Showing posts with label Archives New Zealand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archives New Zealand. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding a Probate in NZ

Finding probates is usually as easy as looking up the name on National Archives site: Archway. Sometimes its not that easy. Not all probates are listed on Archway.

All probates are listed on the Registers (lists in large heavy books), which were compiled at the various courts around New Zealand and National Archives holds most (if not all) of these Registers. However the files that the Registers refer to are not all at National Archives. Sometimes the Registers have a very wide date range and the more recent probate files referred to in the Registers may still be held at the courts. But at least you get to know that the probate exists and where to write to and request a copy.

All of Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin probates up until 1997 are listed on Archway.

Wellington is not complete: Here is an update from Wellington Archives.

  • Palmerston North, up until the 1960's is done.
  • Napier up until the 1960's is done.
  • Wellington up until the 1960's is done.
  • New Plymouth not done.
  • Masterston not done.
  • Wanganui not done.
  • Blenheim is fully done and on Archway.
  • Nelson is fully done and on Archway.

Wellington does however have an in house database compiled by the NZSG that they can look up for you. This database comprises of over 700,000 probates indexed from the registers but the dates vary from court to court. The list was compiled from the NZSG Index4 and is also available on the later CD Index5. The CD is available at most large libraries.

The government of the day set the amount of money under which a persons possession were not required to be probated. So if you cannot find a probate this may be a reason. If on the other hand, the person was very rich, you may not find a probate because they had shifted their wealth to a company trust or gifted it before they died to avoid death duties.

For the latter, you may have luck following the sale of real estate, getting the company name and looking up the company registers which are held at Archives. Gifting is recorded now days by the IRD but IRD's records, like the Public Trust records were excluded from the 1957 Archives Act. Possibly they required people to record gifting from an early period, I really don't know.

Another reason a probate is not available is that the person died without making a will. In this case the person's affairs were dealt with by the Public Trustee and will be listed in the Intestate Registers.

Another reason is that it may be recorded under a different name or its been indexed with a spelling error. People sometimes went by one name but a probate would be in their official name.

There may be other reasons that a probate cannot be found and I'd like to hear from you about these.

The LDS is currently digitising some probates for us. Three cheers for that. It will not be comprehensive.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Archway records

An interesting question arose this week on another list. What percentage of records held by National Archives is listed on Archway?

Today I spoke with an archivist in Wellington who explained that this figure is about 60 - 70%. This figure sometimes includes boxes of items (not the contents) so the figure in real terms is likely to be lower.

Recently a couple of projects boosted this figure a small amount when they listed items in Maori Affairs and 19th century correspondence.

I was surprised that the percentage was as high as it is. Well done National Archives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Old Land Claim letter from George Moore

These files were quite good, I'm always interested in the beginnings of our government here in New Zealand. The Land Claim Files (OLC 1 70 at Wellington National Archives) are mostly very hard to decipher. Here is one from George Moore dated 1851 which is legible. Click on image to read.

A Government Land Purchase file

The Balfour Estate file at Wellington National Archives was a substantial one and dated 1914 - 1957. In the end the land was not purchased. I've imaged some of the files (appox 25%) to give you an idea of what such a file might contain.


  • The file contains a note from Sir Keith Holyoak.
  • A reply to Sir Keith Holyoaks letter.
  • Descriptions of the land by various officials.
  • A letter from the owner, Mr Williamson of Christchurch.
  • The 1914 official land to be taken for settlement notice.
  • Maps.

















Warrants Industrial Schools Act

The example picked out here is for a James Fraser, one of four children whose father had been sentenced and whose mother was living at Palmerston was committed under the Industrial Schools Act 1882 due to destitution.

Caroline Carline, a housewife of comfortable circumstances from Caversham put up her hand to take James and his siblings. Caroline is a friend of their mother. It states that the father had left goal but hadn't been seen since.

This series of records are at Wellington National Archives. Click on images to read.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spot the error in this Intentions to Marry record

Click on image to prevent eye strain.

