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Our Wellington archive holds a large collection of Wellington Land District records from Lands & Survey (Wellington) and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).

The core records comprise the Deeds Registration System, which was the predecessor and for a time parallel system to the Certificate of Title system in effect today.

Other records [mainly from the Lands and Survey – Wellington District Office and Land Information New Zealand Wellington Processing centre] complement the Deeds Registration System and often give further information.

About the deeds system records

The Deeds Registration System documented changes of ownership and boundaries for pieces of land from the 1840s onwards. The key index in this system is the Deeds Index (DI), which gives an overview of what has happened to a parcel of land.

Under the deeds system, the first document registered of a land title was usually a Crown Grant or Warrant, which passed the land from the Crown into private hands. Later transactions and changes to the land could be registered into the Deeds System.

It was not mandatory to register a sale of land, but registration enabled ownership to be tracked and validated through a Government system. When a transaction occurred the documentation was taken to the Deeds Office. There it was numbered and copied into the relevant type of register, usually a Deeds Register (DR), Crown Grant Record Book (CG) or Will Book. The original document was returned to the owner after it was indexed and transcribed into a register.

Under the Land Transfer Act 1870 land transactions could be registered in either the Land Transfer system or in the Deeds System. From 1870 until 1924 the registration of land could be transferred from the Deeds System to the Land Transfer system (but not vice versa) leading to the Deeds Indexes documenting progressively fewer pieces of land until 1924. From 1924 onwards land could only be registered in the Land Transfer system as the Deeds system was phased out. Some land remains in the Deeds System today (generally where the ownership of the land has remained unchanged for a century or more).

We hold very few Land Transfer act records (sometimes referred to as Certificate of Title records) as these records are held by Land Information New Zealand.

Deed indexes

[AFIH 22394 W5691/39-99]

Deeds Index volumes (held in the LINZ Register Room) record all the registered transactions for a piece of land on a dedicated page within the index.

Each page details the documents that were filed, including the document (instrument) type and number, date of registration, date of the document and where it is recorded/transcribed. The last may be in a Deeds Register Book [AFIH 22395 W5691/100-386], a Crown Grant Book [AFIH W5687/67-88] or a Wills Book [AFIH W5687/259-270] (see below).

Deeds Index volumes are organised geographically by registration district and then by section number. There is an index at the front of each Index Book, giving the page numbers for registration districts.

Finding the correct deed indexes

  • If you know the Section Number check the Wall Chart (see below).

  • If you know an Instrument (document) Number, look in the Nominal Primary Indexes (see next column) [AFIH 22393 W5691/1-38]

  • If you only know the owner’s name, check the Nominal Indexes to Primary Deeds – Alphabetical (see below) [AFIH 22396 W5691/386-388]

A reference to the Deeds Index Book can also be found on the first Certificate of Title for a piece of land, which can be obtained from LINZ. If the land was transferred out of the Deeds system into the Certificate of Title system, underneath the final entry in the Deeds Index Book will be an Application Number for a Certificate of Title.

Searching by section number using wall chart

The Wall Chart in the LINZ Register Room lists all major Registration Districts in the Wellington Land District and gives a Deeds Index volume number [AFIH 22394 W5691/39-99] for each Registration District. Some Registration Districts are documented in multiple indexes and the Wall Chart will indicate which volume holds a given range of sections.

Searching by instrument (document) number

When a document was registered in the Deeds system it was assigned a l number, known as an instrument number. The Indexes to Primary Deeds (see below) list the documents sequentially by instrument number.

Searching by person’s name

Indexes to Primary Deeds – Alphabetical 1845-1990 (probable gaps) [AFIH 22396 W5691/386-388]. These Wellington Index volumes are a list of people who had an interest in a piece of land. Each name entry provides an instrument (document) number which leads to the Nominal Primary Indexes (see next column).

The alphabetical/nominal indexes were compiled as people registered documents into the deeds system, so while the names are listed by initial they are not in alphabetical order. The first index (W5691/386) covers transactions taking place between 1845 – 1868. The second and third indexes (W5691/387 & 388) sporadically cover later years.

More deeds records

Primary deeds indexes

[AFIH 22393 W5691/1-38 ]

The Primary Deeds Indexes to Deeds are arranged by Instrument Number and state both the type of document and the parties to it. They refer (usually as book and page number) to where the document was recorded, for example in a:

The Nominal Primary Indexes also provide another reference to the Deeds Indexes [AFIH 22394 W5691/39-99], which show all dealings for that particular piece of land.

