Finding an Irish Ancestor Using New Zealand Records

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Notes on Immigration

In 1845 the Dublin University Magazine described New Zealand as 'the most recent, remotest, and least civilised of our colonies'. It was the most expensive to reach - over four times the cost of crossing the Atlantic to America. The majority of Irish emigrants went to North America; Australasia t ook no more than about one in 13. For the first half-century of European settlement in New Zealand the number of migrants from Ireland was small. Almost none came direct from the potato famine. Until 1852 they comprised less than 15% of immigrants from the United Kingdom.

The New Zealand Company offered assisted passages to organised settlements in New Zealand. However, the company did not consider illiterate Irish peasants to be 'desirable emigrants'. Under 2% of the company's settlers were born in Ireland, despite the fact that a few of the early New Zealand Company settlement leaders such as John Robert Godley in Canterbury and Edward Stafford in Nelson, were of Anglo-Irish background. This group were members of the Anglican elite who saw their situation weakened at home by Catholic emancipation and the emergence of Irish nationalism. Few of the Irish joined them. In 1848 the province of New Munster (Wellington and the South Island) had a mere 175 Irish inhabitants.

How to Use This Page

Search each of the Web sites and sources listed under the region(s) where your ancestor lived. Look for clues pointing to a place of origin in Ireland. Each index and source covers a different time period. It's important to understand what's covered instead of assuming that every Web site and source is complete for every year and every name. Some links lead to articles about immigration. Family Search, have digitised all the shipping into New Zealand, and is available on, Log onto, scroll down to the links at the left of the world mpa and click on Australia and New Zealand. Scroll down and click on New Zealand Passenger Arrivals. Don't fill in the search field, but scroll down and click on browse through 296,069 images. (don't panic, this can be refined). Choose the port of arrival (this means you can search for departures from New Zealand as well). Choose a year. Choose a ship. Search through the list page by page.  many ships listed the First Class passengers first alphabetically, then the Saloon. Others listed them chronilogically. Remember the assisted immigrants can be searched by name. It is important to only fill in the passenger names. Don't fill in any other field or you will get no reult.  This is because the search field was not specifically designed for our passenger lists.


Some websites can be useful in locating Irish immigrants to New Zealand are: