Family History – Employment Resources

Resources about a variety of jobs and industries can help create a picture of where and how people worked in early New Zealand. They may not provide any information about individuals but they can be of use to fill in the background of your ancestors' lives.


U. Platts, Nineteenth century New Zealand artists
Lists artists with at least one work held in a major art gallery or museum.
The Triad: a monthly journal of music, science & art
Published between 1893-1925. Contains references to individuals working during that period.
Art in New Zealand
A periodical which contains material on early 20th century artists from 1928 - 1946. There is also a useful index to this periodical.
Index to the New Zealand listener 1939-1987
Includes references to articles on artists and art exhibitions. The index from 1987 onwards is available from INNZ - Index New Zealand.

Libraries and art galleries hold catalogues for the various provincial art societies. Some institutions hold catalogues for a number of provinces.

Life classes at the Christchurch School of Art [1910] CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0025

Christchurch Art Gallery Library


The library at the Christchurch Art Gallery holds information about artists who painted within New Zealand and, especially, Canterbury.

It also holds the minutes books and correspondence of the Canterbury Society of Arts which date back to the 19th century. This includes a list of people whose paintings have been shown at CSA exhibitions at different times during the 20th century.

Publications held in the Christchurch Art Gallery library can be found on our catalogue. Christchurch City Libraries' newspaper index will lead to further information about exhibitions.


J.R. Jones, Writers in residence : a journey with pioneer New Zealand writers
Provides biographical details of 19th century New Zealand authors.
Index to the New Zealand listener 1939-1987
Includes references to articles on authors and book reviews. The index from 1987 onwards is available from INNZ — Index New Zealand.

Search the catalogue for the name of the author (e.g. Janet Frame), or do a general subject search on: Authors, New Zealand - 20th Century - Biography


The register of pharmaceutical chemists
Lists chemists as at 1 January 1961. Names, addresses, date of registration and certificate numbers are given.


The Blain Biographical Directory of Anglican Clergy in the Pacific gives biographical information on clergy and deaconesses of the Anglican Church in New Zealand, Polynesia, and Melanesia. Details of spouses are also included. For privacy reasons the cut-off date is an ordination date in 1930 and no living people are included.
It is also worth looking at the history of the church with which a member of clergy was involved. Search the following subject headings to find general resources on churches and clergy in Canterbury:

For further information see Church and social organisation resources.

Company executives

Key employees in the top 50 New Zealand companies from April 1991 - about March 1994 are listed in the 3-volume publication Guide to key personnel in the top 50 New Zealand companies. This publication was designed to enable the public to direct their enquiries to the correct management section of New Zealand’s major companies. It was also published to assist suppliers of goods and services to these companies.


Index of NZMJ Obituaries 1887-2017
An index of obituaries in the New Zealand Medical Journal has been compiled by retired anaesthetist Basil Hutchinson. Obituaries dating from 12 November 1999 onwards are in the online NZMJ and are accessible by looking at the archived issues. To obtain obituaries dating from before this, contact NZMA National Office, Wellington with your request. There is no charge for one-off requests. This index is updated regularly.
D. Macmillan, By-ways of history & medicine: with special reference to Canterbury, New Zealand
This has information about 19th and early 20th century Canterbury doctors. There are photographs and an index. It was published in 1943.
R. Fulton, Medical practice in Otago and Southland in the early days
The author got information from descendants of pioneer physicians and wrote up his findings in the Otago witness. The articles were published in a book, reprinted in 1983. The information is excellent. There are many sketches and photographs but it has no index.
New Zealand medical register
For many years there was a 'Medical Register' in the New Zealand gazette. This contained basic information on a doctor’s qualifications, where and when they got them and where they practised. This information is now available in the New Zealand medical register. It is also available online, on the website of the New Zealand Medical Council.
Historia nunc vivat, opens a new window by Wright St Clair is an on-line source accessed via Christchurch City Libraries' catalogue. It was published by the Cotter Medical Trust and contains brief biographies of doctors working in New Zealand in the years 1840-1930.

For further information on hospitals and medical staff see Hospital records.


List of persons registered under the Electrical Registration Act 1952
Lists registered electricians 1969-1974; 1976; 1978-1980.
List of persons registered under the Electrical Registration Act 1979
Lists registered electricians 1981-1984.
Alphabetical list of persons registered under the Electrical Registration Act 1979
Lists registered electricians 1986; 1990; 1993.