Instrument numbers can also be found by searching for owners’ names in the Indexes to Primary Deeds – Alphabetical [AFIH 22396 W5691/386-388].

Deeds registers

[AFIH 22395 W5691/100-385]

As each deed was registered an entry was made in a Deeds Register. The information in the register book includes a full transcript of the transaction, the instrument number, type of document, date registered, parties involved and a plan of the affected land.

Deposited deeds

Original deeds could be deposited with the Registrar for safe keeping, when registered into the deeds system. Deposited documents were given a deposited deed number and the details were recorded in the Deposited Deed Books [AFIH 22397 W5691/389-390].

Access to the Deposited Deed Books is through a Deposited Deeds (nominal) Index [AFIH 22398 W5691/391/]

The Deposited Deed Books record the instrument number of each document in the deeds system, which gives access to the Nominal Primary Indexes [AFIH 22393 W5691/1-38] and through those to the Deeds Indexes [AFIH 22394 W5691/39-99] and Deeds Registers [AFIH 22395 W5691/100-385]. The original Deeds are held by LINZ.

A nominal index is also available to the Deposited Deeds c1845-c1868 [AFIH 22398 W5691/391]. This provides references to both the deeds indexes and deeds registers. More information on this system is noted under ‘Deposited Deeds’

Other Wellington land records

Crown grants

Crown Grants were the original means of moving land ownership from the Crown into private hands. Crown Grants were largely replaced by Warrants from 1880, which were in turn was largely replaced by the issuing of Section 116 certificates from 1952. In special circumstances Warrants and Crown Grants can be issued even today.

Crown Grants were originally prepared in the Colonial Secretary’s Office with the Surveyor General. A copy of each grant was kept by the Colonial Secretary (separate volumes for Town, Suburban and Country lands). Later, further series were made for other classes of grants. These records were handed to the General Crown Lands Office when it was set up in 1858.

The Crown Lands Office prepared and issued Crown Grants until 1892 when the office was incorporated into the Department of Lands and Survey.

Crown grants - successor records

Further records

Lands & Survey Wellington records

Many records from Lands & Survey Wellington complement the deeds registration records.

New Zealand Company records

The New Zealand Company was formed in 1839 to put into practice Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theories of systematic colonisation through settlements in New Zealand. The Company began purchasing land at Port Nicholson in later 1839 and at Whānganui in 1841.

After the Company failed in 1850 its colonial responsibilities were taken over by the Governor and many NZ Company land records became part of the NZ government records.

NZ Company records are listed on Archway. Some of the series relating to land purchase in the Wellington region by the New Zealand Company are:

  • Land Office papers 1839-1858

include registers of applications for land, certificates showing sections of land selected by purchasers, lists of sections and allotments showing owners, registers of transfers of land orders, and descriptions of land reserved for the use of Māori. [NZC 33]

  • Land Office papers 1839-1850 - NZC Indexes & Registers – Selections & Sections  [NZC 133]

  • NZ Company Deeds 1839-1844

  • Deeds of Release/Sale/Purchase – Port Nicholson [ABWN 8111 W5280/194]

  • Survey Office papers 1840-1845

  • (Most records are Surveyors’ Diaries) [NZC 135]

  • Former NZ Company records 1840s-1852

  • Land orders, cancellations, lists of holders, etc [LS-W 64]

  • Former NZ Company records 1840-1853

  • Relating to section holders – most are registers [LS-W 65]

Taranaki land district records

The Wellington branch holds historic Deeds Registration records for land in the Taranaki Land District. These records are organised along similar lines to the Wellington Deeds records addressed earlier in this guide.

Hawkes Bay land district records

Few early Deeds Registration l records exist for the Hawkes Bay Land District because of the destruction following the Hawkes Bay earthquake in 1931.

Prior to the earthquake, the Napier Lands Registry office maintained Deeds Registration records comparable to those for the Wellington and Taranaki land districts. After the destruction of records, mainly through fire, a major project was required to reconstitute the legal record of land ownership for the district. When ownership was determined a Certificate of Title was issued for the land in question, even if the land had been previously registered in the Deeds system.

Many of the Hawkes Bay Land District records held here relate to these efforts to reconstruct the legal record after the 1931 earthquake.

Digitisation of deeds indexes

Several series of index volumes addressed in this guide have been digitally copied and are available online via our electronic finding aid Archway.

Contact us if assistance is required with the online versions of these digitised records.

The main collections held in the Wellington archive that are available online are:

Wellington Land District

Taranaki Land District


Other land districts

Deeds Index records relating to other Land Districts have also been made available online. The original records are held at our Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin archives.