Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

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Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
AuthorProf W. H. Oliver (ed.) 1983–1990
Dr Claudia Orange (ed.) 1990–2003
1,239 individual contributors
CountryNew Zealand
Language English, Māori
SubjectNew Zealand biography
Genre Encyclopedia
Publication date
Media type5 volumes; also available on-line

The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB) is an encyclopedia or biographical dictionary containing biographies of over 3,000 deceased New Zealanders. It was first published as a series of print volumes from 1990 to 2000, went online in 2002, and is now a part of Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand . [1] The dictionary superseded An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand of 1966, which had 900 biographies. The dictionary is managed by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage of the New Zealand Government. An earlier work of the same name in two volumes containing 2,250 entries, published in 1940 by Guy Scholefield with government assistance, is unrelated.



Work on the current version of the DNZB was started in 1983 under the editorship of W. H. Oliver. The first volume covered the period 1769–1869 and was published in 1990. The four subsequent volumes were all edited by Claudia Orange, and they were published in 1993 (1879–1900), 1996 (1901–1920), 1998 (1920–1940), and 2000 (1941–1960). [2]

These later volumes made a conscious effort to move towards a more representative view of New Zealand with greater female and Māori entries. Women who had done well in male-dominated fields (Sybil Audrey Marie Lupp, Amy Johnston, Mary Jane Innes, Alice Woodward Horsley, Nora Mary Crawford, etc.) were included, as were Māori, a range of ordinary people (Joseph Zillwood, etc.) and criminals (Edward Raymond Horton, Jessie Finnie, etc.). Many of these people were included because detailed accounts of their lives were readily available, in archives, academic studies and official histories. Others were prolific diarists (Catherine Fulton, Sarah Louise Mathew, Alexander Whisker, James Cox, etc.).

Helen Clark as Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage launched the online version of the DNZB on 19 February 2002. [3] The online version was first promoted by Judith Tizard, a graduate in history from the University of Auckland, which was supported by Clark, who had also graduated in history from the same university, and endorsed by Michael Cullen, who had been a history lecturer at the University of Otago. [4]

The dictionary was integrated into Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand in December 2010. [1] In 2017 the Ministry for Culture and Heritage announced a 'new phase' in the life of the DNZB, with the addition of an essay about the Polynesian navigator Tupaia; this was followed in 2018 by 25 new essays to mark the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960. [5] [6] [7]

Representative entries

A number of entries were added to make the dictionary more representative of population covered, boosting the numbers of women, Māori, and other minority groups. A number of these are not based on secondary sources, as encyclopaedias traditionally are, but instead on primary sources, because no secondary sources exist for these individuals.[ citation needed ]

Margaret Fraser

Fraser (later Johnston; 11 December 1866 – 31 August 1951) was a New Zealand domestic servant and letter-writer. Born in Scotland, she emigrated with her brother in 1887, following two brothers who had gone to New Zealand earlier that decade. She was hoping for the remainder of her family to come out but when that did not happen, she started financially supporting them by sending money to Scotland. After many years as a domestic servant, she married in 1899 and had a farm with her husband, bringing up four children. They retired to Rotorua and after her husband's death, she lived with her daughter and grandchildren for another decade. [8]

Jessie Finnie

Finnie (c.1822?) was a prostitute. She was born in Scotland in circa 1822. [9]

Nielsine Paget

Nielsine Paget (21 July 1858 – 13 July 1932) was a homemaker and community worker in southern Hawke's Bay. [10]

Barbara Weldon

Weldon (18291882) was a prostitute and character. She was born in County Limerick, Ireland in about 1829. [11]



Related Research Articles

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Thomas Forsaith

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<i>Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand</i> Online encyclopedia

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand is an online encyclopedia established in 2001 by the New Zealand Government's Ministry for Culture and Heritage. The web-based content was developed in stages over the next several years; the first sections were published in 2005, and the last in 2014 marking its completion. Te Ara means "the pathway" in the Māori language, and contains over three million words in articles from over 450 authors. Over 30,000 images and video clips are included from thousands of contributors.

