[Home] [Main Links] [World Wide Links] [Beginners]
[Australia] [New Zealand] [England ] [Ireland] [Scotland] [Wales]
Important dates in civil registration in N.Z.
1848 Registration of European births and deaths commenced
Ordinance for regulating Marriages in the Colony of NZ commenced
Civil registration began for the European population in New Zealand in 1848. Because of some initial confusion about how to put the legislation into practice, early registrations were by no means complete.
Marriages were not consistently recorded until the legislation was remodeled in 1855.
According to the 1848 Act quarterly returns of marriages were supposed to be sent to the Registrar General by all officiating ministers but apparently this was not always done.
The Act that came into force in 1855 said that details of marriages had to be sent in individually, as they are to this day.
The Registrar General does hold some records from before 1848. These are usually from parish registers, but do not cover all places or denominations.
Apart from the marriage records held by the Registrar General, records of marriages are not held by local registrars unless the marriages were actually performed in their offices.
Records of marriages performed at churches will probably be held at these churches although some early registers may have been deposited at diocesan offices.
It was the minister who was licensed to perform marriages, not the church, so when a minister moved from one appointment, to another, he sometimes took the register with him.
By provision of the 1848 Act, it was necessary to apply for a license to marry 21 days before the ceremony except when banns had been published, or a license issued by the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.
Before the Marriage Ordinance of 1847 there must have been some discussion amongst settlers as to how legal marriages performed in New Zealand were.
"For the quieting of ..doubts, Be it declared and enacted by the Governor of New Zealand, with the advice and consent of Legislative Council thereof, as follows:-
All marriages heretofore solennized, and all Marriages hereafter to be solemnized by any Minister of any Christian denomination, who had not, or shall not, have received Episcopal Ordination, are, and shall be, as good as valid to all intents and purpose, as if the said Minister solemnizing the same, had received such Ordination.
The NZ Society of Genealogists has been compiling a database of Pre 1855 marriages. In 1995 they had 351 entries for 1855 and 50% of them were not recorded in the Marriage Index and consequently it was decided to include marriages up to the 31st December 1855 in the database.
In a 1995 article it was stated that there were 7000 entries in the database at that time, and that they would be published on a microfiche.
1856 Registration of European births, deaths & marriages became compulsory
1867 First NZ legislation passed providing for divorce
In 1857 England's first divorce law was passed, but it did not extend the grounds for divorce beyond a husband's adultery or a wife's aggravated adultery. What did change was the procedure, for from 1858, divorce could be obtained from the courts.
The legislation was the model for the first divorce laws enacted throughout the British Empire, including New Zealand's Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act of 1867.
Until 1881 divorces could be granted only by the Supreme Court in Wellington.
The cost and inconvenience of the procedures, together with the social stigma, contributed to keeping the number of divorces low.
There was one divorce in 1868, and by 1872 the number was 25.
1876 Additional information required for birth and death registrations and some pre-1876
district registers moved to custody of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Timaru,
Dunedin or Invercargill District Offices.
For family historians this was an important Act, as it required more details about births and deaths to be included in the registers.
However for a period after 1876 there were difficulties obtaining the additional information. For example, if the Registry Office was some distance from where the event occurred, the informant registering the birth or death, may be a neighbor, rather than a relative, and they may not have been able to provide all the additional information required by the registrar.
From this time the date and place of marriage of the parents is included in the registers but this information is not included on a certified copy of the birth entry.
The Ordinance of 1848 provided for children born at sea to be registered in NZ.
The 1876 Act provided that … In every case of the arrival in the colony of a child under the age of eighteen months, at the time of arrival, born at sea or in any place out of the colony, whose parents… are about to take up abode in the colony ... shall at any time within six months next following the day of such child's arrival, shall on a solemn declaration … have the particulars of the child registered.
1880 Additional information required for marriage registrations
Remember that the information in the registers depends on the knowledge of the person giving it. In the case of a marriage the person giving the information may not conversant with his partners full parents names, and may not know the future mother in laws maiden name.
1881 Adoption Act
During the early years of European settlement informal adoptions were common, but the only information about these would come from the recollections of family members or family friends.
These informal adoptions were often arranged within the extended family.
Legal adoption meant the legal transfer of parental rights from one party to another and is recorded by a court.
Legally adoption did not exist in New Zealand until 1881 when the first Adoption Act was passed.
The first adoption in the Commonwealth took place in New Plymouth at the end of that year. It was the only adoption finalised in 1881
Only a child can be adopted.
The definition of a child for the purpose of adoption has varied:
1881 - 1895 - under 12 years;
1895 - 1939 - under 15 years;
1939 - 1970 - under 21 years;
1970 to today - under 20 years.
Access to the Registrar General's records has got more difficult as the years passed. From 1881 to 1915 access to the original birth entry was not restricted, and the entry remained the official source of information for issuing a birth certificate to an adoptee. During this period adoption records were held at the court where the adoption was approved; a nation register was not compiled.
In 1940 the pre -1916 adoption records were transferred the Registrar Generals Office.
From 1915 changes in the legislation provided for the registering of an adoptee's birth under their new adoptive name. The intention of the change was to protect the adoptee from the social stigma of being an ex-nuptial birth rather than to deny the adoptee information about their parentage.
In 1924 some restrictions were placed on obtaining certified copies of adoptee's original birth entries and access was further restricted in 1955. Since 1955, inspection of the original birth entry has not been permitted
1894 The Legitimation Act passed
This act made provision for the registration of the birth of any child born out of wedlock where the parents had subsequently married. In such cases the father of the child must register the birth and make a declaration that at the time of the birth there was no legal impediment to his marriage to the mother.
1907 Infant Life Protection Act passed
Before 1907 there were difficulties in enforcing the legal requirement to register European births.
In some instances where a child died before the birth was registered, the death was registered and not the birth.
This act required a doctor or midwife in attendance at the birth to notify the local registrar of the birth and a parent or his/her agent to complete the register entry.
1911 Registration of Maori marriages became compulsory
The registration of Maori marriages commenced in 1911.
Registration of Maori births and deaths was not compulsory until 1913, although some Maori entries will be found in the earlier registers.
The details included in Maori register entries are similar to those for European entries, but birth and death entries also include tribal affiliation and degree of Maori blood of each parent.
Maori and European marriage entries were amalgamated in 1955, and births and deaths in 1962.
1912 Additional information required for birth and death registrations
1913 Registration of Maori births and deaths became compulsory
Registration of stillbirths became compulsory
From 1st March 1913 it was compulsory to register stillborn births, but a death registration was not required.
1915 Births of adopted children re-registered under adoptive parents' names
1933 Marriage of people under sixteen years of age prohibited
1952 Registration of European and Maori marriages combined under one system
1953 Changes of name by deed poll registered with the Registrar General
From 1954 changes of name by deed poll in New Zealand have been registered at RGO.
A master list is maintained and the original birth entries are annotated accordingly. On the payment of an additional fee, the marriage entry can also be annotated with the name change.
Before 1854 changes of name by deed poll could be registered at any High Court (Supreme Court) but there is no national register of changes before this date. Applications for information should be made to the High Court where the name change application was lodged.
Providing the old name is known, the original birth entry can be inspected even after a change of name by deed poll has been affected.
The only access to the original name where only the new name is known is when the person being sought has married under the new name, and their original name will be found on the marriage entry.
1961 Registration of European and Maori births and deaths combine
1986 Adoption law reform - possibility of access to original birth entries.