Coroners Registers

I had a look at this register while at Wellington National archives last week. As you can see, it includes reports on fires around the country. I thought that was interesting. The example shown here was for 1902.
For a closer look, click on the image. Using the reference number on the right, the file can be ordered up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

National Archives Wellington

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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

National Archives beta trial search

I just found this tonight. It's a new way of searching archives and they would like feedback. It's a work in progress by the look of it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunnyside Hospital Christchurch records

Christchurch Public Library has an article on the history of this mental asylum and says:-
Sunnyside Hospital, Christchurch’s first mental asylum, was opened in 1863. It was built to house those who were considered insane, until then held at Lyttelton jail. 
Archives New Zealand in Christchurch holds registers of admission, death registers, casebooks from 1854-1956. Patients sometimes had a page of information to view in the casebooks.

The patients have been indexed to around the 1920's at the archives, but there is a 100yr restriction on viewing these records so even if your person has been indexed, you may have to wait awhile or write to Canterbury District Health Board's solicitor for permission outside of the restriction.

The patient's names will not be listed on Archway, but you can search for what National Archives holds on Archway.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another Public Trust mystery

The following extract from the Evening Post in 1924 explains a strange occurrence of missing but lucky Walter Neilson who after abandoning his family in New Zealand and roaming the world on ships and after being sunk four times in WW1 was found in England by a relative and inherited money to live out the rest of his life on.

But what is even more strange is that when I went looking for Catherine (Katherine) Lockhart Neilson's probate, it could not be found. Surely you must agree that it must exist somewhere? I have had a good look, have even phoned Public Trust in Wellington. Another researcher had a look as well but no record can be found. I think Public Trust are delinquent with our National Heritage. Please make me eat my words!

Evening Post 31/3/1924 CLAIM FOR INHERITANCE. That truth sometimes is indeed stranger than fiction was proven to a certain extent at the Supreme Court' on Saturday before his Honour the Chief Justice, Sir Robert Stout, when Walter Neilson, a seaman, Who has been absent from the Dominion for almost sixty years, applied to have revoked an order that had been made declaring him to be dead. This course was necessary to enable the applicant to claim an inheritance consisting of cash amounting to £4402 4s 2d in the common fund of the Public Trust Office and bearing interest at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum.

The applicant was represented by Mr G. G. (i. Watson, Mr. E. P. Hay appeared for Neilson's wife and family, and C. G. Rose watched proceedings on behalf of the Public Trust Trustee.

According to Mr. Rose, Catherine Lockart Neilson, of Wanganui, died on 12th June, 1905, and by her will she bequeathed the residue of her estate upon trust to pay the income to her four children, Christina Carey, Janet Hunter, Walter Neilson, and Bella Hall, in equal shares, provision being made for the children of any deceased child taking their parents' share-of the income. One of the children of the testatrix, named Walter Neilson, had at the. date of the will been absent from New Zealand for several years, and his whereabouts was unknown to the testatrix. He had left New Zealand for Melbourne, but thereafter could not be traced. 

He was a married, man, and had four children, who remained in New Zealand, and were now of full age. He was separated from his wife, and had never communicated with her or the children since leaving New Zealand in 1888. A sister had received letters from him up to October, 1855. Under these circumstances, the testatrix made special provision for her son, to the effect that if he had not communicated with her trustees within two years from her death, the son's share should be paid to two other daughters. 

In 1909, the trustees, not having heard from Walter Neilson, approached the Supreme Court for an interpretation" of the will, and as to whether they were to presume that he had died before the testatrix. On 24th April, 1909, the Court made an order that the death of Walter Neilson must be presumed from the expiration of seven years from the date he was lastheard of, and that he therefore must he presumed to have pre-deceased the testatrix. After this order was made, the Public Trustee became trustee of the estate. In 1918, however, a sister received a letter purporting to be from Walter Neilson, her brother, and recognised his handwriting. 

