Online History ResourcesTips and hints to help you with your research of local and NZ history
There are many different online resources available to assist you in researching NZhistory. Most contain information which would never be revealed in a Google searchand their number and coverage is growing on a monthly basis.Familiarising yourself with these will better enable you to answer complex questionswhich go beyond what you might expect to find in a published book. Their use willoften enable you to become a “historian” in the true sense by allowing you to interpretinformation you uncover rather than relying on the opinion of others.Some of these resources offer full information retrieval but many are only indexeswhich will still require a visit to a library or an archive to obtain the full version.
A great place to start is our heritage page. You can find a link to this on the top bar of thelibrary’s main homepage
From that page, select “Local History” (but take some time to go back later and checkout the other options if you are unfamiliar with them)
Then to access our main in-house heritage databases, click here…or scroll down the page to the appropriate point.
The two databases of particularinterest are the Wellington LocalHistory Database and the EveningPost clipping database.
The Local History Database has been built up by current and former library staff over 15+ yearsand now contains over 50,000 records. Initially designed to hold index information to newspaperclippings, it now also contains specific references to books, biographical information, compiledscrapbooks and items of ephemera held in the Central Library’s Rare Books Room. It isparticularly useful for tracking down newspaper articles published before the date coverage offull-text newspaper databases (c. 1996) but after the cut-off point for Papers Past (1945). Asimple keyword will search across all significant fields including title, subject heading and theabstract. Note that you need to come to the Central Library to view the actual item (locations aregiven in the results) but the dates given can be very useful for tracking down when specificevents happened.
Here’s an example of a search on thekeyword “Antrim” (Antrim House is theNational Headquarters of the Historic PlacesTrust at 63 Boulcott Street). Note the locationabbreviation of “WVF”. This refers to a hard-copy of the clipping being held in theWellington Vertical File on the 2nd floor of theCentral Library (staff assistance is requiredto access these – please ask at thereference desk). However as a date ofpublication has also been given, thenewspaper articles could also be found onthe microfilmed copies of the Evening Postand the Dominion (also held on the 2nd floor).
The Evening Post Clippings database can be foundjust below the link to the Local History database. Likethe Local History database it is also an index-onlyresource. This collection was assembled by EveningPost filing clerks and gifted to us following thenewspaper’s merger with the Dominion in 2002.Unlike microfilmed copies of newspapers (which relyon one knowing the date of publication), the EPcollection is arranged in subject-order and it is the8000+ subject heading list that the databasesearches. The clippings are contained in some 15,000folders (certain subjects are large enough to requiremultiple folders which are arranged in date order).Each can contain up to about 100 clippings ranging insize from just a few column centimetres to full-pagefeature articles. The collection runs from 1927 to1977 and the clippings themselves are contained in30 filing cabinets on the 2nd floor of Central.
Here’s the search screen for the clipping database…And here’s the result on a search on the term “Karori”. Note how the subjects are broken down into primary, secondary and tertiary headings. The two folders of clippings on the Municipal–Suburbs–Karori result means a substantial number of clippings must have been collected. These will be arranged by year (eg, [1945 – 1969], then [1970 – 1977] .
Here’s a selection of external history related databases. All of these should be available from “free internet” PC’s in any library• The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (www.nzetc.org )• Papers Past (paperspast.natlib.govt.nz )• The A to J’s Online (atojs.natlib.govt.nz )• NZ History Online (www.nzhistory.net.nz )• Te Ara (The Encyclopedia of New Zealand) (www.teara.govt.nz)•Archives New Zealand / Archway (archives.govt.nz)• Matapihi (www.matapihi.org.nz)
The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (www.nzetc.org ) The NZETC is the largest collection of out-of- copyright digitised New Zealand books available on-line. It covers a vast array of material including early NZ novels, history books, the entire Official History of NZ in the Second World War and various journals. These can be key-word searched or “browsed” according to subjectWhen a resource has been located, it can either be browsed online orthe entire work can be downloaded as an ePUB file and read on aneReader (excluding Kindle) or on a computer using suitable free readingsoftware. Wellington City Libraries worked in collaboration with theNZETC who digitised our copies of the NZ Railways Magazine and theCyclopedia of New Zealand. This last resource (a late-19th / early 20thCentury reference guide to NZ government, society and economy) hassince become one of the most popular works in the NZETC collection dueto its usefulness in researching family history.
