Historic New Zealand Newspapers for Genealogical Research

A short guide on how and why to use Papers Past - Newspapers.


Old newspapers are a great source full of genealogical facts, snippets of social history and occasional historic scandals. Over 150 newspapers from 19th and early 20th Century have been digitised by the National Library and are searchable through Papers Past website.


Pick a name of a relative who resided in NZ prior to 1950 and follow my tips for search below:


Top 6 search tips


1. If you can - use desktop device when accessing Papers Past. If you are using a mobile device, make sure you switch to 'landscape' view, by rotating your phone. Otherwise, the search panel won't show up fully.


2. Papers Past is searchable using keywords (e.g. names, life events, place names) with the aid of computer-generated text recognition. Try all possible spellings, particularly for names. For example, if you are searching for 'Thomas Alfred Smith' also try searching for 'Mr Smith', 'T A Smith' and various spellings of Smith i.e. 'Smyth' or 'Smythe'.


3. Limit your search to a specific date or

decade using date filter.


4. Don't limit your search to a specific region/newspaper, unless you are after an article in a specific newspaper. If your search returned too many results, limiting them to one region may be useful. However, I've used Papers Past hundreds of times, and even the most routine events often make it to both the national and the regional titles. Interestingly, you may find that the same event (particularly true of Court Inquiries) may be reported differently by various newspapers.


5. Types of articles you may be able to find: social notices (dances, competitions etc.), marriages and obituaries, rolls of honour, passenger lists, court inquiries and classifieds. You can save the articles by clicking 'print' which will give you an option to save as PDF.


6. Don't rush to close the window once you found an article about your ancestor, instead click on the page it was on and browse through other articles and notices in the same paper. It might give you an insight into the contemporary sensibilities and values. Fascinating information can often be found this way.

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All images used in this article are from Papers Past.

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