Family History – Education

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Information about New Zealand teachers, schools and universities (mainly for the 19th and early 20thcentury). The information may not list details on specific students or teachers, but can be of use to fill in the background of an ancestors' life.

Archives New Zealand has published a Research guide to sources on primary and secondary schools, universities, industrial schools and teachers.

Canterbury Association Schools, 1851-1852
Marie Corser from the Canterbury Pilgrims and Early Settlers Association has compiled a list of Canterbury school attendees 1851-1852.

A classroom at Fendalton Open-Air School, Clyde Road, Christchurch [1928]
A classroom at Fendalton Open-Air School, Clyde Road, Christchurch [1928]

Christchurch City Libraries holds a wide range of school histories, including those published for jubilee and centenary celebrations. Sometimes these include full or partial school rolls. Check our catalogue under the name of the school or under the following general headings:

For a list of published sources on Christchurch, Lyttelton and Banks Peninsula schools, check the library’s publication: Local history resources: an annotated bibliography of published sources on Christchurch, Lyttelton and Banks Peninsula.

The library holds good runs of Christchurch school magazines. Check the catalogue under the name of the school with the subdivision 'Periodicals' or under the following headings:

The Canterbury branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists has photocopied school rolls for the area east of the Southern Alps and between the Clarence and Rakaia rivers. Details can be released once 60 years have passed. Information from the rolls may include the name and address of the child, names of parents or guardians, birth date, date of leaving the school and destination. Each register has been indexed separately but, to date, there is no overall index. Contact the Canterbury branch for further details.

Christ's College versus Christchurch Boys' High School: shown in the annual School-College rugby match. [17 July 1940]
Christ's College versus Christchurch Boys' High School: shown in the annual School-College rugby match. [17 July 1940]

High school lists

Some schools, especially private and boys’ schools, have produced publications which list all the pupils who have attended the school. The amount of detail provided varies but may include name, address, parents’ names, years of attendance, positions held in the school, prizes won, war service, and subsequent careers. The library holds copies of such lists for the following schools:


Lists of primary school teachers were published in the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1879-1924 (H2, 1879; H1A, 1880; E1 1880-1908 and E2 1909-1924). From 1879-1896 the lists give each teacher’s name, position and salary. In 1897 the lists include the grade of certificate held by each teacher.

From 1879 teachers with Education Department certificates or licences to teach appear in annual lists in the New Zealand gazette.
Details of teachers were included in the New Zealand gazette (1925 Vol. 1 p 1179 and 1926 Vol 1 p 751).

Information includes names, salaries, academic qualifications (from A – E) and a ranking for teaching skill (from 1 – 5). All teachers are listed, from headmasters down to pupil-teachers (teenagers thought to be competent to teach). They are listed under the name of the schools where they taught.

A list of secondary school teachers was also published in the Appendices, 1878, H-1. The Department of Education’s annual reports on secondary schools to 1924 (E1) often include staff names.

In the Appendices for 1908, E-1, table 8, is a complete list of all teachers in New Zealand as at December 1907.

The school at Jacksons, West Coast Road, West Coast [1897]
The school at Jacksons, West Coast Road, West Coast [1897]
The New Zealand gazettes, 1879-1988, contain a variety of teacher lists for both primary and secondary teachers, usually published in March or April of each year. From 1957, secondary teachers only are listed. Inspection reports for individual schools can also be found in the Appendices.

The Canterbury Museum holds primary school records, including the North Canterbury Education Board minutes and correspondence. The records include handwritten accounts of the progress or lack of progress of individual teachers, filed alphabetically. The Centre also holds an index to 19thand early 20th century primary school teachers, drawn from original salary registers held in its collection.

An article on understanding education records appears in Landfall in southern seas.

Industrial schools

A number of Industrial Schools were established in the provincial period. They were for delinquent and/or neglected male and female youth. Originally under the control of the Justice Department (apart from the Naval Training School which came under the Marine Department), by 1880 they were under the management of the Education Department.

Apart from the Naval Training School, the institutions included:

  • the Canterbury Orphanage, Governors Bay Road, Lyttelton,
  • Burnham Industrial School,
  • the Otago Industrial School, Caversham (which later had a rural arm, the Weraroa Training Farm),
  • the Benevolent Institution in Dunedin,
  • Auckland Industrial School in Howe Street; St. Stephen’s, Parnell,
  • St. Mary’s Industrial School, Ponsonby,
  • St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Providence Orphanage, Wellington,
  • the Motueka Orphanage, and
  • St. Mary’s Roman Catholic School, Stoke, Nelson.

Some institutions closed over the years and others opened - for example, Te Oranga at Burwood, Christchurch, and Otekaike in North Otago. In 1913 the relevant act covered nine government and five private Roman Catholic schools.

J. Beagle, Children of the state: a study of the New Zealand industrial school system, 1880-1925
For a general discussion of industrial schools, and detailed information on Burnham Industrial School.
B. Dalley, From demi-mondes to slaveys: a study of the Te Oranga Reformatory for delinquent women, 1900-1918
For the history of Te Oranga Reformatory for Women.
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives
Official information on industrial schools is in the Education Department annual reports. Included are royal commission reports on some industrial schools.
Undergraduate students in gowns in the quadrangle on their way to lecture rooms, Canterbury College [1926?]
Undergraduate students in gowns in the quadrangle on their way to lecture rooms, Canterbury College [1926?]

University graduates

Alphabetical roll of graduatesRoll of graduates
Graduates of the University of New Zealand are listed up to 1961.
Roll of graduates, 1961 - 1982
For graduates of the University of Canterbury.
J. Hight, and A.M.F. Candy, A short history of the Canterbury College (University of New Zealand) with a register of graduates and associates of the college
Further information on pre-1927 graduates.
Roll of the graduates of the University of Otago
For graduates of the University of Otago, up until 1988.
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