Surname and Forenames
Alternative names
Address of person
Birth Date
Event Description
Event Place
Event Date
Source Title
Publication Date
Additional Information



Search Otago Nominal Index 




To find records
The first page is the ONI – Find Records page.

Enter a name in the empty boxes to the far right of 'Surname' and 'Forenames'. Capitals are not necessary so type everything in lower case.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on 'Find Records'. The ‘ONI – Results of Search’ screen is displayed. Click on a Surname to see the full details.


For a more complex search, choose one or more of the following:
If you are not sure of the spelling of a name, enter a few letters only in the name box. Then click on the downward pointing triangle to the right of 'Surname', and click on one of the choices (Contains, Begins with, etc).

Note that if you choose the qualifier 'equals', the database program (Filemaker Pro) searches for complete words within the field that equal the phrase and not a complete field that equals that phrase. For example, a search for Event Place equals Dunedin will find South Dunedin as well as Dunedin. A search for Event Place equals 'St' will find Castle st and St Bathans.

To obtain an exact match (i.e. Smith on its own rather than Smithson, Smithsonian, Smith-Brown, etc) place an equals (=) sign at the beginning of the search.

To search for anything starting with a hyphen use double quotes. For example, search for "-" or for "-, Mrs".

Fill in one or more of the other boxes, for example an occupation, event description or source.

Select Male or Female

Choose the number of records to display at a time.

Choose whether you want to match ALL of the words you have entered or only ANY one or more of them.

After a person has been located in the Police Gazettes or Almanacs, other people possibly associated with the same event can be found by searching for the same Event Date then checking that the Source Title, Publication Date and Page No are the same. The Gazette document should be consulted to confirm this.

To search for a Birth Date or an Event Date, enter it in the format d/m/yyyy (eg 25/9/1872). For September 1872 (no day) enter 1/9/1872. For 1872 (no month or day) enter 1/1/1872.

To search on Publication Date, use the format dd mmm yyyy (for example 2 Sep 1872) or just yyyy (eg 1856).

For a faster search enter as little information as possible.


Search results
After clicking on 'Find Records', there will be a delay (depending on the speed of your connection), then the 'Record List' page is displayed. If more than one match has been found the display order can be changed from unsorted to Name or Event Date. Some events do not have an Event Date and they will be listed first.

When a person has an alias or the name is spelt in different ways in the same entry, all those names are grouped together.

Look through the list and scroll to the next or previous page if desired.

Click on a surname to see more details. The names beside SURNAME and FORENAMES are the ‘normal' names. Any aliases or alternative spellings of the name are shown below the ‘normal' names.


To print a page
Click on the Print button on your browser's toolbar.


To revert to a previous page or to see this guide
Click on the Backspace key or the Back button on your browser's toolbar - usually near the top left corner of the screen. To see this Users’ Guide click on ‘Usersguide’ below the heading Otago Nominal Index.


The Otago Nominal Index (ONI) is an index to names of people in documents held by the Hocken Collections initially covering the period up to the end of the provincial government in 1876 but later records are now being added. It is an index not a transcription, so more information is generally available in the original documents. (The Otago Police Gazettes often provide detailed descriptions of clothing and personal appearance.)

In 1989 the Hocken Library (now the Hocken Collections) and the Dunedin Branch of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists commenced a joint project to produce this index. The Hocken provides the documents to index while the Society provides volunteers to manage the project, enter data and check its accuracy. Initially some volunteers used laptop computers supplied by the Hocken Collections but now they use their own. The volunteers are supplied with photocopies of the documents to index so the work can be done at home when they have time available.

An important feature of the project is the double entry verification process. Two volunteers enter data from the same document, one file is checked by a third person, then the two files are compared by the computer program (Microsoft Excel) and any discrepancies found are corrected. The likelihood of all three people making the same error is expected to be small. However if any errors are found by users they should be reported to the Hocken staff or the Project Convenor. The checking and correction is carried out by the Project Checkers. The Project Convenor supplies the completed data to Simon Read in the University of Otago Library by email for adding to the database.

