Wise's New Zealand Directories

Wise's Directories 
New Zealand Directory 1878-79 page 4.  Temuka


Provides a wealth of information in tracking the original New Zealand

Wise's directories began, for postal reasons, in 1872-73 to 1955, published by H. Wise & Co., Princes Street, Dunedin and covered all New Zealand. They were an unauthorized, commercial endeavor sanctioned by the Post Office. The 1875/1876 Wise's New Zealand Directory published by Henry Wise was the first national postal directory of householders.  Lists people, generally head of household by postal district and sometimes mentions street name and an occupationIncluded advertising and indexes.  These large Wise's Directories do sometimes contain mistakes and many omissions and can be out of date by a year or two. Beware of surname spelling errors. Occasionally a postmaster did not file the return for his area in time for inclusion in the directory. 

Directories record people at a particular time and place. The information will always be a little out of date.

Wise's Online 

Otago - Hocken Library's Otago Nominal Index to 1876 includes 21,629 names from the Street Directories (Messrs Harnett and Wise)
Wellington Province - 1872/73
Lower North Island

South Canterbury 1872/73 

South Canterbury 1878-1879 C.  = Canterbury        O.  = Otago     Large images 150k

Page 1. Albury, Blue Cliffs, Burke's Pass, Cave, Geraldine, Hilton
Page 2. Hilton, Hinds, Makikihi, Omarama, Otaio, Pareora, Peel Forest, Pleasant Point
Page 3. Pleasant Point, Pleasant Valley, Pukaki Ferry, Rangitata, St. Andrews, Sandie Town
Page 4. Silverstream, Temuka
Page 5. Timaru 1878/79 
Page 6. Timaru  [Hamersley to Shields]
Page 7. Timaru, Waihi Bush, Waimate [Abbebseth to Gordon]
Page 8. Waimate, Waitaki
Page 9. Waitaki, Waitohi Flat, Washdyke, Winchester

Wise PO Directory, 1885:
54 miles inland from Timaru & 144 from Christchurch by railway & coach via Timaru & Albury.

In Geraldine County. 1 church & 1 hotel.
ANNISS 		William and John carriers
BAIN 		Donald 		 farmer
BREADLEY 	Saml. 		 Three Creeks Hotel
BROWN & GRAY (GRAY & MELVILLE) 	 sheepfarmers Ashwick Stn.
BROWN 		Rev Lawrence L	 schoolmtr
BURGESS 	Wm & JT		 stablekeepers
CLARKSON 	Benjamin	 carrier
COULSON 	John WA		 carpenter
DEW 		Henry
GRAY 		David		 contractor
HAMILTON 	Thomas		 farmer
KUFE	 	James 		 farmer
MCDONALD 	Lachtan		 sheepfarmer. Sawdon Stn
MCDOWELL 	Francis		 blacksmith
MARCHANT 	Frederick William engineer, Mt Cook Rd. Bd.
SIBBALD 	William		 farmer
SLOW 		Frederick	 A farmer
SMART 		Elijah		 horsebreaker
SMITH 		Alexander B	 sheepfarmer
SPALDING 	Alexander	 storekeeper, postmaster etc.

Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory 1900

Towns Business Directory 
Towns and Townships - Adair
Brosnan 	Timothy J 	farmer
Brown 		James 		labourer
Burford 	James 		baker
Courtney 	John 		keeper water-race 
Dawson 		Charles 	farmer
Dew 		Henry 		farmer
Doyle 		James 		farmer
Doyle 		John 		farmer
Gordon 		William L 	farmer
Histon 		Dennis 		farmer
Hoskins 	Charles 	farmer
McSweeney 	Charles 	farmer
O'Connor 	Michael 	farmer
Purcell 	John 		farmer
Richards 	William 	farmer
Sadler 		Henry G 	farmer
Shepherd 	Wm 		farmer & postmaster
Vincent 	Alfred 		farmer
Wake 		William H 	schoolmaster
Williams 	John 		farmer

Alphabetical Directory
Abbot 		William farmer, St Andrew

Medical Practitioners
Barclay 	Herbt C MD NZ 1891, Waimate
Blunden 	Wm MD Dublin 1876, Temuka
Bowe 		Francis MB Lond 1880, Timaru
Cox 		Norman K MD Mich US 1892, Timaru
Cruickshank 	Margt B MB & Ch B NZ 1897, Waimate

Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory 1901
ADAIR , Canterbury. 6 in S W 
from Timaru by hire; Levels co 
Brown 		James 		labourer 
Burford 	James 		baker 
Courtney 	John 		keeper water-race 
Dawson 		Charles 	farmer 
Dew 		Henry 		farmer 
Doyle 		James 		farmer 
Doyle 		John 		farmer
Gordon 		William L 	farmer 
Histon 		Dennis 		farmer 
Hoskins 	Charles 	farmer 
McSweeney 	Morgan 		farmer 
O'Brian 	William 	gardener 
O'Connor 	Michael 	farmer 
Purcell 	John		farmer 
Rooney 		Michael		farmer 
Sadler 		Henry G		farmer
Shephard 	Wm 		farmer & postmaster 
Vincent 	Alfred 		farmer 
Williams 	John 		farmer
Alphabetical directory
Abbenseth Eibert, gardener, Waimate
Abbot Redley, farmer, Kingsdown, Timaru
Abbott William, farmer, St Andrew

Allan Andrew, Royal arcade, Timaru
Cutten Edward, JP, Temuka
Ferens Charles, Fairlie

Barnard Richard, Town belt W, Timaru
Bernard R, Timaru
Blunden Wm MB Dub 1876, Temuka

South Canterbury - G Gow M.A., inspector; J H Bamfield, sec.

Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory 1905

Adair, Canterbury. 6 miles SW of Timaru; Levels Co. Nearest telephone operator at Otipua, 2 miles.

Brehaut 	Thos. E., 	farmer
Dawson 		Chas. 		farmer
Doyle 		Jas. 		farmer
Doyle 		Jno. 		farmer
Gordon 		Wm L 		farmer
Histon 		Dennis 		farmer
Hoskins 	Chas. 		farmer
McSweeney 	Morgan 		farmer
Muir 		Thomas 		farmer
O'Connor 	Michael 	farmer
Purcell 	Jun 		farmer
Rooney 		Michl. 		farmer
Rosk_nge 	CG 		school teacher
Sadler 		Hy G 		farmer
Shepherd 	Wm 		farmer & postmaster
Shine 		David 		caretaker water race
Thin 		Francis F 	farmer
Vincent 	Alfred 		farmer
Williams 	Jun 		farmer
Alphabetical directory
Acland Hon Jn B JP          stn owner, peel Forest
Acland HD                   solicitor Ashburton
Acland Hugh Thomas Dyke     surgeon, 67 Cath sq. (pr 195 Beverley Av, Chch.)

Member of the House of Representatives, Session 1904
Flatman, F.R. 		Geraldine
Hall-Jones Hon. W. 	Timaru
Steward, Sir W.J.       Waitaki
A&P Assoc.
Temuka & Geraldine - Show in October at Winchester. Alfred W. Gaze, sec. 
Timaru - G.P. Wood, sec. show in Oct.
Waimate- Wm H. Beckett sec. show held in November 


It takes a while to plough through, and I am still learning all that it contains.

These bulky volumes are divided into sections. The main ones comprising:
1. The alphabetical list of residents in New Zealand. 
2. Exception: The larger centres Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch, Invercargill, Hamilton & Oamaru are listed by separately by street name not alphabetically, (street directories of the cities.) It's great to see who lived next door, up the street and over the road, with all their professions.  
3. List of all per trade 
4. Lists all districts alphabetically by every post office (every town and township) and lists all the residents within the district.
5. The publishers offered useful data such as lists to increase the demand for the directory. At the back are many supplements: lists of ecclesiastical ministers of various faiths and where they were living, list of runholders, government servants, business people,  a road and borough directory, legal, banking, medical, educational and official directories etc.  

Directories do not aim to list all inhabitants of a place; they are not government censuses. There are many omissions. Their function is to record householders and persons in business or in responsible positions.


Generally a name will be listed under the nearest Post Office 

Always try to look up an original copy of the Wise's Directory. Consider using the electoral rolls in conjunction with directories to pinpoint when someone was first in a district or first appeared in New Zealand.  Many immigrants settled near their disembarkation port.  Note the years you search so you don't duplicate your efforts.  

Electoral Rolls were only put out periodically, I use Wises to fill in the gaps, follow movements from address to address, and job to job.

Do not expect a female to be listed unless a spinster or widow etc. Women often outlived their husband's so maybe you can work out a husband's year of death by the last time he appeared in the directory and the first time his widow appeared.  Migrations appear when the individual disappears from a district and reappears in another district. 

