Family History – Businesses

Records of businesses may provide information on an ancestor.

Southern provinces almanac
This was published annually by the Lyttelton Times Company between 1853-1892. Christchurch City Libraries has a set for 1863-1892. Business people are listed according to occupation. Included are many advertisements for local businesses.
Wise’s New Zealand Post Office directory
There are lists of businesses by type and geographic area. From the 1950s Wise’s concentrates on Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and, in 1983, lists only businesses. The Christchurch edition was last published in 1997.
Stone’s directory
This is similar to Wise’s but dates from 1906. It concentrates on the South Island. It is fragile and cannot be photocopied.
Industries of New Zealand
This was published in 1898. It has accounts of businesses throughout New Zealand.
Cyclopedia of New Zealand
The Cyclopedia, was published between 1897-1908, with separate regional volumes produced during this time. The Canterbury volume was published in 1903. Businesses are written up in detail. People and businesses paid to be in these two publications.
Illustrated guide to Christchurch and neighbourhood
This includes articles on people and the businesses they ran in colonial Christchurch.
Business directory, South Island
Published from 1997 and known also as UBD South Island. For a period from 2006 it was published online.
The New Zealand Companies Office
This site created by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is useful for post -1950 information. The Director Search tool determines whether an individual is, or has been, a director of a company.
The premises of T. Armstrong & Co., 110-114 High Street, Christchurch [ca. 1915]
The premises of T. Armstrong & Co., 110-114 High Street, Christchurch [ca. 1915]

Company files

  • The Registrar of Justice, Companies Office, Justice Department struck off the names of public companies which had ceased to exist from the register of companies.
  • The Registrar retained files of some of these ‘dead companies’ which occasionally date back to the 1870s. Today the files are held by the Christchurch branch of Archives New Zealand.
  • The files contain annual reports, correspondence and particulars of directors and shareholders. Note that there is a 20 year restriction (from date of closure) on access to correspondence.
  • Archives New Zealand in Dunedin has a larger collection of company files for its area.
  • Some major companies have published histories. 


Hayward Brothers, corner of Victoria and Peterborough Streets, Christchurch [1898]
Hayward Brothers, corner of Victoria and Peterborough Streets, Christchurch [1898]
Denis Hampton’s article on Bankruptcy and its records appears in Bound for Canterbury 2000. This explains the relevant legislation and describes surviving records.


Canterbury Museum’s G. R. Macdonald Dictionary is strong on early Canterbury bankruptcies. The information is taken from the Lyttelton times. Christchurch City Libraries holds the Index to the Macdonald Dictionary which often provides birth and death years, occupation and other notes on people, as well as a reference number which refers to the actual resource at the museum

Records relating to bankruptcy exist at the various offices of Archives New Zealand. Details of the bankrupt’s family and property are likely to be described. In the case of a major bankruptcy there will be correspondence from people affected. Where bankruptcy led to criminal prosecution, the daily papers and New Zealand truth are likely to contain information.

Archives New Zealand, Christchurch hold both Supreme Court and Official Assignee bankruptcy files for Christchurch and Timaru, and some court registers for Reefton, Westport and Ashburton. There are no surviving Christchurch Supreme Court bankruptcy registers for 1868-1875.

There is no overall index to bankruptcy files held in Christchurch, although the following are indexed:

  • Christchurch Official Assignee’s files (including Timaru) 1884-1996
  • Court files for Timaru 1893-1932
  • Official Assignee’s files for Ashburton 1879-1930

Staff of the Four Square Foodmarket, Normans Road, Elmwood, Christchurch [1963]
Staff of the Four Square Foodmarket, Normans Road, Elmwood, Christchurch [1963]
Permission must be granted to view those Official Assignee files which are less than 70 years old. Archives New Zealand can provide you with contact details.


Bankruptcy indexes

There are two microfiche entitled an Index to bankruptcies.

  1. The 1863-1880 edition is specific to Canterbury
  2. The 1881-1940 edition covers the whole of New Zealand.

The New Zealand Gazette, Canterbury provincial government gazette and the Lyttelton times are mentioned.

The New Zealand Gazette is available online inside our libraries and is browseable from 1841 onwards.

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