Land Information New Zealand Project 2001 - 2002

This project came about following a New Plymouth Genealogy Branch visit to the local New Plymouth office of the Land Information New Zealand in 2001. During that visit it became apparent that the local office of LINZ would be closing at the end of that year and all the land records were going to be transferred to the Hamilton LINZ Office. Realising the great loss of information that it would be to local Genealogists, it was decided to try and capture some vital data in the remaining months. A small team of volunteers was gathered together and the decision made to transcribe the ownership of land details for the original township of New Plymouth from its beginning in 1840 until approximately 1900.

Why 1900?

It was decided to capture as much data as possible from what is known as the "Deeds" system of land transfer. This was the original system of recording land ownership and transfer prior to the "Title" system. The first land "title" was issued in New Plymouth in 1867, but titles were not generally issued until 1871 onwards. In practice, the changeover to the title system was done gradually as a new title of land ownership was not issued until the next change of ownership of that piece of land. The information contained in the titles system is currently and will be, in future, available on LINZ's electronic land records system.

It was also known that "Deeds" system was considered "Dead" by LINZ as there is almost no land left in New Plymouth active under the "Deeds" system, ie. without a legal title. It appears that the "Deeds" records are mainly only accessed by family historians. With the removal of "Deeds" records to Hamilton it was feared that the "Deeds" books would not be available in the public area, as previously in New Plymouth and access for research would thus be much more difficult.

Transcribers Michael Butler, Raewyn Evans, Roger Hawkins, Margaret Oulaghan, Marilyn Armistead and John Berntsen set about beginning the task in October 2001. Those transcribers unfamiliar with the "Deeds" system soon got their heads around the task and it was full steam ahead until the LINZ office closed in February 2002. We only just had time to capture all the data, as with similar projects, the size of the undertaking was not really appreciated until we were well underway. (And it was too late to turn back!) Data entry was begun by Maree Heiloo, Marilyn Armistead, John Berntsen, Sharyn Guthrie and Bruce Bellini, as soon as the transcriptions became available.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DEEDS SYSTEM

The "Deeds" system comprised a set of books in which the records of land ownership was recorded. It appears that the system of recording such records was, to some extent, left to the discretion of each Lands and Deeds Office as it is known that the sets of records and the method of recording did differ from office to office.

More details of the Deeds system.

THE PROJECT

Forms were designed to transcribe the information from the Deeds books. First the Sectional Index book containing the 2348 sections for the original township of New Plymouth were captured, entered into a database, printed and corrected. This initial part of the project proceeded reasonably quickly and smoothly. The second part of the project was then to capture the data for each section from the "I" and "R" books. Our team of six transcribers were each given several pages of the Sectional Index book printout and began the process. At first, for the sake of completeness, we decided to capture all the details entered in the "I" books, relating to each section. As time progressed it became evident that we would not have time to complete the project and to the relief of several of our team we made the decision to just capture the "change of ownership" (conveyancing) details for each section. Luckily several of our transcribing team were able to spend several hours, several days each week, transcribing at the LINZ Office, and we achieved our goal.

THE DATABASE

A description of the database content, some notes on errors and some interesting points are over here.

PROJECT OUTCOME

The database resulting from the transcribed information has been printed out in section number order. An alphabetical index of land owner's names has been generated from the database and precedes the main section printout. The alphabetical index of land owner's names has been included in the Taranaki Biographical Index for access by researchers who may reside outside of New Plymouth.

Bruce Bellini
Project Leader
June 2002