If you request a *lookup please boil it down to the head of household full name and postal district and province otherwise it will take a couple of hours to do a lookup if you just request e.g. Black in Canterbury. If you know a name in Christchurch, a lookup would involve checking all the individual streets, whereas a lookup in a smaller place is alphabetically within the postal district. There was  seven hundred townships covered in the 1872-73 edition.

South Canterbury Museum, Timaru currently hold Wises (in book format) for: 1878, 1887-8, 1890-91, 1927, 1933, 1939, 1940, 1958 and 1979 (Otago & Southland) and hold three in fiche format: 1872-3, 1883-4 and 1906.  Also hold Stone's directories for 1921-2, 1937, 1947, 1950, 1952, 1953 and have copies of extracts from the 1903 directory.  As of May 2002 research charges: $20 per half hour (first 15 minutes free).  Print and copy charges may also apply. Email.  The NZSG South Canterbury Branch holds the Wises Directories 1910 and 1920 on fiche. The museum admission is free, both for entry and archive use, although donations are appreciated, and there's a $2 charge for using the NZSG files that are also housed in the archives there.

The Timaru District Library only holds one copy of :
Wises & Co.'s New Zealand Directory for 1878-79: a separate alphabetical directory for every town and township :
South Canterbury extracts.- South Canterbury Historical Society (1985) (note online, see links above)

They also have in stack and not in catalogue :  (you have to ask for them)

The New Zealand Post Office Directory for 1892-93

Preface states: The 1892/93 edition appears under a slightly altered arrangement. The towns are now arranged under PROVINCIAL DISTRICTS, which, it is believed, will be a change of some value to local residents. To meet this alteration a very full index of towns & places prefaces the work, from which it will be seen the contents of this issue are more comprehensive than in any previous edition.

Over 2,000 Post Towns, Villages & Districts are represented, and embodied in this volume, rendering it a work of untold value to business men both within and within the Colony.

To keep pace with the development of a new colonial industry a very full list of Fruit Growers has been inserted in this issue, while Dairy Factories and Creameries have also received attention. The first issue was in 1872, so that while, in the 20 years that have elapsed, the colony of New Zealand has made rapid strides in the development of its resources, this Directory has more than kept pace with such development, the publication having expanded from an insignificant volume to an immense work, such as this is now is.

This 1892-93 edition of the New Zealand Post Office Directory will be found to maintain the splendid reputation the work has achieved as the most comprehensive and thorough Colonial Directory published

THE NEW ZEALAND POST OFFICE DIRECTORY (WISE'S) for 1892-93 comprises separate alphabetical directories for over 1,200 Townships, Boroughs, Cities, and Districts. An Alphabetical Directory for the entire Colony; Street directories of the cities; a Trade Directory for the whole Colony; together with; Banking & Finance; County Council; Medical; Public Companies; Road Board; Pastoral & Agricultural; legal; Insurance; Municipal; Ecclesiastical; Educational; Marine; & Local & General Government Official Directories.

Dunedin. N.Z. WISE, CAFFIN & CO., Publishers. London; Kelly & Co. Ltd. 51, Great Queen St. W.C. This directory may be obtained through any Bookseller. Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, and registered under Copyright Act. PUBLISHED EVERY SECOND YEAR. Also features local and overseas advertisements.


The three main publishers of directories in New Zealand between the 1870s to the 1950s were:
H. Wise & Co. (NZ) Ltd 
Stone, Son & Co. Ltd     Stone 1906 Stone's 1883
Arthur Cleave & Co. Ltd.

The Stone's Directories were published for the following regions:

Dunedin, Otago & Southland 			1884-1955
Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough & Westland 	1899-1955
Wellington, Hawkes Bay & Taranaki 		1891-1946

The cost of producing detailed national directories became prohibitive and began dwindling in the 1950s.  From the 1950s the directories concentrated on the four main centres and about 1980 abandoned people's names to concentrate on businesses.

Wise's New Zealand Index
The work bristles with information. It is a volume listing practically every town, settlement and locality in the Dominion, with information regarding position, access and whatever of interest, historical background of each place.

An old Wise's New Zealand Index: Every Place in New Zealand is useful to find out where a particular small town or locality is within New Zealand. ?First published 1938.  Can usually be found in libraries or second hand bookshops and on trademe. They give a brief description of what the community has in the way of facilities, shops, post offices, railway stations etc. Generally quite good although sometimes they get their compass bearings about face e.g. "south west" when it should be "north east" and included a folding map in the back. Hardback. 536 pages. Pages age-yellowing. B/W scenic plates. 6" - 7" tall. Advertising throughout. Rubber stamp on edges: "Yates Reliable Seeds, Auckland, Christchurch, Whangarei" 1912

Places disappear from the directories because the place names name sometimes change. Often the date the community changed is when the Post Office changed its name its name. Name changes can be found in Robin Startups' NZ Post Offices is helpful.