F.W. Furkert, Early New Zealand engineers
The major history of engineers and their activities in developing New Zealand. The last section of the book consists of selected biographies of engineers.
N.G. Hansen and J.N. Hall, The county engineers of New Zealand, 1876-1989
Provincial government was abolished in 1876 and a large number of county councils were established. In 1989 many of these disappeared with a major amalgamation of local authorities. This book looks at the work of local body engineers in developing their areas between abolition and amalgamation. It includes short biographies of the engineers.
Machinery accidents 1879-1919
This microfiche resource contains lists of people who are named in the Appendices to the journals and is arranged alphabetically by surname.


The Canterbury Provincial Council archives for 1853-57 contain details of sheep farmers (and, sometimes, cattle farmers) and the land which they leased. For many years, from 1857 onwards, information on such people is in the archives of the Waste Lands Board. These records are at Archives New Zealand, Christchurch.

A return of the freeholders of New Zealand, October 1882
Gives the names, addresses and occupations of owners of land, together with the area and value in counties and the value in boroughs and town districts. This resource is a basic starting point.
L.G.D. Acland, Early Canterbury runs
Provides information on pioneer sheep farmers and some shepherds who worked in Canterbury or North Otago. Robert Pinney’s Early south Canterbury runs and Early Northern Otago runs may also be of interest.
Brand book for Canterbury 1861
Provides some information on the owners of branded sheep.
Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives
Includes reports on sheep owners, their district and the number of sheep they own. The indexes should be searched under 'Sheep - Reports & Returns'.
New Zealand country journal
From 1877-1898 this provided 'a record of information connected with agricultural, pastoral and horticultural pursuits'. It was succeeded by the Journal of the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association 1899-1931. You may find reference to particular individuals in both of these resources.
New Zealand herd book of short-horned cattle
Christchurch City Libraries holds the 1884 and 1897 volumes, published by the Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Association. These list owners of bulls and cows throughout New Zealand. The book gives an idea of the activities of individual cattle owners.
Return of sheepowners
In the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives from the 1880s-1920s. Counties are mentioned, sheepowners are listed alphabetically within their counties, as well as the number of sheep owned. Christchurch City Libraries has the return for 1880, 1890 and 1900 on microfiche.

For further information on land ownership see Land Resources.

Loading wool on to rail [ca. 1900] CCL-KPCD13-0076


Genealogical and heraldic history of the colonial gentry
Also known as Burke’s colonial gentry. For information on members of the gentry who settled or were born in New Zealand use the two volumes for 1891-1895.

Hotel keepers

Prince of Wales Hotel, corner of Colombo and St. Asaph Streets, Christchurch [1902] CCL PhotoCD 10, IMG0028

From the 1850s-1870s, magistrates issued public house licences. Information can be found in the records of the Canterbury Provincial Government at Archives New Zealand, Christchurch. Information about Canterbury publicans of the 1850s-1870s appears in other places as well: Hotels

Jim Watson’s Early Christchurch hotels
This has brief histories of 84 hotels, past and present, in and around Christchurch. The resource is also held by the Canterbury Museum.
Names and details of hotel-keepers may also appear in the early indices to the Lyttelton times and Press which Christchurch City Libraries holds on microfiche.
The index to the G. R. Macdonald dictionary of Canterbury biographies
Has name and subject indexes - including a subject heading for hotel-keepers. A digitised version of the index is also available online.
S. Symons, Watering holes
Has some historical notes about a number of early Christchurch hotels and hotel keepers.
S. Symons, More than bricks and mortar
A history of Warner’s Hotel.
Southern provinces almanac 1863-1892
A local almanac and directory containing material on Canterbury hotel-keepers. A digitised version is available on Canterbury Stories.

At the end of the provincial period (1876) there was a change in the system. The government established licensing districts and courts, and began a register of applications. The register of licenses granted are held at Archives New Zealand and these contain the premises, names of owners and holders of licenses. Archives New Zealand, Christchurch holds the records for the West Coast, Canterbury and for the Motueka Licensing district (including Takaka, Collingwood and Wakefield).


Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand
The Mines reports contains information on late 19th and early 20th century coalmines and goldmines. If you know where a person was mining, useful information about a particular mine may be found in this resource as well as possible information on individuals. Search in the indexes under 'Mines'.
Mining accidents 1879-1958
Two microfiche containing lists of people who are named in the Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives of New Zealand, arranged alphabetically by name of the accident victim.