The discovery was somewhat novel in that a nephew named Walter Hunter, while on active service, met a man in England who claimed to be his uncle, and turned out to be Walter Neilson. Neilson had produced evidence as to his identity, and the Public Trustee was satisfied that a strong case was made out. The man was now a ship's cook in South Shields, Durham, England, and had not sufficient means to enable him to come out to New Zealand. In 1921, the Public Trustee approached the Court for directions as to whether he was justified in treating Neilson as being alive, and treating as cancelled'the order made in 1909 presuming him to be dead. The wife and children of the man would not admit the identity. 

On 12th April, 1921, an order was made authorising the Public Trustee, pending further order, to retain the share of the income which would belong to Walter Neilson if alive, and not to pay it to his'children. The Court also ordered that notice be sent to Neilson in England that if he wished to prosecute his claim and have the order made in 1909 presuming his death cancelled, he must instruct some person to take proceedings in the Supreme. Court. 

In 1922 a Westport solicitor who was in England interested himself, in the matter, and the present application before the Court was the result. By affidavit, Neilson had sworn in England, said Mr. Watson, that he was the son of the testatrix, being born at Wanganui in October, 1856. He was married at the Registry Office, Wanganui, and had four children, all residing in New Zealand. In 1887 he left New Zealand for Melbourne, then joined different boats trading on the Australian coast, then to Mexico and San Francisco. At the latter port he met a schoolmate of Wanganui, who had been informed that his people understood that Neilson was going to New Zealand. He left the vessel and worked ashore it Oakland for twelve months, after which he joined a sailing ship bound to France. He then followed a general seafaring life, touching at ports all over the world.

 From 1903 to 1910 he was on no fewer than 13 ships, and from that date until 1919 he served on 18 vessels. He had remarkable luck during the war in being survivor of four wrecks, namely, Rosalie (Sunk 12th August, 1915), Wilston (sunk 15th February, 1916), Hindustan (sunk 21st March, 1917), Annie Sofie (sunk 23rd July, 1918). In the affidavit Neilson described how he was eventually identified by his nephew while in hospital in England during the war. His Honour granted an order revoking the previous order of the Court presuming the man to be dead.

And in the Truth Newspaper

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Peter's divorce

When two young people get married, the possibilities for success are endless, so are the failures. But when two people in their forties get married you might think the outcome would be more guaranteed, they've had time to gather wisdom. Peter, a farmer and a farmer's son, married Margaret, a townie photographer.

Read what his explanation to the court was after his wife left him. She said the place was unhealthy but she was probably just bored silly. Ah, life in the records! National Archives have the early divorce papers.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hospital Records

These records at National Archives can sort out a few research problems. They were important enough to index onto card files for casual people turning up at Auckland archives expecting some quick results. I think they are especially important for those family members who are 'background people' who don't figure much in other records. Hospitals recorded varying amounts of information. This probably had to do with funding, which hospital board was going to pay up for whom, but that's just a personal theory.

I haven't got an example of Thames Hospital records which I should have got to show you, because they are quite comprehensive, however, I have a list of some of the patients on my Coromandel site.

Coromandel Hospital record sample.
Auckland Hospital record sample.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Anatomy of Waikato Hospital

ZABW 5112 1/a is a letter book of correspondence from the Waikato Hospital to patients, staff, builders, banks and job applicants. Those were days when letters were still hand-written and copies of these were saved on carbon paper. (Who would remember carbon paper these days?). Some of the correspondence is about social relief and which hospital board was responsible for it. Money must have been very tight. This record is at Auckland National Archives.

This example is in a book dated April 1899 to August 1902 and is indexed in the front.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Record clues

Paperspast articles sometimes give clues of records which might still exist if I was clever or lucky enough to find them.