Lookup.  For the more obscure names try Land Information NZ site. 
9th   edition 1945
10th edition 1948

An excellent reference for places, some of which have since changed their names or disappeared.

South Canterbury 1948

Wise's NZ Index of 1945 example: 
Waimate (Canterbury) was in the centre of a splendid agricultural and pastoral area; the strawberry and raspberry culture was an important industry; there were several good hotels and private boarding houses, two banks, daily newspaper, post, telegraph and money order office; monthly sittings of the S.M. Court.

From the Preface:
"New Zealand is full of history and romance, and this index is full in the telling of it. Not in one continuous story, but a series of paragraphs put under the name of each place. The work bristles with information. It tells of the old days of early settlement, of the events of Maori wars and of the days of peace, and the rising into being of each locality...."

The New Zealand Guide incorporating Wise's NZ Index to Every Place in NZ.  Compiled by Edward Stewart Dollimore, published 1952. The NZ guide superceding Wises Index compiled by Dollimore, a Wise Publication. 1st edition 1952, 2nd 1957, 3rd 1962

The New Zealand Guide: A Comprehensive Gazetteer Geographical Reference and Travel Guide, compiled by E.S. Dollimore F.R.G.S. (H. Wise & Co. [NZ] Ltd., Dunedin, NZ, 1962) superseded the Wise's NZ Index.  

Years published  

Complete set to 1955 contains 55 mammoth volumes.

Biennial to the turn of the century. Annual from 1900 to 1947 then biennial again until 1973 when the business came under knew management. The 1956 issue was the start of the four regional volumes. Good to have a range of directories. e.g. the 1900s, 1910s, and 1920s decade.

Wise's New Zealand Directory

Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory
and an annual from 1900 to 1947. e.g. 1901

There was no 1945 issue due to the war.
There is a 1916 issue.

Slight variations on title:  

Wise's New Zealand Commercial Directory 1872/73  
New Zealand Directory
Wise's New Zealand Directory
The New Zealand Post Office Directory
Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory
Wises NZPO Directory

Where do you obtain Wise's Directories?

Rare but you should be able to get photocopied pages for your local area library or museum. Wise's New Zealand Directories can be found in most large New Zealand libraries, archives and museum manuscript departments.  Many libraries have broken runs but complete runs on microfiche thanks to BAB Microfilming of Auckland.  

The Family History Library, Salt Lake City, UT, has 155 BAB microfiches of original Wise & Co.'s New Zealand Directory published: Dunedin : Henry Wise, 1881-1940.  No circulation to Family History Centres.  The Wise's New Zealand Commercial Directory 1872-1873 microfilm is available through their through the many LSD Family History Centres worldwide interlibrary loan program. Do a search for New Zealand.

The Christchurch Library

The Hocken Library, Dunedin has a considerable collection including a few of Wise's Australian state directories. 

The Auckland Central library has in reference:
1910, 1946, 1952, 1953/54,1955 and 1957 
also 1872/73, 1875/76, 1878/79, 1881/82, 1883/84, 1885/86, 1887/88, 1890/91 - 1906, 1908-1909, 1911-1914, 1916, 1918, 1919, 1921-1923, 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1943, 1950/51, 1953/54 on microfiche.

Auckland Cities Library (Central) also has:
Cleave's Auckland City, and Suburban , provincial, commercial, municipal and general directory. An annual 1911 to 1913 as well as 33
almanacs including The Nelson Directory and companion to the almanack for the year 1859 complied by J.L. Bailey. Printed by C. and J. Elliott.

NZSG -S. Cant. Branch - S. Cant. Museum
    New Zealand Railways South Canterbury Staff List - extracts from staff registers held by the NZRLS Archives & staff lists and extracts from Wises and New Zealand Post Office Directories
    Wises Business Directory and Buyers Guide (Christchurch) (1995)

    Who's Who in New Zealand
(Twelfth Edition; 1991)

1927 Wises Directory   

New Zealand Micrographic Services offers directories on microfiche or CD-ROM in PDF format. 
Stones Dunedin & Suburbs 1884/1885 
Stones Otago & Southland 1887-1889 & 1899
Canterbury, Nelson & Marlborough 1904-1912 & 1914 

BAB Microfilming Auckland, N.Z.
Stones' Otago and Southland Directory 1907, 1909, 1915
Stones' Dunedin and Invercargill Directory 1886

All the Wise's New Zealand Directories and the Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directories up to 1955 on microfiche c1992.