Archives New Zealand, Christchurch holds Westport and Hokitika warden’s court material. Warden’s courts were the equivalent of magistrate’s court on the 19th century West Coast goldfields. The material has not been indexed and can be difficult to access.


Christchurch City Libraries' newspaper indexes hold material on all kinds of musicians, musical groups and concerts where individuals may well be listed.

Christchurch City Libraries also hold some archives on specific musical groups including the records of the Christchurch Male Voice Choir and Christchurch Liedertafel (the history of the latter is Rise, brothers, rise ).

Other resources include:

D. Beattie, A calendar of references to music in Christchurch newspapers, 1851 - 1860
Students of music gathered newspaper information for this resource.
J.M. Jennings, Music at Canterbury
A history of the School of Music at the University of Canterbury; includes a roll of graduates for 1891 -1991.
B.W. Pritchard, Selected source readings on the musical activity in the Canterbury settlement 1850-1880
B.W. Pritchard, Words and music; a jubilee history of the Christchurch Harmonic Society, 1977
The Triad: a monthly journal of music, science & art
Published between 1893-1925. Contains references to individuals working during that period.
H.M. Watson, Music in Christchurch, 1948
C. Bornet, Anglican church music in Canterbury, 1850-1900
Theses which outline musical life - and which may mention ancestors.

Music at National Archives: sources for the study of music in New Zealand is a useful bibliography of what is held by Archives New Zealand.

Index to the New Zealand listener 1939-1987
This microfiche includes references to articles on musicians and concert reviews. The index from 1987 onwards is available from INNZ — Index New Zealand.

Newspaper employees - Printers

Details of employees of newspaper firms may appear in the archives of New Zealand Newspapers Ltd, held at the Alexander Turnbull Library. These include the records of the Lyttelton Times Company, which was also in charge of the Canterbury times and the Christchurch star, which may contain some information on people who worked for the company. Search the National Library manuscripts & archives catalogue for a full list of documents they hold.

History of printing in New Zealand, 1830-1940
Includes information on both printing and printers.
Printing in Canterbury
A 'history of newspapers and printing houses of the province from the earliest times'. It contains short informative histories of all the old newspapers published in the various towns in Canterbury.

Lyttelton times edition published on the 11 January 1901 - 50 years after the newspaper venture began - contains useful information on its early days and the people associated with it.


Nurse Maude ca. 1900
Nurse Maude ca. 1900 CCL-KPCD13-0039

Register of nurses (New Zealand gazette, 1903-1933)

In 1901, the government passed an act for the state registration of nurses in NZ (the first of its kind in the world). This act allowed nurses who had undergone suitable training and passed state examinations to be recorded as registered nurses.

Lists of these nurses were published each year in the New Zealand gazette from 1903. A similar list of state registered midwives appears from 1907 (following an act in 1905). Unfortunately, by 1933, the list had become too long and publication in the New Zealand gazette ceased. It became the responsibility of the Nurses' and Midwives' Board and was no longer publicly available.

  • The lists record the name of the nurse/midwife, the date of registration, the name of the hospital in which she trained and her past and present employment.
  • The lists are published in the first quarter of each year. Look in the annual index under "Nurses" or "Midwives" for the exact reference.

The New Zealand gazette is also available online inside our libraries and is browsable from 1841 onwards.


The Photographers' Database is an Auckland City Libraries' index of photographers who worked in New Zealand from the 1840s to the present day. Sources used are advertisements, newspapers, electoral rolls, published articles, trade directories.

Many individual pioneer photographers are mentioned in Photography in New Zealand: a social and technical history.


Index to the New Zealand listener 1939-1987
Includes references to articles on poets and book reviews. The index from 1987 onwards is available from INNZ — Index New Zealand.

Search the catalogue for the name of the poet (e.g. James K. Baxter), or do a general subject search on: Poets, New Zealand - 20th Century - Biography


Superintendent W H Mackinnon makes his last inspection of his men, as the Christchurch police force bid him farewell [1926] CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0060

Published sources

A series of books on the history of the police in New Zealand has been published by the Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs. These books contain information about specific individuals.

A large number of regional police histories have also been published. Check our catalogue under the subject heading: Police - New Zealand - History.

Unpublished sources

Archives New Zealand, Wellington holds information on individual policemen. These records include a physical description and the person’s place/country of origin, also the year that the officer joined the police force, the years when he worked at particular stations, his marital status and whether he got medals for bravery and/or long service. There are also pension details.

The draft correspondence books of the police include information on policemen. These are held in the various offices of Archives New Zealand.