The following article has a few such clues:
Poverty Bay Herald 23rd October 1897. A young man, 21 years of age, almost bootless, hair unkempt and tattered clothes, appeared before the Wellington Benevolent Institution Trustees on Tuesday, says the N.Z. Times. The young fellow had walked from Auckland to Gisborne, and from the latter place, through the agency of some kind people, a passage to Wellington by steamer had been obtained for him. When a boy he had been sent to an industrial school, and had been hired out by a man whom he said had ill-treated him, one day striking him so severely on the head that deafness followed. To make him understand the Trustees had almost to yell at him. The boy had come to Wellington to see the Public Trustee. A brother had died, leaving a sum of over £200 to go to the next of kin. The father received the money, and the deaf son wanted the Trustees to compel the father to hand a portion of the money over to him. For the past few nights the boy had been living at the Ohiro Home, but as he had no claim on the local Board, the Trustees decided to grant him a passage back to Gisborne.
What National Archives says about the Ohiro Home
The Ohiro Benevolent Home, also known as the Central Park Hospital or the Central Park Old People's Home, was established in 1893 as a home for the elderly who were unable to care for themselves. It was closed down in June 1975, and remaining patients were transferred to Wellington Public Hospital.
But there is also a note on Archives files saying that the Wellington Benevolent Institution which ran the Ohiro Home, was proposed back in 1867.  WP. Series 3.box 22, record 335. I can't see any records on their system until 1945.

About the Industrial schools which in 1880 became the responsibility of the new Education Dept, they were previously under the Justice Dept. These files were then given to Social Welfare which has forbidden our use of them at all. Such a draconian dept with far too much power. Fancy not being able to see files relating to people who have been dead for a century!

The Public Trust's files are well hidden but when I'm next in Wellington, I will try to follow up a few clues. I wasn't surprised that the boy got no-where near them.

A survey of Auckland slums 1951

The health department became concerned at the state of houses in Freemans Bay and surrounds in 1951 when disease broke out and some children were turning up at school in a poor condition. Families were living in one room. Bathroom facilities were limited, there were open drains and rat infested rubbish.

For more information see BAAK A431/7b at Auckland National Archives.

The back view of 215 Hobson St.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

National Archives availability timetable

The archives have many restrictions on their records, 100yrs, 75yrs, 60yrs etc. It is frustrating when I see a record set which contains information relating to pre-1900 events but also holds records of the early 1900's that hold up the release of the earlier records.

The other frustrating thing is that records must be coming available every year but unless you are lucky enough to stumble across them, you'd never know. Perhaps in the interests of researchers who aren't professional enough to have this information, Archives could put out a monthly newsletter or such. They must know what changes their records have or are going to have soon.

I came across this record today but we will have to wait until 2014. It's the New Plymouth Prison Punishment records 1865 -1914.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sampling the Auckland Court records (part 4)

Another list of Court records today.

BADW 5989/10 Auckland Magistrates Criminal Depositions Book 1845 -1855. The two examples here show a ship's deserter, Alexander McCullough and Ellen Sullivan claiming George Beeson is the father of her child. These have been indexed by Suzanne Hamilton and are in the blue folders in the reading room.

BBAE 4980/1/a Auckland Miscellaneous Register. 1858-1897. Two samples here, a trustee and a company.


BADW 5989 16/9 Auckland Residents Magistrate Book. 1858-1859. More examples of the sort of information contained in this series (5989). Margaret and James Maguire as witnesses to a crime and Charles Marks as a victim of crime.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sampling the Auckland Court records (part 3)

 Remember to click on the image to read.

BADW 10650/1/a  Howick and Panmure Civil Depositions Book (1848 - 1849).

BADW 10479/1a  Auckland District Minute Books (1873 - 1888)

BADW 10477/1a Auckland District Pliant Book (1859 - 1868)

Archway record explanation

The links of the 'Sampling of the Court Records' don't take you to the page I wanted to display, the explanations of the records. Here is how to find that page through Archway the long way for BBAE 5635 2/a on today's post.

  • On the entrance page are two search possibilities, simple and advanced. Choose advanced.
  • Under find records are two choices, click 'Find out about the series in which the records are organised.'
  • Enter 5635 into the area for 'code' and click 'search' at the bottom of the dialogue box.
  • Then click on the file number.

  • Then click on 'More information and index'.


  • You will then be at the explanation page.