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Civil registration (vital) records were created by the government and include births, marriages, and deaths. They are commonly referred to as vital records because they pertain to critical events in a person’s life. They are an excellent source of information for names, dates, birthplaces, marriages, and deaths. These records may also include divorce records.
For birth, death, and marriage records before civil registration, read the church records article.
General Historical Background
Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in England in 1837 but was not made compulsory until 1875. As was often the case, the colonial legislators considered applying Imperial legislative innovations and began to pass their own laws establishing civil registration. However, the schemes implemented were ahead of the mother Parliament by requiring from the beginning compulsory civil registration soon after the event. The dates of commencement of civil registration in each colony/state and territory are:
- Tasmania 1838
- South Australia 1842
- Western Australia 1842
- Victoria 1854
- Queensland 1856
- New South Wales 1856
- Northern Territory 1870
- Australian Capital Territory 1911
State Registrars' Details and Costs of Certificates:
The table in the site lists the names and addresses of the Registrars of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in each state and territory of Australia and indicates the current cost of certificates. Please check the identification requirements before ordering certificates. Costs current as of 1 May 2010.
Indexes or transcripts of the original birth, marriage or death records may be online. Check there before ordering a certificate.
At first, civil registration required the clergy to make copies of marriage, baptism, and burial records. These records are known as civil transcripts of church records. Because churches were involved in early civil registration, it is difficult to clearly distinguish between civil registration and church records. Later, about 1856, the responsibility for civil registration was placed in the hands of government employees independent of the church. Civil registration then required people to report all births, marriages, and deaths to a civil registrar.
Information Recorded in Civil Registers
When civil registration first began, there was no common standard of recording information, so the information listed may vary from state to state. Later records generally give more complete information than earlier ones.
Birth records may provide the following information:
- Surname and forenames of child
- Date and place of birth of child
- Sex of the child
- Multiple births
- Surname and forenames of father
- Age, birthplace, and occupation or rank of father
- Maiden surname and forenames of mother
- Place and year of marriage of parents
- Age and birthplace of mother
- Number and sex of previous issue, if deceased
- Name, relationship, description, and residence of informant
Marriage records may provide the following information:
- Surname and forenames of parties
- Occupations and places of residence of parties
- Ages and places of birth of parties
- Marital status prior to the marriage
- Date and place of marriage
- Name of celebrant and denomination
- Names of witnesses
- Surnames and forenames of parents
Death records may provide the following information:
- Surname and forenames of deceased
- Date and place of death
- Occupation, age, and sex of deceased
- Place of birth and place and date of marriage of deceased
- Length of residence in Australia and in what colonies, states, and territories
- Name of spouse and names and ages of living children of deceased
- Number and sex of issue, if deceased
- Name and occupation of father
- Maiden surname of mother
- Cause of death and duration of last illness
- Name of medical practitioner
- Date and place of burial
- Religion and name of minister or witness
- Names of undertaker and informant
- Residence and relationship or description of informant
- Date and place of civil registration
Indexes to Civil Registration Records
Indexes to Australian births, marriages and deaths may be found at at local, state, national and genealogical society libraries on microfiche and CD. Some Registrars' websites include free or fee-based index search facilities. Certificates may be ordered from the Registrar of the appropriate state or territory. Online ordering and delivery of certificates is available on some Registrars' web sites. Death information may also be obtained from inquests, wills, newspaper and other indexes.
Each of the several states in Australia have created indexes to their civil registration records. These indexes are on microfilm or microfiche and cover births, deaths, and marriages from the beginning of civil registration in the state to the present day. Where available, indexes can help you find your ancestor more easily.
New South Wales has an index to births 1788-1910, deaths 1788-1980, and marriages 1788-1960 available online at www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/familyHistory/searchHistoricalRecords.htm .
Western Australia has online indexes of their civil registration beginning in 1841 at http://www.bdm.dotag.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex/default.aspx
Queensland indexes of birth to 1914 and marriages and deaths to 1929 are available online at https://www.bdm.qld.gov.au/IndexSearch/BirIndexQry.m.