The database structure was originally designed as a class project by four University of Otago students doing Information Systems 301 and implemented by one of them - Deane Compton. The volunteers have been coordinated (in turn) by Society members Noel Read, Jim Marshall, Shirley Hay, Bob Cockburn, Colin Patterson and (currently) Joy Pearson and Prue Turnbull. Jenepher Read checked the Police Gazettes and is now checking the Mackay’s Almanacs. Prue Turnbull is checking Electoral Rolls. Noel Read has been the Project Convenor throughout.

Ownership of the Otago Nominal Index resides with the Hocken Collections. This web version of the database is hosted by the University of Otago Library and managed by Simon Read.


 Documents Indexed as at August 2023

 Number of Records
 Harnett's Street Directories


 House of Representatives and Otago Provincial Council Electoral Rolls


 House of Representatives Electoral Rolls


 Mackay’s Almanacs


 Otago Jurors' List from The Otago Witness


 Otago Police Gazettes


 Otago Provincial Council Electoral Rolls


 Otago Provincial Government Gazette


 Southland Provincial Council Electoral Rolls


 The Evening Star Jubilee


 Wise's Street Directories




The Electoral Rolls cover Otago and Southland and were published on their own or included in The NZ Gazette, The Otago Provincial Government Gazette or The Otago Colonist. The Street Directories, Otago Police Gazettes and Mackay’s Almanacs also cover Otago and Southland. The Jurors' List is for Otago only.

Records are included for all names appearing in a document (except for people not in Otago or Southland). This includes Registrars of Electors, publishers of street directories (Messrs Harnett and Wise), Commissioners of Police, printers and if shown, any former owner or donor of a document.

The database was designed to be able to be used as a single index for ALL types of documents held by the Hocken Collections.

For more information about the indexing project see an article by Noel Read in “The NZ Genealogist” March 2002, page 121.

List of documents indexed


Surnames are in upper case followed by initials or forenames in lower case. Hyphens indicate where names or initials are not given in the document (but unfortunately some hyphens have been deleted). For a person for whom neither surname nor initials nor forenames are known, 'Name not known' is entered in the Surname field. A record is entered each time a name appears so multiple identical records in the database indicate multiple entries on the page in the document being indexed.

Organisations are not indexed but if the name of an organisation appears to include persons' names (eg Read and Pearson Ltd), a record is included for each name and the name of the organisation is shown in the Comments field. If it is not clear whether a name is a forename or a surname (eg Thomas Allan Ltd), one record is included for each name as if each is a surname (eg one for 'THOMAS -' and one for 'ALLAN -'), and another record is included for 'ALLAN, Thomas'.

The three forms M', Mc and Mac have not been programmed to be interfiled, therefore separate searches should be made for all three forms.

Nicknames are either shown after forenames and enclosed in brackets or are shown in the Alias Forename fields.
Miss and Mrs are included after the forenames if they were in the document. Mr or Esq are not included even if included in the document (but Sex is shown as M).

Titles such as Sir and the abbreviations jnr and snr are shown after forenames.

When searching for Chinese names, look in both the Surname and Forename fields for each part of the name.


When the database is searched for a person's name, the ‘normal' Name and Alternative name fields are all searched. These alternative names are either aliases or alternative spellings such as typographical errors. This often occurs in the Otago Police Gazettes. In the 1898 Jubilee publications there are many instances of women's maiden names being noted.


One record is included for each business or residential address. In most records no commas are used between parts of an address.

'pr' in the Comments field indicates that the address is a private residence. For an organisation containing two surnames, such as Leckie and Hay Ltd, if only one private residence is given, that address is recorded against both partners even though it most likely applies to one only.

Street names from Electoral Rolls and Street Directories were entered first to aid sorting. Eg 'off High Street' was entered as 'High st off', '42 Arcade' was entered as 'Arcade 42', and 'High School Dowling St' was entered as 'Dowling st High School'.


