Historical court records preserved for a hundred years or more

Eamonn Bolger and Andrew Armour from Judicial Libraries have been working on preserving court records across the country. This is part of a wider project to identify historic and 'at risk' court records and make those more easily accessible by the public.

'We've been working through decades of court documents – often dating back to the late 1800s. From adoption records to depression era mortgagee records, we’ve been able to help preserve some amazing New Zealand history,’ says Eamonn Bolger, Senior Advisor Court Records. ‘We’ve found documents for personal vaccination registrations and other functions that are difficult to imagine courts being involved with now.’

Some of the records the project is preserving are:

  • bankruptcy case files some dating from 1860s
  • mortgagee sale case files from 1930s
  • vaccination registers dating from 1870s
  • adoption records dating from the 1890s to 1965

Eamonn has worked with court managers, Support Services and Archives New Zealand to identify records that are historically significant and at risk (like those stored in old and now unused courthouse buildings), catalogue the records, and transfer them to Archives New Zealand. Archives New Zealand has climate controlled facilities and is well equipped to provide public access to the records.

‘It’s great to know that many records which court staff have cared for over so many years will now be preserved permanently,’ says Joanne Twist, Manager, Judicial Libraries.

The records will be available for anyone to access (or request access) via Archway, the Archives NZ database(external link). Some court records have restricted access, meaning that researchers require permission of a judge to access information contained in the files.

If your court has historical records which you think could be preserved, please contact Eamonn Bolger on extension 50716.

The Judicial Libraries team:

  • Provides a comprehensive range of library and information services to the judiciary and judicial support staff, to enhance judicial decision making. This includes:
    • libraries in many of the larger courts
    •  eLibs (an electronic information portal)
    • print resources in most courts around New Zealand
    • librarians and research collections in nine courts
    • a small judicial decision publishing team.

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