There are also Pioneer Indexes on compact discs which index civil registration records and some church records. These indexes include the following:
- New South Wales Pioneers Index, 1788–1918
- The Federation Series:1899–1918] (part 2 of New South Wales Pioneer Index)
- The Tasmanian Pioneers Index, 1803–1899
- The Victoria Pioneers Index, 1837–1888
- The Western Australian Pioneers Index, 1841–1905
These indexes are available in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; genealogical societies throughout Australia; and many local public libraries all over Australia. These indexes may or may not be available at Family History Centers.
A compilation of most of these Pioneer Indexes was produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a set of four compact discs entitled Australian Vital Records Index 1788–1905. It is available for purchase, except in Australia, through the Salt Lake Distribution Center, 1999 West 1700 South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104-4233, USA and online http://www.ldscatalog.com,Vital Records Indexes.
Locating Civil Registration Records
Birth, marriage, and death records may be obtained from the state civil registration offices or archives in Australia.
Pre-civil registration records from many towns are in the various state archives and registrar general’s office. Many of these records have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library. However, for more recent records, and for those not yet microfilmed, contact the appropriate state archives.
If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records such as church registers. For more information on church registers, see the Church Records article.
To order a copy of a birth, marriage or death certificate, contact the registrar general for the state and territory where the event occurred. Click on a link to learn more.
- Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
The following are the addresses of civil registration offices where requests may be made:
- New South Wales
Office of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths, and Marriages
G.P.O. Box 30
New South Wales 2001
Statistics on births, marriage and deaths are published by the Registrar General as follows:
- Registration. Annual report from the Registrar General. 1856-1866
- Vital statistics. 1867-1894
- Annual report on vital statistics. 1895
- Vital statistics 1896-1898
- Statistician's report on the vital statistics on NSW. 1899-1900
These reports are found in section N.6 of the Colonial Statistics Introduction above. They can also be found in the Journals of the Legislative Council at G.NSW/J.
microfiche at MIC319.4/70 described in the
Fisher MIC ARCHIVES Authority of New South Wales
929.394 The genealogical research kit
8 Sydney 1984 +
The research kit is a microform reproduction of selected NSW colonial archives, including Register of baptisms, burials and marriages, list of convicts 1788-1823.
Fisher MIC NEW South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths and
1 NSW Registry of births, deaths and marriages
pre 1956 to 1905.
Sydney: W and F Pascoe 1982-
- http://www.rootsweb.com/~nswsdps/dpsindex.htm (same website, alternate address)
"The Ryerson Index is an index to death notices appearing in current Australian newspapers. It also includes some funeral notices, probate notices and obituaries.
"Because the Index was originally created by the Sydney Dead Persons Society, it concentrates on notices from NSW papers. However, the representation from papers from other states continues to grow, with additional papers being regularly added, so that the Index can now truly be considered an Australian index....
"The index itself cannot by definition be considered a primary source of data, but is purely a research aid to direct the researcher to the original source of a notice."
Colonial Tasmanian Family Links Database
The Colonial Tasmanian Family Links database is designed to provide an initial online genealogical research resource. It links individuals with other members of their families living in Tasmania in the 19th Century. The information about individuals is based primarily on records of births, deaths, and marriages and similar events, held in the Archives Office and the linkages have been developed by family historians associated with the former National Heritage Foundation in the late 1990s. The database contains approximately five hundred thousand entries.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has microfilmed very few Australian civil registration records because the government has placed restrictions on public access to these records. By law, personal application must be made to the various state archives for copies of the certificates.
To find civil registration records in the Family History Library, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library’s catalog at http://www.familysearch.org/Eng/Library/FHLC/frameset_fhlc.asp under:
AUSTRALIA, [STATE]- CIVIL REGISTRATION
There may also be information under:
AUSTRALIA - CIVIL REGISTRATION INDEXES
Archive offices may have inventories and guides that describe the record keeping systems and available civil registration records in Australia.
Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:
- Australia Births and Baptisms (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Australia Deaths and Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Austrailia Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)Australia, Miscellaneous Genealogical Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Miscellaneous Australian Genealogical Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
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