New Zealand Directory 1866-1867 by Stevens and Bartholomew

Stones Dunedin & Invercargill Directory 1886 
Towns and streets within the towns, plus country districts listed alphabetically and residents named.  Separate alphabetical list of householders and a trade directory etc. published by Stone Son & Co Ltd 

1878 Almanac

Mills, Dick & Co's Otago, Southland and South Canterbury Almanac & Directory, 1906.

Another option is to view the directories on microfiche at a library
MacBeth's Genealogical Services
sells the fiche
Gould Book Stores
Online links

Union List 

The Directory Directory: the family, local and social historian's guide to contents and holdings of New Zealand almanac, business, postal and telephone directories, 1842-1960 by Donald Hansen, published by D. Hansen, Thorndon, Wellington, NZ 1994 107 p. pbk "Comprehending an historical account of the progress of the directory in New Zealand - an instructive guide for the reader."

Historical Directories UK - good search engine

Who's Who in New Zealand - the standard biographical reference for succinct information about individuals. Established 1908 

Who's Who in New Zealand and the Western Pacific 
1908 1st edition 240 p. Publisher: Gordon and Gotch, Wellington. Contains advertising matter.
1924 2nd edition 240p. Publisher: G. H. Scholefield, Masterton. Contains advertising matter. The only previous New Zealand Who's Who was published 1908.
1932 3rd ed. 356 p. Published: Rangatira Press, Wellington: edited by G. H. Scholefield, Masterton 

A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
Edited by Dr G. H. Scholefield. (Guy Hardy), 1877-1963
Publisher Wellington, N.Z. : Dept. of Internal Affairs, 1940. 

Who's Who in New Zealand 
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1951 265 p. 5th ed.  edited by G.H. Scholefield, Hb, dj
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1956 235 p. 6th ed.  edited by Frank A Simpson. Hb
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1961 307 p. 7th ed.  edited by G.H. Scholefield
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1964 305 p. 8th ed.  edited by G.C. Peterson
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1968 356 p. 9th ed.  edited by G. C. Peterson 
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1971 359 p.10th ed. edited by G. C. Peterson 
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1978 300 p.11th ed. edited by J.E. (James Edward) Traue, 1932- 
A.H. & A.W. Reed, 1991 731 p.12th ed. edited by Max Lambert, 1936- Details & backgrounds on 3000 prominent New Zealanders.

New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa
Biennial 1992-1994 ; annual 1994- 
New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa 1998  856 p. edited by Alister Taylor 
Editions previous to 1992 published under title: Who's Who in New Zealand. 
Special New Millennium 2001 ed. Publisher Auckland, N.Z. : New Zealand Who's Who Aotearoa Ltd.


Early New Zealand directories: a brief guide. - Hocken Library

What's in a name?
Auckland street names
           Christchurch pdf Maori
            Find a street

Henry Aitken WISE was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1835. Initially he worked for a newspaper. After immigrating to Melbourne, he came to Dunedin where he married, raised a family, and established a stationery and printing business before focusing on directory publication. From 1865 he produced a Dunedin directory, and in 1872 he published the first issue of a country-wide directory to become known as Wise's New Zealand Post Office Directory from 1881. After his death in 1922, the business was carried on by his family until 1972 - a century of successful directory production, for which we are grateful.

Population Statistics from 1878 New Zealand Census Returns

The census of the colony was taken in March 1878,

 and the following figures refer to the chief centres of population


Dunedin & Suburbs  35,409

Oamaru and Suburbs        5,478

New Plymouth                 2,680

CHCH & Suburbs      30,300

Timaru and Suburbs         4,932

Onehunga                        2,143

Auckland & Suburbs 29,162

Invercargill and Suburbs  4,437

Port Chalmers                  1,854

Wellington & Suburbs 22,243

Hokitika and Suburbs       3,937

Blenheim                          1,720

Nelson and Suburbs      7,401

Greymouth                         3,546

Westport                          1,164

Napier and Suburbs      6,739

Wanganui                          3,643

Milton                              1,130

Thames and Suburbs    6,321

Lyttelton                            3,476

Lawrence                            855


Population of Provincial Districts














Hawkes Bay




























Chatham Islands









Total population of the whole Colony, exclusive of Natives, but including Chinese 414,343

From Wises 1878 Directory


South Canterbury NZGenWeb Project