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Claudia Orange New Zealand historian

Dame Claudia Josepha Orange is a New Zealand historian best known for her 1987 book The Treaty of Waitangi, which won 'Book of the Year' at the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Award in 1988.

The following lists events that happened during 1821 in New Zealand.

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John Sheehan was a 19th-century New Zealand politician. He was the first New Zealand-born Member of Parliament elected by a general electorate and he was the first New Zealand-born person to hold cabinet rank.

Sealing continues at Bass Strait but declines at Dusky Sound which is still used for provisioning. There is a new rush to the Antipodes Islands. The existence of Foveaux Strait is not reported in Port Jackson until early the following year so sealers are still travelling via the south of Stewart Island/Rakiura which some also visit. At Stewart Island/Rakiura, and its smaller surrounding islands, the sealers often encounter Māori which they have not done at all at Dusky Sound. As many as 16 whalers are operating around the north of New Zealand, occasionally visiting the Bay of Islands and taking an increasing number of Māori on board as crew.

Taare Parata

Taare Rakatauhake Parata, also known as Charles Rere Parata, was a Māori and a Liberal Party Member of Parliament in New Zealand.

Tame Parata New Zealand politician

Tame Parata, also known as Thomas Pratt, was a Māori and a Liberal Party Member of Parliament in New Zealand.

Mete Kīngi Paetahi New Zealand politician (c. 1813–1883)

Mete Kīngi Te Rangi Paetahi was a Member of Parliament in New Zealand. He was one of four Māori elected in the first Māori elections of 1868 for the new Māori electorates in the House of Representatives.

Hirini Rawiri Taiwhanga, known as Sydney Taiwhanga, was a 19th-century Māori member of the House of Representatives.

12th New Zealand Parliament

The 12th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1893 general election in November and December of that year.

16th New Zealand Parliament

The 16th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1905 general election in December of that year.

18th New Zealand Parliament

The 18th New Zealand Parliament was a term of the New Zealand Parliament. It was elected at the 1911 general election in December of that year.

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The Colony of New Zealand was a British colony that existed in New Zealand from 1841 to 1907. It was created as a Crown colony. The power of the British government was vested in the governor of New Zealand, but the colony was granted self-government in 1852. The New Zealand Constitution Act 1852 was passed and the first parliament was elected in 1853; the first responsible government was formed in 1856. The Colony of New Zealand had three capitals: Old Russell (1841), Auckland (1841–1865), and Wellington. In 1907, the colony became the Dominion of New Zealand with more explicit recognition of self-government within the British Empire.

Charles Wilson Hursthouse

Charles Wilson Hursthouse, also known by his Māori name Wirihana, was an English-born New Zealand surveyor, public servant, politician, and soldier. He laid out part of the North Island Main Trunk railway through the King Country.


  1. 1 2 "Te Ara – a history – Biographies". Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  2. Jones, Lawrence (2001). "Dictionary of New Zealand Biography". In Jolly, Margaretta (ed.). Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms. Routledge. p. 274. ISBN   9781136787447 . Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  3. Clark, Helen (19 February 2002). "Online version of Dictionary of NZ Biography" (Press release). Wellington: New Zealand Government. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  4. 1 2 Phillips, Jock (2003). "The Online Encyclopedia of New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of History. 37 (1): 80–89. Retrieved 1 February 2012.
  5. Shoebridge, Tim (6 November 2017). "The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography Rides Again". Te Ara.
  6. Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "25 new stories of trailblazing New Zealand women" . Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  7. Shoebridge, Tim (2018). "'The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Redux' Podcast" . Retrieved 28 November 2018.
  8. Macdonald, Charlotte. "Margaret Fraser". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  9. Glamuzina, Julie. "Jessie Finnie". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  10. Ropiha, Dorothy. "Nielsine Paget". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  11. Hutchison, Anne. "Barbara Weldon". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography . Ministry for Culture and Heritage . Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  12. "Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards – Literature – Christchurch City Libraries". christchurchcitylibraries.com. 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011.