I want to research my family history. Where do I start?
The National Library of New Zealand has a general guide to researching your family history, as well as a range of historical records – for example Papers Past, an archive of past newspapers.
The govt.nz website also has information about searching historical birth, death and marriage records, looking through shipping lists to find out when family members arrived in New Zealand, and more.
If you like to learn in a group, you could enrol in an evening class about how to research and record your family history.
You might also contact your local Society of Genealogists for support and fellowship among like-minded people, and for tips on how to go about doing your research.
If you want to trace your Māori tribal connections you may find the Whakapapa club website useful.
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I’m adopted. How do I find out about my birth parents and where they came from?
You can start by looking for the names of your birth parents on your pre-adoptive birth certificate. If you contact the Adoption Services team Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) they may be able to help you find information about your birth parents. There are non-Government organisations which can help, though some will charge you fees for their service. Read further for more details.
Information from birth certificates
Once you’re over the age of 20 you can request a copy of your original birth certificate which will include the name of your birth mother and possibly also the name of your birth father. Information on how to do this is on our Adoption and fostering page.
When you get your pre-adoptive birth certificate, you can apply for a copy of the birth parents’ birth certificates to get information about their own parents. This may lead you to the identities of other members of your birth family.
If you’re looking for your birth mother, you can also apply to Births, Deaths and Marriages for marriage registration details in case she has married (or re-married) and changed her name.
You may also be able to check whether either of your parents changed their name. More information about accessing someone else’s name change records is on the govt.nz website.
Locating your birth parent
You can contact the Adoption Services team at Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) to find out whether they have any information about the adoption. To make enquiries about your birth parents, call 0508 326 459 and ask for the Adoption Services team, or email them. They can find information about your birthparent, and even liaise with overseas organisations if your birth parent has moved away or you were born in another country.
You can try to track down your birth parents by searching the White Pages and electoral rolls. If you have been able to get a copy of your birth parents’ birth certificates, you can also try locating their parents and siblings and asking them for information.
Other organisations which can help
Other organisations which may be able to help you track down your birth parent include:
- The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service can help people find missing family members and try to bring them together, even if they have moved overseas.
- Adoption Registry Connect is a worldwide online service which can help people find each other. Once you have registered you can search the database, or post a query about who you are looking for (e.g. whether it is a birth parent or adopted child) and wait for responses to be emailed to you. Some of this service is free.
- Adoption Jigsaw is an Australian-based organisation which can help you find your birth parent and arrange for a mediator to contact them on your behalf, once you already have details from your pre-adoptive birth certificate and from Adoption Services. There are fees associated with this service.
You could also choose to hire a private investigator to trace your birth parents.