New Zealand Land and Property
History and Policies
To adequately search land records and access the appropriate records to find your ancestors, it is necessary to know the property description and the history of policies that governed land transfers in New Zealand.
The following record types were made as land changed ownership.
Old Land Claims. Because the Maori were the original land holders in New Zealand, the earliest land transactions were those between the Maori and early European settlers. Transactions made prior to 1840 were private and few records were kept. The New Zealand Company was the initial body to purchase land following settlement. With the Treaty of Waitangi, the Maori ceded sovereignty to the British and agreed to sell land only to the Crown from that point forward. In an effort to control recorded land purchases between the Maori and the New Zealand Company, as well as private individuals, the British government required each past purchaser of Maori lands to prove legal ownership. The resulting documents are known as The Old Land Claims, which are typically documents and letters submitted for proof of ownership of the land. These records are held at Archives New Zealand in Wellington and are indexed by claimant’s name.
Crown Grants. Crown grants recorded the initial transfer of land from the Crown to a landowner. These grants were purchased or given for military or other service. Initial Crown Grants are held in Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). Original grant papers as well as crown grant maps can be used to identify the property of your ancestor. Crown land could also be leased. Many lease records are held at Archives New Zealand. Original grant papers as well as crown grant maps can be used to identify the property of your ancestor.
After the initial grant, a deed was used to record a transfer of ownership. The Land Registration Ordinance Act of 1841 created deeds register offices throughout New Zealand. From this time on, land transactions were to be registered and deeds recorded.
Taranaki Crown Grants are indexed. These indexes can be purchased on fiche through the New Zealand Society of Genealogists. For their address see the "Societies" section in this outline.
Maori Land Court Records. In 1865 Native Land Courts, (Maori Land Courts) were set up under separate administration to determine ownership of Maori land. These records are of extreme importance genealogically, as they cite whakapapa (Maori genealogies). To learn more about whakapapa, see the "Native Races" section of this outline.
The Maori Land Court Minute Books cover 1865 to the 1970's. The original minute books are held at Archives New Zealand in Wellington. More recent minute books are held by seven district offices of the Maori Land Court. All have been microfilmed and are available in archives and libraries throughout New Zealand and Australia. They are also available at the Family History Library in the following:
Maori Land Court Minute Books, 1865-1961. Genealogical Society of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1964. (Family History Library book Reg 993.1 A6m; film 0599501, item 3.)
These records have recently been indexed and are available on disk from the University of Auckland Library. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for the address.
Torrens System of Title Registration. The Land Transfer Act of 1870 instituted the Torrens System of Title Registration which provided for a government-guaranteed title for all property. At that time, land registration districts were created. All land titles are held in individual districts, rather than in a central registry. Land titles include information helpful to the genealogist such as names of current and former owners, a description of the land and its disposition. To access this information, contact one of the district Land and Deeds Registry Offices. For an address, see:
Bromell, Anne. Tracing family history in New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Godwit Publishing Ltd., 1996. Pg. 180. (Family History Library book 993.1 D27ba.)
Records Available at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has several New Zealand land records. Most of them are not indexed and many are in "report" form, so are difficult to use. Because of the availability of better genealogical sources, such as church records and civil registration, land records are used in New Zealand research only when other records fail to identify an ancestor.
Records available at the Family History Library are found in the Family History Library Catalog, Place Search, under:
NEW ZEALAND - LAND AND PROPERTY
NEW ZEALAND - [TOWN] - LAND AND PROPERTY
Records Available in New Zealand
Most land records in New Zealand have been deposited at Archives New Zealand. They may also be found in the district Land and Deeds Registry Offices.
The offices of Land Information New Zealand hold registration records for land and property in each of twelve districts in New Zealand. These district offices are in Auckland, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, Hamilton, Hokitika, Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Wellington.
For an address, see:
Bromell, Anne. Tracing family history in New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: Godwit Publishing Ltd., 1996. Pg. 181. (Family History Library book 993.1 D27ba.)