The Nominal Embarkation Rolls

The source of much of the information regarding New Zealand WWI military personnel are the Nominal Embarkation Rolls, a series of four documents (one for each year of the war, with the first volume comprising of 1914-1915) recording the names of those members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (i.e. Army) embarking for service overseas. Occasionally included also were Naval or Flying Corps / Air Force attachments who were travelling to overseas postings.

There are also a number of other official rolls and documents that are very useful regarding sourcing information regarding those New Zealanders taking part in WWI, however the Nominal Embarkation Rolls are the largest and most useful in terms of the breadth of data they contain.

The quality of the data

The rolls occasionally vary in the type of information that they capture with, for example, volumes two, three and four featuring occupation information, which is missing from volume one. The roll data is generally quite consistent, however there are sometimes differences in treatment of certain data, including contractions (e.g. "Sergt.-Major"), abbreviations (e.g. "H.s." for "Hospital Ship"). Errors in transcription have also been discovered, and what would appear to be reasonable assumptions about the data are not always borne out — for example, a given serial number may appear multiple times in the rolls. An occurence of repeated serial numbers can be explained in a number of ways:

  • At least one of the serial numbers has been incorrectly transcribed
  • The same serial number was used by the military for various personnel
  • The same service personnel embarked multiple times; for example, early in the War (possibly the recapture of German Samoa) and then later in the War as part of one of the major embarkations to the northern hemisphere.
This example illustrates some of the imperfections that this otherwise generally consistent data may contain, as well as some of the nuances that need to be understood.

An example of a page from the Nominal Embarkation Rolls
Embarkation Rolls
Volume Year Start Roll No. End Roll No.
1 1914-1915 1 14
2 1916 15 51
3 1917 52 76
4 1918 77 93
Source: http://www.wargraves.co.nz/EmbarkationRolls/index.htm