The database contains two fields for Birth Date, one in text format and one in date format. See Event Date section for an explanation.


Electors in this period had to be male and 21 years or over so in the Electoral Rolls age is given as 'Over 20'. For Jurors' Lists age is given as '21 to 60'. Age is normally in years but ‘m’ indicates months and ‘d’ indicates days for example 9m or 5d.


M/F/O = Male/Female/Other.

Blank = cannot be determined from the document.

Note that only males could be on Electoral Rolls prior to 1893. The Juror's List is probably the same. For people listed in Street Directories or Police Gazettes, sex is shown in the index only if specifically indicated in the document (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Esq, Sir). It is not assumed from typical masculine or feminine forenames. Sex is not usually inferred from occupations.

For a business like 'Pearson and Turnbull Ltd, drainlayers', both Pearson and Turnbull are indexed as drainlayers even though one may be an accountant or one may have died.


The event that is being indexed. For most records the event is the person's appearance in an Electoral Roll or a Street Directory.

The following abbreviations have been used:

HR = House of Representatives
OPC = Otago Provincial Council
SPC = Southland Provincial Council

For records from Police Gazettes, the event shows either Criminal suspect, Criminal offender, Crime victim, Police force or Personal mention, to indicate the person's role in the event. This is followed by brief details of the event. More information is often included in the Comments field.

When a document does not give a date for an 'original' event but does give a date for a consequent action (such as an arrest, sentence or discharge), that consequent action is entered in the Event Description field and the 'original' event is entered in the Comments field. If no date is given for an 'original' event or any consequent action, the principal event for that person in that item is entered in the Event Description field and the Event Date is shown as before the publication date of the document. All related actions are entered in the Comments field. Therefore if you are searching for specific crimes or other events, you need to search the Comments field as well as the Event Description field.

A link to the full list of entries in the Event Description field is available from the Find Records screen.


The place to which the electoral roll or street directory applies, usually an electorate or a town, or the place where an event such as a crime occurred.


The database contains two fields for Event Date. One field (the Event Qualified Date) is in text format as shown in the document being indexed and this is displayed on the screen. It can have qualifiers such as before and about. It can also have expressions like ultimo and instant instead of 'normal' dates. It may also show month only or day and month only (without any year).

The other field (the Event Sort Date) is in date format (dd/mm/yyyy). This second field (date format) is used for sorting and searching. The Event Sort Date is not displayed on the web-site. To search for an Event Date, enter it in the format d/m/yyyy (eg 25/9/1872), for September 1872 (no day) enter 1/9/1872. For 1872 (no month or day) enter 1/1/1872. Where the full date is not given in a document, a 'best guess' is entered in this field so that the record is sorted in a sensible way.

When an Event Date in a document appears to be incorrect, the date given is entered in the Event Qualified Date field with square brackets round the incorrect part. The assumed correct date is then entered in the Event Sort Date field so that the event will be sorted into the assumed correct order.


Click on List of documents indexed to see all source titles.


Page number in the source document. Note that page numbers in street directories are in Roman Numerals. In some cases these Roman Numerals are incorrect in the document and the actual (incorrect) number is shown in the Page field but the correct number is shown in the Comments field


This is the publication date of the document. For a double date (eg 1864/65), only the last date is entered.

Most entries in this field show a year only (from Electoral Rolls, Street Directories and Almanacs), others are in the format d Mmm yyyy (eg 5 Dec 1856).

The publication date does not have two fields (as the other dates do). It is a text field, so to search on this field use the format dd mmm yyyy (for example 2 Sep 1872) or just yyyy (eg 1856).


Any other relevant information is entered here.


An & at the end of a field indicates that there is more information in the original document. Lack of an & does not indicate the opposite.



Hocken Collections

University of Otago Library

This guide was prepared by:
Noel S L Read (January 2000)
Current updates by Joy Pearson (2024)