A new project – getting started

It’s interesting to examine something I’ve done for so long (e.g. genealogy) and see how I do things. I guess it could be interesting for others as well.

For my latest project, I’ve been given my client’s maternal grandparents’ full names, birth dates (all since 1900), and where they were born (all New Zealand), and the same with her paternal grandparents.

The first thing I do is add the information I know into Ancestry.com, setting it up as a new family tree.  To do this, I need to connect the four names, by adding in my client’s parents’ names.

I’ve also been told that my client’s maternal grandfather is deceased.

It makes it a little easier as the client is a friend of mine, and I know that her grandfather lived locally.

Cemetery Records and Headstones

I then searched the local cemetery records for information about the maternal grandfather’s passing (in this case, the Napier City Council Cemetery Database – http://www.napier.govt.nz/services/napier-cemeteries/cemetery-database/) and found the following new information (e.g. not provided to me before the search):

  • Last Known Address
  • Occupation
  • Date of Interment – compared to Date of Death
  • Funeral Director
  • A picture of the headstone, complete with a digital copy of the inscription.

With this information, I added the Last Known Address, Occupation and Date of Interment to the Ancestry tree.

With the Funeral Director information, I could email the Funeral Director to see if they will provide any further information on the deceased – e.g. if I didn’t know the next of kin etc.  Not required with this person.

With the headstone information, I now know the first names of two other children of the maternal grandfather (e.g. my client’s uncle and aunty).  I added these into the family tree.  I also saved a copy of the headstone image into the family tree as well.

I also use cemetery records and headstone images as confirmation of spelling of names, and for confirming birth and death dates.  However, these are not always correct.

I’ve seen middle names spelt incorrectly on headstones – in my own family research.

I would complete this same process for other deceased family members.  However, this only works when you know where the person lived, and if the cemetery records for that area are online.

Births, Deaths and Marriages

The next thing I look at is whether the maternal grandfather’s records are available online.  Because this person was born and died in New Zealand, my first point of call is https://bdmhistoricalrecords.dia.govt.nz/search/.

In this case, his birth was in 1929 – e.g. 86 years ago, so his birth record isn’t online.

Because of this, the earliest he would have been married would be 1948 – e.g. 67 years ago, so his marriage record isn’t online.

However, as his birth was more than 80 years ago, his death record is listed online.

When looking at the listing, the only thing new is the registration number for the record – in case I need to purchase the record.  I note it in the family tree (you never know!).

I can find the other records at my local library – using microfiche.

The other grandparents are all born after 1915, so all their birth and marriage record listings could be found at the library too.


  1. Set up family tree on Ancestry
  2. Checked cemetery records online
  3. Checked Birth Deaths and Marriages online

What I could do next:

  1. Email Funeral Director
  2. Check BDM record listings on microfiche at local library
  3. Purchase any BDM records (if required)

Starting NZ genealogy – births

For a young country, New Zealand has a lot of helpful genealogy records available.  Depending who and what you’re trying to find, many old births, deaths and marriages are online.  By going to Births, Deaths and Marriages Online, you can access the following:

You can search for:

  • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago.
  • Stillbirths if registered at least 50 years ago.
  • Marriages that occurred at least 80 years ago.
  • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased’s date of birth was at least 80 years ago.

When searching for births, try searching with the family name and the first name(s) you know, with the “Search From” date set at 01/01/1840, or if you have an idea of what year the person was born, try a “From” and “To” date as appropriate.  If you don’t find the results you’re after, just search with the family name and a “Search From” date.

Still not finding what you want?

  • Try spelling the family name different
  • Try putting the family name in the first name field, and the first name in the family name field – sometimes records are typed in incorrectly.
  • Try spelling the last name different
  • Try a different date range
  • Try no date range (just a “Search From” date of 01/01/1840
  • Was the person you’re looking for born at least 100 years ago?  If the person was born less than 100 years ago, you’ll have to go to the local library and look at the non-historical records on microfiche.
  • Try putting in the family name, and then reordering the search results by either “Mother’s Given Name” or “Father’s Given Name”.  This is useful for finding siblings – if you know the parents’ names.  Every birth record will show the “Mother’s Given Name” and “Father’s Given Name” so if you don’t know what this is, there’s some extra information for you.  However, your “John Smith” isn’t the only “John Smith” out there, so double check other records to corroborate that you found the right person.

New Zealand births have been officially recorded since 1848, but Maori births were only required to be recorded from 1913.  However, as it was hard to enforce this, some Maori births were not recorded – frustrating to us genealogists!

Good luck in your searching!

Age and genealogy

Why is that the majority of people you see or meet that are interested in family history are older, e.g. 60+?

I started my family history when I was 15.  My Dad started collecting up information about all his 11 brothers and sisters, and their many children to present as a family tree to my Nana for her 90th birthday.  I realised while helping Dad with this project that a family tree is never-ending and even collecting up “current” information (new births, deaths, marriages, etc) requires an army.  So why don’t more people start working on genealogy at a younger age?  Why is it a retirement pastime?

I’m now in my 30s, and still have a living grandparent (lots of living great-aunts and uncles too).  She is happy to answer any questions I have about our ancestors, and it’s surprising the nicknames, anecdotes, information about their living situation and employment she remembers from meeting some of the people I’m researching, or hearing about them.  By having a surviving grandparent, I automatically have a resource who knows any possible piece of information I need about the generations below her, and an immense amount of information about her generation and several generations before her.

Some of the older genealogists I meet are fantastic at what they do, but they are missing some fantastic resources in current technology, that younger genealogists are taking advantage of.  For those that haven’t embraced the benefits of using a computer and the internet, their research is limited to what they can find in the archives and local libraries.  The use of a tablet or other mobile device with genealogy is fantastic – you can easily show other family members how you are going with your research while easily adding in more information you find, anywhere in the world.  Genealogy apps allows researchers to add information to their family tree, which then syncs with the information they have online, or at another location.  I shudder at the thought of researching my family, and other families, without the use of Google, and any of the thousands of great genealogy websites that I have bookmarked for use.

My aim is to help as many people as possible start their genealogy journey (whatever age they are), with as many tools as possible.  For more information on how I can help you start your family tree, please contact me.