Papers Past paperspast.natlib.govt.nzFirst launched by the National Library of NewZealand in 2001, Papers Past revolutionisedthe study of local history and genealogywhen full-text searching was introduced in2009. This enables simple keyword searchingof over 2 million pages of vintage NewZealand newspapers. Wellington news andevents are particularly well covered as theEvening Post currently has the widest date-range coverage of any New Zealand newspaper onPapers Past (1865 to 1945). Other Wellington based newspapers include the NZ Colonist (1842– 1843), the NZ Spectator (1844 – 1865) and one of the most popular weekly newspapers ofthe early 20th Century, the satirical Freelance (1900 – 1909). “Exactphrase” searching is often necessary to reduce the number of “hits” as an “all of your words”search will pick up any occurrence of a word across an entire page. Once an item of interesthas been found, this can be read on-line or the entire page can be downloaded as a PDF or asa high-resolution PNG file which can be printed up to its original size without loss of quality(i.e. up to broadsheet size).
The A to J’s Online atojs.natlib.govt.nzThe Appendix to the Journals of theHouse of Representatives (morecommonly called the A to J’s) is aremarkable source of “official”history which until relatively recentlywas largely ignored by amateurhistorians and genealogists. Thischanged in 2010 when the first 20years of A to J’s (1860’s and 1870’s)became available online.This date-range has since been expanded up to 1914 and is likely to extend further in thenear future. The collection is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Clerk of theHouse and the National Library (hence the similarity of the search screen with Papers Past).The A to J’s are a reprint of all papers and reports “tabled” in Parliament. This includesannual reports from departments and ministries, special reports, petitions, commissions ofenquiry reports and much more. They are a rich source of family history as they will includestaff lists and salaries of teachers, nurses, engine drivers and many other professions, annualreturns from farmers including acreage and stock numbers, plus many reports anddespatches relating to “Native Affairs” and New Zealand’s interests in the Pacific.
NZ History Online www.nzhistory.net.nzNZ History Online (aka “NZHistory.net”) was the first majorwebsite to be launched by the Ministryof Culture and Heritage. It is made upof a collection of on-line “essays”which are broadly divided into threesections: Society & Culture, Politicsand Government and War & Society. Itis an excellent classroom resource forstudents up to NCEA level 3. All of thesubject areas come with referencesand citations which will enable olderstudents top seek out more detailedinformation if required.Selected feature topics often reflect current events, anniversary celebrations and the NCEAhistory syllabus.
Te Ara (incorporating the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography www.teara.govt.nzAnother major website from the Ministryof Culture and Heritage is Te Ara. Alsoknown as the Encyclopedia of NewZealand, this website was “seeded” withan electronic re-print of the originalEncyclopedia of New Zealand firstpublished in 1966. The website makesgood use of additional multi-mediamaterial with plenty of illustrations, audioand video recordings. Incorporated intothe site is the Dictionary of New ZealandBiography which was originally publishedas a five volume set. Te Ara also featuresan extensive use of Te Reo includingdetailed biographies and genealogy ofmany important Maori figures.
Archives New Zealand “Archway” archives.govt.nzArchway is an index database to the vast collection of files held by Archives New Zealandwhich are spread over their three main branches (Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch).While this is an index-only, the results of a search can often give valuable informationrelating to family history including pre-WWII military records (many of these are availableas complete scans), probate information (relating to the execution of wills), coroners reports, immigration, divorce records and much more. Any files which look particularly interesting can be ordered for further investigation as long as no access restrictions are in place. The best way to access Archway is to visit the Archives NZ website and click on the tab located on the top-right corner of their homepage
This takes you to the “simple” searchscreen which is generally enough fora majority of searches. Advancedsearches will allow you to narrowdown the areas of government whichmay have been responsible forcreating the records. Here we areexecuting a simple search on thename “Norman Collis” The preliminary results indicate four records itemised down to an individual name. Clicking “go” takes you full results which indicate that Norman Lawrence Collis divorced (and thus married) three times.
Matapihiwww.matapihi.org.nz Matapihi is a “federated search” facility provided by the National Library of NZ. In one quick search it quickly retrieves and compiles results from multiple institutions including the National Library, Te Papa, the heritage collections of Auckland City Libraries and the Wairarapa Archive. It is particularly useful when searching for heritage images. Clicking on a result will automatically take you to the record on the website of the holding institution.
And finally…Here’s a small selection of additional websites which can often be very useful whenconducting historic researchThe NZ Yearbook Collection (online access to all yearbooks back to 1893)www.stats.govt.nz/yearbooksGeneral NZ Statistics (including census information)www.statistics.govt.nzCurrent NZ Legislationwww.legislation.govt.nzNZ Statutes as enacted (i.e. the original forms of Acts which have since been repealed oramended)www.nzlii.org/nz/legis/hist_act/