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:

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