Family History – Land Resources

Land records can help indicate where property was owned by an individual, and sometimes the value of that land and what it was used for.

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Land information in Christchurch City Libraries

These resources can be found on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga.

Return of the Freeholders 1882

The Return of the Freeholders, compiled by the Property-Tax Department (predecessor of the Inland Revenue Department), lists owners of land in 1882, along with where the land was situated, whether it was in a county (in which case the acreage is given), borough or city and how much it was worth. The resource is also on microfiche. The assessment rolls, from which the resource was compiled, have not survived.

Province of Canterbury, New Zealand: list of sections purchased to April 30, 1863

The List of Sections exists in book and on microfiche. The microfiche version has an alphabetical index of surnames at the beginning. The List of Sections gives the rural sections of Canterbury from No. 1 to No. 5534, the acreage of the properties, and the surnames of the people to whom they were sold by the Canterbury Association and the Canterbury Provincial Government.

  • In colonial Canterbury town sections were in Lyttelton and the original settlement of Christchurch. Christchurch was then bounded by the north, east and south belts (Bealey, Fitzgerald and Moorhouse avenues). On the west, it was bounded by the roads which circle Hagley Park. Property outside these boundaries were 'rural sections' and the list of sections deals with these properties.
  • The initials of the people who bought the properties are not always provided.
  • The precise date of sale is omitted.
  • A brief description of where the land was situated is given so a rough estimate can be made of where the property is located today.
  • The list deals with land which was alienated from the Crown. It has nothing on the people who were the subsequent owners of the property.

Māori Land

A horse & buggy travel through cabbage trees in Long Valley, North Canterbury [ca. 1880]
A horse & buggy travel through cabbage trees in Long Valley, North Canterbury [ca. 1880]

Māori Land Court

From 1865, the Māori Land Court determined ownership and gave title to land under Māori control. It came to deal with all transactions concerning Māori land. Claimants justified their rights to land by citing, among other information, their genealogy. The genealogical material was often written up verbatim in the land court minutes and these archives have therefore become primary sources of whakapapa. The Waitangi Tribunal now plays a similar role in its recording of genealogies when claims are made before it.

For further information contact the Māori Land Court.

Māori Land Court Minutes Index Database

There is an online database which indexes the majority of Māori Land Court minute books for all Māori Land Court districts in New Zealand from 1865-1910. This was done by librarians in the New Zealand and Pacific Collection at the University of Auckland Library.

  • The Māori Land Court Minute Books Index is not a full-text database. It does not include copies of pages from the minute books as images or in text form.
  • The database covers all seven Māori Land Court districts: Taitokerau, Waikato-Maniapoto, Tairawhiti, Waiariki, Aotea, Takitimu and Waipounamu.
  • Details of the land block, iwi involved, details of the case and whakapapa details of the land owners, as well as name of witnesses present are given.
  • There are contemporary Māori Appellate Court decisions and Lower Court reserved decisions.
  • Judgments of the Māori Appellate Court from 1993 onwards, and the Māori Land Court from 2010, are available on the Māori Land Court website.

Physical copies of the South Island and Chatham Island minutes are held in the Ngā Pounamu Māori Centre. The entire collection is available at the Macmillan Brown Library.

See Whakapapa for further information on tracing your Māori lineage.

Land Information New Zealand

The Christchurch branch of Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) holds historic records for Marlborough, Nelson, Westland and Canterbury. LINZ is a descendant of such government departments as the Lands and Deeds Division of the Justice Department.

Heathcote Valley [ca. 1921]
Heathcote Valley [ca. 1921]
Many historic sources of land information are still paper-based and vary between regional areas. Further information and contact details are available from the LINZ website.


Information at LINZ

Deeds and Torrens System
The Deeds System existed from 1850 to 1923. Then, land transactions were usually registered with the government departments which existed before LINZ. When the Torrens System came in, the registration of land became compulsory. There are annual nominal or name indexes to both of these systems. Indexes lead to primary books giving dates and times when people were involved with particular land transactions.
Probates not held by Archives New Zealand may well be with LINZ, for those wills which involved land up until 1923. LINZ has an index to the wills which it holds and you can contact them for further information.
LINZ provides information from their Landonline database - available at public terminals in their regional offices - for those interested in recent or historic land transactions. If it is known where a particular person owned a piece of farm land, a search can be made using their online property maps as well.

Other sources of land information

Royal New Zealand Fencibles, 1847-1852
This lists members of the Fencibles, contains biographical information including the names of the ships which brought the soldier-settlers, has photographs, inventories of personal property and details of the land which individuals were granted in the Auckland area.
Fencible settlements land grants
Provides details of the land allocated to the Fencibles.
John Horrell land index
Held at the Canterbury Museum, this is useful for North Canterbury land research. It deals with who bought particular areas of land in the 19th and 20th century, to whom they sold it and how much land was involved.
Auckland Crown Grants
Auckland City Libraries provide online access to an early registration map showing Section and Lot numbers, with names of landholders in the city of Auckland. Dates of the grants listed are from 1842 to 1861.
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