Old Auckland Province Deeds 1881-2008

The Land Deed System

The Deeds system was the primary land management system operating in New Zealand from 1841 – 1871.   Deeds registration legislation stipulated that every Crown Grant, Deed, Contract, Will or other instrument relating to a parcel of land, must be registered in the Registry Office of the appropriate Land Registration District. Types of instruments included:

  • Crown Grants
  • Conveyances (Transfers)
  • Mortgages
  • Re-conveyances
  • Agreements
When a Deed was lodged for registration, a fee based on the number of words was paid and an instrument number was allocated by the registry staff.  The Deed was then copied into the Deeds Record Book and indexed. The original Deed was returned to the person presenting the instrument who also certified the copy.

Three Step Process

The registration number allocated at the time of lodgement became the Deed Number and was maintained throughout the entire process.
  • Primary Index
  • Deed Index
  • Deed Register

Conversion of Deeds to Torrens System

The Land Transfer Act 1871 ushered in the Torrens System providing a guarantee as to tenure.  The two systems operated side by side until1924 when it became compulsory to bring all land under a common system.  Between 1871 and 1924, transferring land over from the Deed System to the Torrens was “voluntary” by way of Application,  but after1924,  Applications became “compulsory.”  Post 1924, with few exceptions, land ownership was successfully converted over to Land Title.

Old Auckland Province

The Old Auckland Province was established in 1853.  Its area roughly split the North Island in half with a line running across the 39th Parallel, Taranaki to Gisborne.  In1919 the Old Auckland Province was divided into the North Auckland Land District and Auckland Land District. The Auckland Land District was renamed the South Auckland Land District in 1948.

Old Auckland Province Deed Films

Deeds prior to 1881 are only available at Archives New Zealand.  Filmed copies of the Deeds between 1881 - 2008 have recently been donated to the NZSG by LINZ.  Each Film is correspondingly labelled with the Deed Register number or the “R” number that appears in the Deeds Index Book. To find the Deed films go to the NZSG Library Catalogue.

Members are able to request copies of Old Auckland Province Deeds from the films. Send the Deeds Register number (the "R" number, e.g. R52) and the folio/page number (e.g. R52 142) to landresearch@genealogy.org.nz.

The following step-by-step guide explains how to go about identifying the Deed and Register in which the Deed is held.

Guide – Easy steps to finding Deeds at Archives New Zealand
(Under revision)

Archives New Zealand

All historical land records for New Zealand have been transferred from LINZ to Archives New Zealand, to the office nearest the Land District involved. Many of the early registers for the Deeds system have now been digitised and can be browsed online through Archway. These include: Primary Index, and Deed Indexes. However, not all records have been digitised, nor are they planned to be as far as we know. For example the Application [the transfer to Torrens system] series are still a work in progress, but there is no intention at this stage to digitise the Deeds Registers themselves which means they have to be ordered for viewing at Archives.

Understanding Land Records

Land ownership and transactions (dealings) are collated by the identity of the land parcel itself (Lot/DP number), not by the land owner.  Archives New Zealand have several Research Guides available on their website. These guides give a comprehensive overview of how land records are structured and how to go about finding them.

Finding Owners of Land

Tracking down land documents depends on a researcher having some idea of "where" a person lived. Anecdotal evidence, School Records, Electoral Rolls all help to establish a near location and Land District. There are also a small number of land-related Nominal Indexes which can help. For example, the NZSG A Return of Freeholders of NZ October 1882 which gives a nationwide index of land owners throughout New Zealand, and the DVD publication NZSG Land Transactions Index [1871 – 1991] which is a resource that helps specifically with land records in Taranaki, North Auckland, South Auckland, although these are primarily records post the Deed System. Go to our online shop to purchase these resources.

Papers Past is also an excellent resource for finding regional information on landowners, including Crown Land Grants, Voter Rolls and so on.

Nominal Indexes

A nominal Index, otherwise known as the “Withers Index”, is an alphabetical listing of the surnames of the parties involved in land records for the Deeds and Crown Grants. This can be found under Series 23666 on Archway at Archives NZ. It covers the date range 1852? - 1916? (excepting 1886 – 1909). Be aware that the names entered in the Primary Index Books and Application Index Books often differ in the nominal index from the person on the Deed Index and may be the name of the agent who lodged the Deed.

New Zealand Land Research Service

The Land Research Service initially assists members with their research on New Zealand land plans, and subsequently in purchasing Certificates of Title relating to the parcels of land owned or occupied – if required.



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