I've just got back from a week in Wellington where I was house-sitting for a cousin. I spent three and a half days at the archives, riding the bus in from Newton with the commuters in the morning and returning with them after four in the afternoon. The weather except for my last day was brilliant but the occasional breeze still had a bit of bite in it and I was glad of my winter coat.
The archivists were extremely helpful and didn't bat an eye at my persistent need of help. I've been there before and have often come away so frustrated that I swore I'd never go back. But this time, because I had all week, I didn't get impatient when my searches turned up nothing. All the other times, I was terribly time constrained although my visits were well planned, the time spent waiting for records to arrive in front of me raised my blood pressure and if it was followed by a negative result, I could barely contain myself.
If you are in the position of being time constrained, be aware that things change at archives from time to time, they may put away a few fragile registers downstairs or change their system, or microfilm records that in the past you could order and this can be perplexing. They also develop new finding aids which would be helpful if you knew in advance about them. I do recommend an extended stay in Wellington rather than just flying in and expecting to get a result, then flying out again or employ an agent.
Their indexes do have mistakes in them, I found one of these by accident last week. On archway, the probate name was spelt wrong. They fixed it immediately. Sometimes you find what you expect to be a break-through record, only to open the folder and find one sheet of paper nearly empty of words!
There's no doubt about it, the archives do have amazing information, but the trick is - finding it.
The most helpful records for family historians are the probates which are being digitized at present by the LDS, the intention to marry records, also in the pipeline for the digitisation process and the WW1 serviceman records which also are being digitized slowly. This will leave the reading room for those researching material for books, government material researchers and those hardy souls who just love reading any records and who hope that luck will turn up something pertinent for their family history.
I should mention the coroners records which are also very helpful. I intend to highlight some of the records I found last week, but I warn you, they could be boring.