Search the Database
The cornerstone of our military information system is Cenotaph, a biographical database of New Zealanders who have served in the military.
Cenotaph started in 1998 primarily as a roll of honour of those who died as a result of war service. Now it includes many personnel who have died since war service. Cenotaph includes those who served in the 19th century, from the New Zealand Wars and South Africa, to the First and Second World Wars, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, and beyond through to peacekeeping, regular service and to Afghanistan.
The database already consists of over 140,000 records. It is a Roll of Honour. We only publish names and details of military service on Cenotaph when we know the serviceman or servicewoman has died. Almost all of those who served in WW1 are included. The Museum has many more details of those who served, these are held behind the scenes.
Many of those on Cenotaph are remembered with a portrait taken from published sources or supplied by family members. We draw information from a lot of different sources for example from the Museum Library's manuscripts collection; personal items on display in the Scars on the Heart galleries, Nominal Rolls, Service records.
We include personal details about the life and military career of each person, we add images and we add links to other related online resources. Our end plan is to include all New Zealanders who served in all 19th and 20th century wars, but the immediate work is to build on the records of those who have now died, and especially those from the Auckland region and regiments.
The Cenotaph database can also be used in the Armoury Information Centre and the Museum Library. If you cannot visit the Museum (open every day of the year except Christmas Day), we may be able to help you by mail.
Add your relative's information
While some records are very detailed – including photographs, obituaries, diary excerpts and letters - others have only minimal information.
We welcome content provided by family members. We gather information about the war service of the person, along with details about his or her civilian life, enlistment, and if relevant demobbing and subsequent career, death and burial.
We ask that you send a copy of the official personnel file, as this is our preferred source of information. These files are available from Archives New Zealand (Boer War and World War One) and from the New Zealand Defence Force (World War Two and later).
Data entry form
Alternatively, please contact us to have the form posted or faxed to you. Fill in what you can and return it to us. We do not expect every box to be completed.
If you have any photos, letters, diaries or other war-related material that you would like to contribute to complement the above information, please allow us to add it to Cenotaph. We will scan it and send it back to you along with a copy of the finished record for your inspection.
Where possible, we would prefer the original photo or a good-quality reprint (not a photocopy) sent to us to scan. Please include as much information as you have on the photo or image (e.g. name/s, location, date, cemetery or memorial).
If you are using a digital camera to photograph a grave or memorial, please use the cameras highest resolution and send the image to us in JPEG and, if possible, TIFF file format.
Information about combatants still living is entered into our Kitbag database, which for privacy reasons is accessible to staff only. These records are transferred to Cenotaph when we have confirmed the death of the individual.
Send the image/s to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, we would prefer the original letters, diaries and other printed material to scan, but a good-quality photocopy would also be acceptable provided it is legible enough for us to transcribe.
Please note: The Museum Library would be happy to discuss the donation of any of the original items outlined above.
A major source about the burial of war dead is the Debt of Honour Register on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
The Memorials Register - the memorials register is an ongoing project to document memorials throughout New Zealand.