A. Cox, Men of mark in New Zealand, 1886
P. Mennell, The dictionary of Australasian biography : comprising notices of eminent colonists from the inauguration of responsible government down to the present time, 1892
Gisborne, W. New Zealand rulers and statesmen from 1840-1897
A much-quoted source about the careers and personalities of major 19th century politicians.
New Zealand parliamentary record
Basic data on parliamentarians and 1853-1876 provincial council members in various editions.

Postal officers

Post and telephone offices of Canterbury and Mails of North Canterbury, 1855-1979 can help locate information on early postmasters and postmistresses. Many people, especially those with general stores, supplemented their incomes by acting in this capacity.

Archives New Zealand, Christchurch has files on local post offices, agencies, and mail services.

Telephone Directories

The earliest Christchurch telephone book held by Christchurch City Libraries is dated 1922, and then there is a gap until 1946.

At Ferrymead Heritage Park there is held a large but not comprehensive collection of telephone directories for New Zealand and historic information on post office workers.

Public Servants

Civilian government employees: sources at National Archives.
The first section lists published official sources on individuals. The book goes on to name departments, describe the archival records which survive for the various entities and the periods for which such records exist. Details are given on restrictions which apply. The earliest records are for the 1840s. Many departments no longer exist.
Public service appointments, 1912-1927 (microform)
Taken from the New Zealand gazette and arranged alphabetically by surname.
List of persons employed on the permanent staff of the public service, 1949-1969.
Taken from the New Zealand Gazette. There are lists of staff employed in all departments, the month and year of their birth, their salary and the total number of years they had served in the position they currently occupied. Included is the maximum salary paid for each particular position.


Archives New Zealand, Christchurch has information on Canterbury and West Coast railway stations including some staff registers.

Members of the Railway Department
Appear in the 1915 Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives.
List of persons employed in the Railway Department as at 1 April 1936.
A supplement to the October 29th 1936 New Zealand gazette.
Machinery accidents 1879-1919
A microfiche containing lists of people who are named in the Appendices to the journals, arranged alphabetically by surname.
Men about to go to work on the Otira end of the Arthur's Pass Tunnel. 1913 CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0001

Lyttelton-Christchurch railway tunnel employees 

The Lyttelton-Christchurch railway tunnel, the result of much political in-fighting as well as technical expertise, was opened in 1867. Canterbury Museum has created, from several sources, a list of people who did the manual labour involved in putting through the tunnel. One source was Christchurch City Libraries' church register transcripts.


The indexes to the Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives can provide information on individual seamen. Entries are for the period from the beginning of the 20th century till the 1930s. Data may be found under 'Seamen' or 'Marine'. Material exists on accidents, convictions, engagement and discharge of crew members, wages, and assistance to disabled mariners.

Masters, mates & engineers
There are four microfiche which form 'an index to certificates of competency issued by the Marine Department of New Zealand' also published in the Appendices to the journals. Material is arranged alphabetically by surname.

School teachers

A list of schools and teachers is in the 'E' papers of the Appendices to the journals of the House of Representatives. The lists were published from about 1880-1920 and a search of the indexes will indicate which papers and page numbers to refer to within the volumes. For further information see Education.

Sports people

Sportsmen and women figure in the Weekly press 1865-1928, New Zealand Sporting life and referee 1886 - 1936 (the latter being incorporated into the Weekly press from 1891-1924) and the Canterbury times 1865-1911. There are partial indexes available for these resources available on a card index on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga.

There are many books on major sports and details on specific participants. Sports can be searched for on the catalogue by doing a subject search on 'subject new zealand' e.g. 'surfing new zealand', 'rugby union football new zealand', 'horse racing new zealand' etc.

Union members

The series Working class heroes is separated into regions and lists union officials (name only) for various periods of time. The Canterbury edition covers the period 1890-1900.

There are articles on trade union archives in Archifacts (June 1986 and September 1987). An article 'Trade union records and genealogy', appears in the November/December 1997 New Zealand genealogist and shows how to use staff records when tracing family history. There is also A guide to the archives of the New Zealand federation of labour, 1937-88.

Books put out by the Trade Union History Project show where records of various unions are held. The University of Canterbury is the repository for trade unions of the Canterbury area.

Watchmakers and jewellers

Local 19th century watchmakers and jewellers may appear in the Southern provinces almanacGold and silversmithing in nineteenth and twentieth century New Zealand also provides an appendix of names.

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