Whakapapa Research – Maori Land Court Minutes

The historical Maori Land Court Minutes (MLCM) (since 1865) hold a wealth of information but can be daunting if you have not used these to research whakapapa before.  The Maori Land Courts were established basically to get rid of hapu / iwi owned land and to put the land into the names of individuals therefore making it easier for the settlers to buy land. There were hearings held up and down the country, and at these hearings alot of whakapapa was recited, to prove ownership of the land in question. The whakapapa recited (as well as history that was recited in support of an application) have been recorded in the MLCM.

As Maori Land is inherited through blood and not marriage you need to work out where your whanau are from – not where they live but where the bloodlines run, as those are the records that you need to look at.

If you are not sure you can start with Maori Land Online where you can do a search for owner interest.  Put in a surname and a list of names will come up.  If you recognise a name you can select it and it will take you to the land block.  Check the list of owners on that page and see if you recognise any other names, or even just surnames that you know are related to you. This will give you an idea of which district records to look at.  Note: the Maori Land Online records are only for recent owners from those living from about 1990 – they do not hold the historical records that have alot of whakapapa recorded.

There are seven districts within the Maori Land Court as listed below and a rough idea of their boundaries.

  • Tai Tokerau – Northland covering from the top of the north island down to the northern side of the Manukau Harbour, across to Otahuhu
  • Waikato Maniapoto – South of Tai Tokerau down to Mokau on the west coast and south of Tauranga on the east coast.
  • Waiariki – Rotorua and northern part of Lake Taupo, up the east coast to about Potaka with the mountain range as the boundary.
  • Tai Rawhiti – South side of the mountain range on the east coast, including Wairoa
  • Takitimu – South of Wairoa, down to Cook Straight, with the mountain ranges in the west being the boundary
  • Aotea – From Mokau down to Cook Strait, including the southern half of Lake Taupo with the mountain ranges in the east being the boundary
  • Te Waipounamu – The whole of the south island

Map Showing the North Island Maori Land Court Boundaries

Each district has books for different areas and once you have worked out the district, you need to work out which set of books the information you are looking for is likely to be in.

  • Tai Tokerau – Auckland, Bay Of Islands, Hokianga, Kaipara, Northern, Tokerau, Whangarei
  • Waikato Maniapoto – Coromandal, Hauraki, Mercer, Otorohanga, Tauranga, Waikato
  • Waiariki – Maketu, Opotiki, Rotorua, Taupo, Whakatane
  • Tai Rawhiti – Gisborne, Waiapu, Wairoa
  • Takitimu – Napier, Wairarapa
  • Aotea – Otaki, Taranaki, Tokaanu, Wanganui, Wellington
  • Te Waipounamu – Chatham Islands, Nelson, South Island

Where to find the Records
Physical records relating to land blocks are normally held by the office closest to those land blocks. Free electronic access to the records maybe available at any office of the court – it is best to phone to check though.

Where the Regional Offices are Located

Another place to check is your local library as they often hold copies of the MLCM for their area as well as Archives NZ.

Further Reading