Whakapapa Discovery Guide

Whakapapa discovery guide

We have a number of resources to assist you in your journey to discover your whakapapa.  

Books you can borrow

  • 928 ROB  Layer upon layer : whakapapa Roberts, Jude
  • 929.1 JOY Whakapapa: an introduction to researching Māori and Pakeha families, their history, heritage, and culture Joyce, Brenda
  • 929.393 BRO Tracing family history in New Zealand Bromell, Anne

Books in our non-lending reference collection

The Māori reference collection includes family reunions, Waitangi tribunal reports, Raupatu document bank and Tauranga Māori Land Court minute books.

  • FH929.1 JOY Whakapapa: an introduction to Māori family history research Joyce, Brenda

Māori Land Court minute books (MLCMBI)

A useful resource if you are looking for information about Māori land, your whakapapa and hapū is the Māori Land Court minute books index. The index helps to let you know what minute book is needed for you to access the full text. The index covers all seven Māori Land Court districts - Taitokerau, Waikato-Maniapoto, Waiariki, Tāirawhiti, Tākitimu, Aotea and Te Waipounamu. The University of Auckland provides access to this index on its Website, and provides advice on how to search it under the About tab.  Nga Wahi Rangahau has bound photocopies of most of the Tauranga minute books, but does not have it on microfilm.  

The two closest locations that hold a full set of Māori Land Court minute books can be found at: Rotorua Māori Land Court and Waikato University.

Archives New Zealand

The records held at Archives New Zealand date back from as early as 1835 and include important documents such as the Declaration of Independence of the Northern Chiefs and the Treaty of Waitangi. They also include more general records which can contain a wealth of information concerning whakapapa.  
Archives New Zealand Personal Identity Guide

Māori voter and electoral rolls

Māori voter rolls for 1908 and Māori electoral rolls for 1919 are contained in this database. Those listed in the voter rolls are men and women of half or more Māori descent over 21 years of age. Because it was not compulsory for Māori to register before the 1908 election, this roll is a list of those who voted rather than those who registered as electors. In 1919 electoral rolls were compiled prior to the election to determine the names of all eligible individuals. Before 1919, the only Māori voter rolls to have survived are those of 1908 for the northern, western, and eastern districts.

Surnames were generally unknown until European settlement. If a European surname was taken it could be recorded either in the European spelling or in a transliterated Māori version (such as Dickson - Rikihana, Stephens - Tipene, Webster - Wepiha).
Search on Ancestry.com or visit the library for full access for free on our computers.

Adoption records

Access to adoption records is restricted.

Most records are held by the central registry of births, deaths and marriages. Researchers are advised to work through the adoption information and services unit of Child, Youth and Family.

Finding your birth family

Māori Land Court and adoption:

The Māori Land Court was empowered to make adoption orders and these may be recorded in the minute books. If a reference to an adoption is located in a Māori Land Court minute book, researchers will then need to contact the Māori Land Court district office, where the actual adoption records are held. Refer to Māori Land Court minute books (MLCMBI)

Māori Affairs Department and Adoption:

The archives of the Māori Affairs Department contain some records of Māori adoptions. Access to these records is restricted for privacy reasons. However, notifications of adoption were also published in the New Zealand Gazette from 1902 to 1956. Copies available for viewing in Nga Wahi Rangahau.

Birth, death and marriage records

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages has only been compulsory for Māori since 1911 (marriages) and 1913 (births and deaths). Before these dates, church registers may contain records of some Māori births, deaths and marriages.

After these dates, complete registers are held by the Department of Internal Affairs central registry of births, deaths and marriages.

Probate and other estate records

Māori Land Court and Māori Trustee records

If a will cannot be located using the general probate registers, it may be worth searching Māori Land Court and Māori Trustee records as the wills of Māori were sometimes probated through these departments. However, as with adoption records, although a reference to a probate may appear in the minute books, the actual probates are held by the Māori Land Court District Offices. The records of the Māori Trustee also include some probate and succession files, including a number of files which relate to deceased estates from the 1930s to the 1980s. [AAMK 869 11/-]. Access to these records is restricted for 40 years from the date of file closure, or for 100 years from the date of the person’s birth (whichever is longer). For access to restricted files contact Te Puni Kōkiri.

Native succession order registers

Native succession order registers 1911-1964 are another possible source of information. These are located in the archives of the Inland Revenue department and record payment of succession duties by successors or inheritors after a death. [AAEC 659/1-20]

Name indexes are located at the front of the volumes, and indexes have been created for the volumes (1920-1926) which do not have their own. [AAEC 658/1 & 2]

Pre-1920 registers are open. However, access to post-1921 registers is restricted under section 13 of the Inland Revenue Act 1974. Archives New Zealand personal identity guide

Census records

Archives New Zealand does not hold official census records, most of which have been destroyed. However, particularly in the nineteenth century, a number of government departments took censuses of parts of the Māori population. These records are located in the archives of the various departments. Census-type Records Guide

Court records

Archives New Zealand holds records from courts around the country, covering a variety of topics from civil and criminal cases to bankruptcy and divorce. Access to court records varies depending on the type of record.

Several groups of court records which may be useful in whakapapa research are: coroners’ Inquests, divorce records, probate and other estate records. For further information on how to access these records refer to Archives New Zealand personal identity guide.

Native/Māori school records

Education board records are held regionally at the four Archives New Zealand offices. Of particular interest to those researching whakapapa are the records of approximately 450 Native/Māori schools, which were transferred to Archives New Zealand in 1969. These records, dating from 1879 to 1964, are held by the Auckland regional office.

The Hawkes Bay education board archives, also held in Auckland, contain registers of admissions for Waiomatatini (Māori) school.  Access to all records which contain personal student information, such as records cards and examination results, is restricted until 70 years after the date of the last entry.

Other resources

A number of other Māori Affairs department records contain whakapapa for various iwi, hapū and whānau. These include:

  • South Island Genealogies. A volume of genealogies, indexed by name. [MA 23/27 (ACIH 16056)]
  • Māori Genealogies. A series of genealogies relating to East Coast iwi, Waikato iwi, Ngāti Uenuku, Ngāti Hinga, Ngāti Hineuru, Ngāti Hauiti, and Ohuake. Copies have been made of these records and are available to researchers in the Wellington reading room. [MA 23/28, 1-11 (ACIH 16056); Repros 1735-1743]
  • Genealogies of the Kahungunu Line. [MA 31/54 (ACIH 16064); AAFV 997/H26 & 27]
  • Schedule of Native Reserves in the South Island. As well as lists of reserves and allottees, this schedule includes as well as a number of whakapapa tables towards the back of the volume. [MA-MT 6/19 (AECW 18692)]
  • Notes on Genealogy and Ancient History Relating to the Awhaoko Block, c1888. A number of notes, written in Te Reo. [MA-Wang 7/3-5 (AEDK 18746)]
  • Whakapapa of Ngāti Mutunga. [ABWN 8879 W5280/183]

Useful Websites

The University of Auckland Māori Studies
Christchurch City Libraries Whakapapa Guide
Facebook Useful for filling in the gaps.
Family Search Provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.
The University of Auckland Whakapapa
National Library Iwi and Hapū Names List Derived from waka, iwi and hapū names.
Te Ao Hou Magazine published from 1952 to 1976 which has an obituary section and other articles.
Whakapapa Club Marae, directories, indexes and whānau relationships.


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