Family History – Passenger Lists

Shipping and Passenger Information

Shipping lists are useful for finding information about passenger and shipping arrivals into New Zealand. There are lists of resources which can be used whether the date and place of arrival is known or unknown.

You may never be able to find out what ship brought your ancestors to New Zealand. Many records no longer exist and many more are not indexed and are not readily accessible. In general, the earlier your ancestor arrived (say before 1875), the more likely it is that you will find a passenger list. After 1900, far fewer lists have survived.

Try these websites first:

Passenger lists on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga

Index of passenger lists available in Christchurch City Libraries [488 KB PDF]

Lyttelton Harbour, showing sailing ship[ca. 1921]
Lyttelton Harbour, showing sailing ship [ca. 1921]
There are some passenger lists, mostly on microfilm and microfiche, available on Tuakiri | Identity, Level 2, Tūranga. Some of these lists are indexed by passenger name and some by ship name.


The Canterbury Museum holds lists, indexed by passenger, for shipping arrivals at Lyttelton in the early colonial period and Archives New Zealand in Christchurch has photocopies of some of the material we hold on microfilm. Archives New Zealand also provides a Migration Reference Guide to help identify their holdings for New Zealand shipping, immigration and emigration information.

Organised emigration in the 19th century was carried out by different authorities at different times and this has implications for the location of particular passenger lists.

  • From 1839 - 1853, the New Zealand Company brought passengers to Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth (1839-50).
  • From 1848 - early 1850s the Otago Association brought passengers to Otago.
  • From 1850 - 1853 the Canterbury Association brought passengers to Canterbury. Auckland migration was on an ad hoc basis in this period.
  • From 1853 - 1870, each provincial government was responsible for immigration. Passenger lists are located in the papers of the various provincial councils.
  • In 1870, the central government, under Vogel, took over control of immigration. Passenger lists are located among the papers of the government departments responsible.
Port Lyttelton, showing Cressy just arriving, 27 December 1850 [1850]
Port Lyttelton, showing Cressy just arriving, 27 December 1850 [1850]

Use the following headings to guide you in your search:


  • Emigration to Canterbury : Shipping Lists 1856-1874
    Passenger lists for ships to Canterbury which carried assisted immigrants organised by the Canterbury Provincial Government from 1856-1870, and the Central Government from 1870-1874.
  • New Zealand family history: shipping and passenger information
    Contains information about researching passenger and shipping arrivals into New Zealand. Focuses on resources held by Christchurch City Libraries.
  • Canterbury Shipping Information
    Has information about, and passengers lists for, the first four ships to Canterbury. Also shipping lists for other ships arriving in Canterbury 1851-1853. From the Canterbury Pilgrims & Early Settlers Association.
  • The First Four Ships
    A project by The Press, Christchurch, to identify and gather information on the passengers of The First Four Ships to colonise Christchurch and Canterbury
  • Immigrant Ships to New Zealand 1835-1910
    Personal site listing details of ships and passenger lists arriving to New Zealand. Not comprehensive.
  • Nelson City Council Early Settlers Database
    Details of shipping arrivals to Nelson between 1841-1850. The information has been sourced from the original New Zealand Company Passengers To Nelson manifests and shipping lists published in The Colonist newspaper. Produced in conjunction with the Nelson 2000 Trust and the Nelson Provincial Museum.
  • New Zealand Bound
    A site dedicated to identifying genealogical resources which help locate the New Zealand bound ship an immigrant ancestor was aboard. Far from a complete list of resources available - and not strong on Canterbury information. The lists for the Canterbury Associations first four ships are provided - though these are not verified and may be incorrect.
  • Petone Settlers Museum Passenger Database
    Access primary and secondary source data relating to arrivals from the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and Australia to Wellington (Wellington only and Wellington as first port of call) between 1839-1897.
  • Shipping @ New Zealand Yesteryears
    Has over 2000 passenger lists including immigrants to New Zealand from the United Kingdom and Australia. Also includes travel within New Zealand ports. From New Zealand Yesteryears.
  • Taranaki Area Passenger Arrivals 1843 - 1885
    Has details of shipping arrivals and departures as taken from the Taranaki Herald 1852-1885. Includes port to port passenger lists within New Zealand. A joint effort between Puke Ariki and the New Plymouth Genealogy Group
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