkeeping Standards review

Mon, 14/01/2013 - 11:12am

Archives New Zealand is reviewing the four mandatory Recordkeeping Standards issued by the Chief Archivist under the Public Records Act 2005. Learn more about the review on the current Standards.