New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at


Collection Time Period

This collection covers the years 1878-1960.

Record Description

This collection contains digital images of probate records from the New Zealand Archives. The records were created by local courts throughout New Zealand regions. Images are being published as images become available.

The probate records are categorized in order by county, record type, date range, and volume. The earlier probate packets are arranged in three series arranged alphabetically by surname. The more recent records are filed by date.

Record Content

The key genealogical facts found in these probate records may include some or all of the following:

  • Name of testator
  • Death date
  • Occupation
  • Names of heirs
  • Guardians and executor
  • Relationships
  • Residences
  • Addresses of property owned
  • An inventory of the estate (including trade and household goods)
  • Names of witnesses

How to Use the Record

The earliest probate packets are arranged in 3 series arranged alphabetically by surname. The more recent records are filed by date.

An index is available on the Archives of New Zealand website, which will give the probate record number associated with a name. When you search for a name on the index, it will bring up a list of documents that mention that name. When you find the entry you are looking for, click on "Order Details" to find the probate record number. On FamilySearch find the range of record numbers that includes your record number. Be prepared to sort through the files as they are often out of numerical order at the beginning of the set.

Record History

Anyone of legal age and sound mind, who owned property (real or personal) in New Zealand, had the right to leave a will. The probate process began with a testator executing a will, followed by witnesses attesting and subscribing the will. After the death of a testator, the will was probated by the executor, usually at the court nearest the deceased’s place of residence.

Some wills were not probated in a court. If the estate was small and there were no disagreements among the heirs, it was not necessary to probate the will. Many such wills are found only in family papers or in the private files of the lawyer who drew up the document.

An individual who left a will is said to have died testate. Someone who did not leave a will (or a valid will) died intestate. The disposition of an intestate person’s estate is found in letters of administration.

A will disposing of property only in a foreign country could not be probated in New Zealand. In this instance, it is necessary to determine the deceased’s country of origin or the area where property was owned to access appropriate probate documents.

Primary records of genealogical value created in the probate process include wills (those disposing of land or real property), testaments (those disposing of personal property), letters of administration and probate register books. Often a will and testament are included together in one document. 

Whereas a will was the only record necessary for the transfer of property and belongs to family and close friends, disagreements often occurred. To solve such disagreements, all those involved instigated a probate. The records in this collection represent the eventual conclusions of those probate hearings.

While probate records are one of the most accurate sources of genealogical evidence, they must be used with some caution. For example, they may omit the names of deceased family members or those who have previously received an inheritance. The spouse mentioned in a will may not be the parent of the children mentioned, or relationships noted in the will may not have the same meaning as they do today.

Probate records are court records that describe the distribution of a person's estate after he or she dies.

Even though probate records were not created for every person who died, they are very helpful for research because civil authorities began recording probate actions earlier than they recorded birth and death records.

Related Websites

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Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citation for This Collection

The citation below refers to the original source of the data and images published on Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

New Zealand. New Zealand Society of Genealogists. New Zealand Probate Records. National Library of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Example of a Source Citation for a Record Found in This Collection

"New Zealand, Probate Records" digital images, FamilySearch ( accessed 21 March 2012), James Wilfred Marsden, Esq., 8 November 1920; citing Court Records; Probate files, 1925-1926, rec, 2215-2252, images 1-14; National Library of New Zealand, Aukland, New Zealand.


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