New Zealanders looking to learn more about their family trees will soon have access to around three million maritime immigration records. Some 300,000 pages of passenger and crew lists noting who arrived at which New Zealand port in the 1800’s, and on what date, have been digitized and are now being uploaded to genealogy website, www.FamilySearch.org.

The shipping documents have been made available for the public to access online free of charge due to a unique partnership involving Archives New Zealand and FamilySearch, a not-for-profit organization funded by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Around 10% of the records are now online, with the rest to follow in the next few months.

Glen Reid is one person who is delighted by this move. He has always known a lot about his Maori ancestry, or whakapapa, but knowledge of his British heritage has been sketchy.

While searching Archives New Zealand’s hard copy maritime records recently, he found information about his paternal grandfather, a man he knew nothing about except his name, Frederick Louis Reed.

While poring over the archived records, Glen learned that his grandfather arrived in Auckland upon HMS Lauderdale on 30 January 1874. The arrival record stated that he was a piano tuner and a builder.

Glen’s mind raced as he processed the new information. Did his grandfather pass on any of his building skills to his son, Glen’s dad, who built the family home in Hawkes Bay? And was the fact that Glen’s father could play the piano by ear, without a single lesson, linked to Glen’s grandfather’s interest in music?

“I have always had a yearning to know of my heritage on my father’s side and to understand what shaped his life and where his personality came from,” he says. “I have a pretty clear understanding of my Maori ancestry, but am now beginning to gain a greater appreciation for my ancestors on my English and Scottish side.”

Glen continues to search for missing pieces in his genealogy puzzle, building a clearer picture of his family tree _ one step at a time. He, and other New Zealanders, will now be able to do that searching from the comfort of their homes, online.

According to Michael Higgins, Pacific Area representative for FamilySearch, the joint digitizing project with Archives New Zealand has taken about eighteen months to complete. The information is now being indexed so visitors to the site can easily navigate around the records.

“The Archives have been great to work with and we feel privileged to be involved,” he said.

Family history research is one of the world’s most popular hobbies.