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We have historical resources which are useful for genealogists, plus guides to genealogical research in the general non fiction collection

Resources are listed by organisation and by type of information (eg wills, passenger lists), It does not have a specialist genealogy collection, or offer specialist genealogy services.

Resources for researching whakapapa are listed on our Māori research page.

Elma Turner Library resources

  • The Nelson Heritage Collection - holds a rich collection of published items about the wider Nelson region of relevance to genealogists.
    These include local and family histories, local directories and electoral rolls.
  • Newspapers - Nelson region newspapers are held from 1842

Online resources

Library Databases

  • Ancestry Library Edition (access in the library only)
    Trace your family history across more than 1.5 billion names from over 4,000 collections (mainly US and UK census and BMD records). New - additional NZ resources on Ancestry!
  • British Newspaper Archive (access in the library only)
    The British Newspaper Archive, a partnership between the British Library and FindmyPast contains around three million pages of newspaper content from 1800. Fully searchable.
    You also need to create a free personal account from this link: (a free account also allows you to save, note, and bookmark interesting papers and easily return to them on their next session).
  • FamilySearch
    Nelson Public Library is an Affiliate Library. Create a personal logon and use this resource in the Library to access a wide range of the digitised microfilm collection, plus the other collections of family history resources which are freely available outside the Library. The database is created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
  • FindmyPast (access in the library only)
    Access a huge range of resources for family history research. Includes the 1921 British Census. Help is available.
    One user access at any one time (try later if you see the message It appears that all seat allocations are already in use).


New Zealand Resources

General information

Births, Marriages and Deaths

  • Births Marriages and Deaths Online - see the Historical Records section for births more than 100 years ago, marriages more than 80 years ago and deaths more than 50 years ago.
  • Cenotaph database
    A database of over 33,000 New Zealanders who served in war and conflict from the South African War to the present day, and who are now deceased. It is primarily a roll of honour of those who died as a result of war service, but also includes some personnel who have died since.
  • A Memory Tree
    A commercial site for people to record remembrances, which includes a free database of all the names published in NZ newspaper death notices since December 2006.
  • New Zealand Herald Bereavements
    Death notices and obituaries published in the New Zealand Herald over the last few year.


For information about current and historic census data and reports and the fate of census returns from individuals, see Census section of our research guide to Central & local Government information.

Despite the fact that Census forms were not officially kept until recently, some returns have been kept in regional repositories.

Alternative sources that list the names and details of large sections of the population ("census substitutes") include:

  • jury and militia lists, which name adult males of qualifying age in the 1840s and 1850s (see Ancestry Library)
  • electoral rolls, which name those registered to vote since 1853 (see Ancestry Library)
  • postal directories, which name householders from the 1860s to the 1950s, and in the main cities until about 1980 (see Wises Directory on Ancestry Library)
  • school admission and attendance registers, which name children of school age since the 1870s (occasionally earlier) (see Archives New Zealand, Ancestors Attic Library, Church archives as relevant)
  • telephone directories, which name subscribers since the 1880s (although most households didn’t have a phone before the 1950s) (held Nelson Public Libraries)

International Resources


Public and civil records

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