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We hold the largest map collection in Aotearoa New Zealand with over a million maps and plans. Maps that show land transactions are spread across the holdings, and some of these are described in our Land research guides. This guide covers three types of maps that are particularly useful for genealogists: Land Sale Maps, Roll Plans, and some of our earliest maps, the Statutory Branch Registered Maps (known as Series 997).

Land Sale Maps – Land sold by ballot

In Wellington we hold a national set of maps that document the sale of Crown land by ballot. They are held in two separate but related series: ‘Land Sale Maps’ (Series 8109) and ‘Lands and Survey Maps’ (Accession W3740).

Between 1892 and 1911 the Crown offered 8.5 million acres for settlement under the Land for Settlements Acts. Land considered unsuitable for farming was developed by the Crown into viable farmland, and rather than selling these to the highest bidder, potential buyers registered an interest in purchasing the land at a fixed price. The purchaser for each block was then chosen by ballot. Maps of the land for sale were published and distributed for public viewing at Lands and Survey offices across the country.

The 531 maps in Series 8109 range from 1893-1946 and appear to be the Head Office maps of land offered for sale. They are organised by land district and year and are listed with their Block or settlement name. The ‘Lands and Survey Maps’ in Accession W3740 contains over 6,600 maps. These are organised by district, year, and block/section/settlement.

The maps contain:

  • Survey district, block and section numbers and their chain size

  • Detailed descriptions of the block or section

  • The cost of rent for leases

  • Date and location of the ballot itself

  • A purchaser’s name is sometimes recorded as an annotation

  • Topographical information, place names etc

Files on every section that was ever balloted are scarce, but if your ancestor received land by ballot then these maps will help. From newspaper references or other sources, you can match up the section or block to the map for that ballot.

How to search Land Sale Maps: Go to the Advanced search - Records page on Archway. Depending on the collection you want to search, put the series or accession number in the appropriate field. Then use place names in the Keywords field or just click search to see the full list. You can arrange your results by date or alphabetically.

Roll Plans

We hold large format roll plans created by the Lands & Survey Department across our four offices. Drawing upon several major plan sequences including Deposited Plans (DP) Māori Land Plans (ML) and Survey Office Plans (SO) and organised into districts, these roll plans show:

  • Survey districts

  • Block and section numbers and their chain size

  • Land blocks and their various boundaries, divisions or allotments (such as crown grants, partitions, confiscations, reserves)

  • Māori Blocks, reserves, place names and sites of interest (wāhi tapu, pā, kainga, awa etc)

  • Rural and town sections, often with settler surnames or references listed

  • Locations and names of early townships, streets and roads

  • Pastoral runs

  • Topographical features such as rivers, mountains, forests and vegetation

The Roll Plans are extremely helpful for getting a broad sweep of an area or finding boundaries of sections and blocks. They can help if you don’t have a section number for your ancestor’s land.

Roll Plans are listed on Archway and may be found by searching ‘district roll plans’, the name of an area, or by SO plan numbers.

Statutory Branch Registered Maps

Some of our earliest and most diverse maps are held in Series 997 or ‘Statutory Branch Registered Maps’. This is a series of around 2,000 maps that were used by the Department of Lands and Survey as reference tools for their work. Although they are held in Wellington they cover all parts of Aotearoa New Zealand, and many are digitised and available to view online.

Most of the maps are arranged by Provincial districts, with divisions into districts, towns and reserves. There are also two very large groups of maps that are not arranged geographically – these are the General and Gazetted maps.

The District maps include:

  • Military maps of roads, redoubts etc

  • Block maps

  • New Zealand Company maps to do with land tenure, sale of land and land sections

  • Topographical maps

  • Māori maps on native reserves, confiscated land, pā sites etc

  • Maps of rivers

  • Town maps showing subdivisions, sections etc

  • Reserve maps for railways, municipal etc

  • Outline maps of districts, rivers, provinces, blocks

  • Maps of railway lines

The General maps include:

  • Military data

  • Population numbers

  • Electoral information

  • Iwi/tribal boundaries and census data

  • Explorer routes Schools

The Gazetted maps cover definitions of areas of control for various government and local government functions, such as:

  • Electoral districts

  • Land boundaries

  • Reserves

  • Court districts

  • Mining areas and districts

  • Sheep and cattle districts

  • Harbour board boundaries

  • Water races

The maps vary in format. Some are as small as 20 centimetres square while others can be up to four metres long. Some are hand-drawn and coloured, some are monochrome prints, and some are lithographs.

The maps are useful because they:

  • Contain the names of land owners, both Pākehā settlers and Māori owners

  • Show section numbers that locate land cited in other documentation

  • Provide information about patterns of land use, military activity, travel, settlement and ownership that illuminates former residents’ lives, both Māori and Pākehā

How to search the series: From the Advanced search - Records page put 997 in the Series field. You can then try searching with relevant keywords in the Keywords field, or simply click search and browse the full list. You can arrange your results by date or alphabetically.