How to get your family grave restored

A step-by-step guide

Joanna Ryan, a member of the Friends of Symonds Street Cemetery, compiled this useful guide on how to get a family grave identified and restored. The document is also available as a PDF which you can download and print - see images (below).

Family Research and Headstone Repair – Symonds Street Cemetery

After doing research for some years I’ve been able to locate the final resting place of my great-great grandparents.

To confirm if your family member(s) have their final resting place in Symonds Street Cemetery, the following maybe able to provide some ideas for you as a guide:

Obtain a print out of your family member’s death certificate(s). There are two options you can either ask for the Death certificate or the white copy as this is a copy of the hand written registration of the event (i.e.: Birth, Marriage or Death). The white copy has a lot more information on it and should have the name of the cemetery listed.

If you phone Births Deaths and Marriages you should state that “you are requesting this as you are researching your family history”.

The link to use: then click on “Trace your family history”. There is a cost to obtaining any documents e.g. Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and Death Certificate. Once you receive the certificate you may need to do some more research with the information on the white copy.

Another website to look at for confirmation is the Past Papers for New Zealand.

Take several photocopies of the certificate/white copy just in case you need to write pencil notes on a copy and put the original copy in a safe place.

A library search of Cemeteries in the Auckland and greater Auckland area would be a good thing to do. There is a link on the Auckland Council website that you can use. When doing this research it is best to print out the page as it could change.

The link for Auckland Council website is Look under Parks and you should find a link to Cemeteries. If you are able to find your family member there should be a cemetery name and a plot number. Print out anything that is relevant to your family research.

If you know the religion of the family member that can narrow down your search to the specific area/denomination e.g.: Wesleyan, Catholic, Anglican, Jewish and Presbyterian. You should be able to find this information on the copy of the handwritten copy of registration.

There is a link on the Auckland Council web site which has pictures of the old maps of the Symonds Street cemetery before it was all changed. You will know from researching Symonds Street Cemetery that there have been a lot of changes that occurred to cemetery opposite St Benedict’s church over the years. Printout any relevant maps.

If you have been able to establish that your family member’s final resting place is in Symonds Street Cemetery, then you should go for a walk through Symonds Street Cemetery to locate the plot or the area where it may have been.

Take several photographs of the plot. If the plot is not there anymore you should take a photo of surrounding headstones to assist with process.

Discuss with your family members if they would like to participate in the restoration process and where possible you could all share the cost of the work.

Important to have each family member still living aware of what is being suggested in regard to restoration and/or repair, so they will have the opportunity to join in, in some way.

Contact the Friends of Symonds Street Cemetery and they can assist with the process and support you through the process. Their website address is

When you have all the information together talk with the respective council staff and they can support and guide you on how to put forward your family’s request for repair/restoration. If there is a lot of work to be done. Heritage New Zealand will also have some guidelines to follow.

Auckland Council can put you in touch with contractors who have been authorised to do restoration and repair works on historical headstones that may need to be conserved.

Please remember that any damaged headstones will be restored.

Restoring headstones guide - for printout