Historic Records from Internal Affairs - Key to Ancestry Research & Family Secrets

Births, Deaths and Marriages online (BDM) is the main source for historical records of births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages.


BDM is straightforward but limited. Here are five tips to get the most out of your BDM research and what to do if the records you are after appear to be missing.


1. Searching for a birth.


The database includes births that occurred over 100 years (and stillbirths that occurred over 50 years ago). The family name has to be entered during search, most of the time it will be a father's name, but quite a few records are under a mother's name.


Adoption information as such is not included. There are a couple of ways you can research adoptions. The first is to order a birth certificate from BDM to see what information it contains. Another way is to examine Birth microfiche records(see tip 4 below) , I find that in some (not all) cases an "A" has been etched next to a record of a child who was later adopted.



2. Searching for marriage and death records.


Marriages that occurred over 80 years ago are searchable. Deaths from over 50 years ago and those where the deceased's date of birth was at least 80 years ago are included.


Marriage search can be performed using either of the parties' family names. It will display information on both the bride and the groom. Divorce records are not included in BDM, see tip 4 on how to research these.


Death search is done using a family name; for women this is normally their married name. I have seen, however, death records where the woman's maiden name was stated or her first husband's family name instead of a subsequent one. It pays to try all known family names in this search if the first one does not return any results.



3. How to find a specific date.


You can use BDM to find out a specific date with the unusual trick I have learnt while working at my first archival job:


Cut away at the Search From Date: (dd/mm/yyyy) and the Search To Date: (dd/mm/yyyy) until you get to a specific date. I usually try to find out which half of the year the event occurred (searching to see if record appears between 01/01/yyyy and 30/06/yyyy) then I narrow it to a quarter, a month and, finally, a day.



4. If the record is not on BDM.


Why is the record you are after not on BDM? It may be too recent, it may be missing or it may be a Māori record, which were recorded differently. Divorce records are not included on BDM either.


For more recent or missing records, Māori records and for adoptions (years: 1840-1990):

See your local library or archive for Birth, Death and Marriage microfiche records and their Indexes. These are available in most city libraries and archives in New Zealand.


For divorces, marriages and deaths (years: 1839 - 1950)

Papers Past newspaper database hold some divorce, marriage and death articles. Well worth a visit, if the newspaper record exists - it offers a lot more information than an official BDM record.



5. Finding further info on births, deaths and marriages.


  • If you want to find out if there is more information on one of those historic events Papers Past is a good source. Papers Past holds digitised New Zealand newspaper articles published between 1839 and 1950.

  • Local Church records, held by research centres and archives, may be useful for information on baptisms and marriages. Presbyterian Church archives are digisted and can be viewed online.

  • Archives New Zealand holds probates and coroner inquest files for some individuals. Although you can find the records online, these are rarely digitised and have to be viewed in person.



If you need more help with your family research contact me for a no obligation quote.

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Cover image: Ellerbeck Studio (ca. 1913) Mark Flood Caroline Eva Oliphant Stewart. Auckland War Memorial Museum call no. PH97/2 env3.8

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