New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists, 1855-1973 .

Record Description

These lists cover the period from 1855 to 1973.

The records are written or printed on pre-prepared forms, tabular format, in bound volumes. Most registers are legible; however, some are faded or have some bleed-through, and so are a bit difficult to read.

Many people immigrated to New Zealand to form colonies and settle for a better life. From the 1840s until the 1970s, Britain was the main source for immigrants, and all ships carrying passengers in or out of any British port were required by law to present their passenger lists to the relevant port authorities. Other immigrants came from Western Europe, Polynesia, and Asia. Prior to 1900 there were various classes of immigrants, with the largest groups being the assisted immigrants and paying passengers.

New Zealand became multi-cultured due to the number of immigrations coming from other countries. Beginning in 1871 the New Zealand Government began to offer assisted passages to selected immigrants and others nominated by relatives. The migration of the 1870s was the most significant in New Zealand history.

In 1874 thousands of assisted immigrants arrived in New Zealand, forming the greatest level of migration ever. Almost half of the new immigrants came with government assistance. Three-quarters of these sailed directly from the United Kingdom. Because of economic difficulties in the later 19th century, assistance was finally terminated.

In 1891 New Zealand received the last small group of assisted migrants. However, assisted migration was restored in 1904 when the country's economy returned to prosperity, making it once more an attractive country to new immigrants. During the early 20th century one-third of the immigrants came from Australia and two-thirds from the United Kingdom. 

At the port of embarkation, all passengers were listed in a book. At the port of destination this registry was verified and kept by the authorities of the destination country. These registers were later used for immigration and population statistics.

A form of identification was required to embark on the ship, so the records should be accurate. However, since they were generally handwritten by an officer, there may be some errors.

For a list of records by localities and dates currently published in this collection, select the Browse.

Record Content

Passenger lists may contain the following information:

  • Full name of each passenger
  • Adult or child
  • Male or female
  • Country of emigration
  • Place where ship landed when immigrated
  • Estimated age
  • Occupation
  • Total cost of passage and how paid
  • Name of ship and port of embarkation
  • Port of destination and date of arrival

How to Use the Records

To find ancestors on the passenger lists, it would be helpful if you knew the following information:

  • Name of ancestor
  • Approximate year of immigration
  • Port of arrival

Search the Collection

To search the indexed collection, fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at several records and compare the information about the individuals listed to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind the following:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

You can also browse the collection by image. To search the collection image by image select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page, then
⇒ Select the appropriate “Arrival port or destination",
⇒ Select the appropriate "Arrival Year", and
⇒ Select the appropriate "Ship's name" which will take you to the images.

Look at the images one by one, comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Settlers often resided in an area close to the port city where they landed in New Zealand.

Using the Information

When you have found the record you have been looking for, the following will help you in your research:

  • Use the age to calculate an approximate birth year. To calculate a birth year, use the arrival year and subtract the age on the record to bring up an approximate birth year.
  • If your ancestor was married, and the image lists the name of the spouse, search for a marriage record for the couple.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

The amount of information found in the registers depends on the type of immigrant—the assisted immigration registers are the most common and tend to have more information. Also, it is estimated that the majority of the British immigrants after arrival settled in the provinces of Auckland, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Westland.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Websites

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the "Show Citation" box: New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists, 1855-1973

When you copy information from a record, you should also 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 Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.

Citations for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

"New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists, 1855-1973." Index and Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing New Zealand Company. National Archives, Wellington.

Digital images of originals housed at various municipal archives throughout New Zealand.

Suggested citation format for a record in this collection.