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Military records identify individuals who served in any branch of the military. Evidence that an ancestor served in the military may be found in family records, biographies, census, probate, civil registration, and church records.
New Zealanders have participated in several military campaigns throughout the last century, often as a part of the British military forces. Military records provide information about a soldier’s military career such as promotions, places served, pensions, medals awarded and conduct. In addition, these records may include information about his name, age, birthplace, residence, occupation, physical description, and sometimes names of family members.
Military History Summary
British and New Zealand military units have been involved in the following military actions.
1840-1870 New Zealand Land Wars - between the white settlers and the native Maori tribes.
1899-1902 Boer War in South Africa.
1914-1918 First World War.
1939-1945 Second World War.
For information about military campaigns which involved New Zealanders, or their ancestors who served in the British military, see:
Longley, H.G. The New Zealand Wars, 1845-1866. Published by H.G. Longley, 1967-1972. (FHL book Ref 993.1 M2L.)
Hughes, Hugh & Lyn. Discharged in New Zealand: Soldiers of the Imperial Foot Regiments. Auckland: New Zealand Society of Genealogists. 1988. (FHL book 993.1 M2h.)
Additional sources and histories are listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality Search, under:
NEW ZEALAND - MILITARY HISTORY
NEW ZEALAND - [ISLAND] - MILITARY HISTORY
Locating Military Records
New Zealand was a British colony where British soldiers served and sometimes remained following their military service. New Zealand-born soldiers also served in British regiments stationed in New Zealand. The military records contain information on all soldiers who served in the British military.
British military records are located at several record repositories in Great Britain. Boer War records are housed at:
The National Archives
(Formerly Public Record Office)
Surrey TW9 4DU
Telephone: 20 8876 3444
World War I and World War II records are housed at:
Army Records Centre
Ministry of Defence, CS (R)2b
Hayes, Middlesex UB3 1RF
Some British military records pertaining to New Zealanders are also found at National Archives in Wellington (see the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for the address).
Many of the WWI soldiers’ records were destroyed by fire during WWII. Those which survived are available on microfilm through the Family History Library, and are alphabetically arranged by surname. You will find them listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality Search, under:
GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY RECORDS - ARMY, 1914-1918
Other New Zealand and British Military records are included in the collection of the Family History Library. You will find them listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Locality Search, under one of the following:
GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY RECORDS
GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY RECORDS - INDEXES
NEW ZEALAND - MILITARY RECORDS
NEW ZEALAND - MILITARY RECORDS - INDEXES
Military Records Pertaining to New Zealanders
The following collections of military records contain information pertaining to New Zealand soldiers:
Expeditionary Force Records. These are sometimes known as nominal rolls and are mostly WWI records from 1914-1919. These records include the person’s name, regiment and name of next-of-kin. Some of these records may include biographical information including education, date and place of birth, war experiences, date and place of death or burial. Most are indexed. (FHL films 771449-771500.)
Reservist Records. These contain names, causes of rejection (usually medical) for further service, and ballot numbers of those who served in the army reserves from 1914-1919. (FHL film 771497; 781993-782000.)
Officers’ Returns. These are mostly pension records which contain the officer’ s name, regiment name or number, date of pension(s), name of station. (FHL film 1483386.)
Pension Registers. These give name, description, trade, place of birth, age, residence, marital status, if and where served abroad, which corps, date of admission as Chelsea pensioner, number or name of regiment of those who served in the New Zealand military from 1865 to 1891 (FHL film 1483394; and FHL films 1483386-1483392.)
Roll of Honor. This is an alphabetical list of men who died in World War I, 1914-1918. This list contains only names. (FHL film 768487.)
Nominal Rolls & Casualty Lists. These records pertain to the Boer War, 1899-1902 and World War I,1914-1918. They provide the name, rank, date of casualty, regiment name or number. (FHL films 447507 and 781990-781992.)
War Medal Register. These records give the name, address, rank, corps, dates of campaigns, medals awarded, and date of issue, 1840-1875. (FHL film 287483.)
Finding the Regiment Name or Number
In order to search military records, it is usually necessary to know the military regimental name or number. Sources and records which may provide the regimental name or number include family sources, church records, civil registration, and census records.
Knowing the town or region where your ancestor may have served at any given point during his military service can help you determine in which regiment(s) he served. The following published work may be helpful:
Kitzmiller, John M. In Search of the Forlorn Hope: A comprehensive guide to locating British regiments and their records. Manuscript Publishing Foundation. Salt Lake City, 1988. (FHL book Ref 942 M2kj, vols. 1-3.)
The following British military records are indexed or are arranged alphabetically and are useful for determining a regiment name or number:
Regimental registers. These contain birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial information for soldiers and their families, for 1761-1924. These are available at:
The Family Records Centre
1 Myddelton Street
London EC1R 1UW
The Family History Library has indexes to these records.
Chaplain’s Returns of baptisms, marriages, and burials at stations abroad, 1796-1880. These are also available at the Family Records Centre in London. The Family History Library also indexes to these records.
Beckett’s Index of Chelsea Pensioners, 1806-1838. This is available at the Family History Library. (FHL book 942 M2be.)
Widows’ Pensions - Compassionate & Misc. Papers, Reg., & Indexes. (W.O. 25, piece nos. 3108-3125) These pertain to records of pensions for widows, for 1748-1851. Available at the Public Record Office.
Militia Attestation Returns. (W.O. 96) These records provide a roll call for the whole military establishment for 1806-1915 and arranged alphabetically. Available at the Public Record Office.
Judge Advocate General’s Office: Courts Martial: Confirmed at Home & Abroad. (W.O. 93) These are indexes to W.O. 91 & 92; for 1650-1922. Available at the Public Record Office.
Soldiers’ Documents: 1760-1880. (W.O. 97) - includes Canadian and other foreign regiments, 1760-1882 (mostly alphabetical by regiment up to 1869); alphabetical for the whole army from 1869-1882. The Family History Library has piece nos. 1-1279 only. The Public Records Office has also piece nos. 2172-6354; arranged alphabetically for the whole army.
Medals & Awards: Meritorious Service Awards, 1846-1923. (W.O. 101, piece nos. 1-7) These are available at the Public Record Office and are indexed but are not comprehensive for the whole army.