Philippines Civil Registration

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The recording of civil events in a person's life, such as birth, marriage and death, required valid evidence, therefore making these records very reliable.

Until 1889, there was no central civil administration to collect, interpret, and preserve the civil registration records. Most vital records from before 1889 come from Catholic parish and diocesan archives.

In 1889, the Spanish government created the Central Office of Statistics (Central Estadística). This subdivision of the Bureau of Civil Administration (Dirección General de Administración Civil) required each parish priest to periodically give the government a detailed list of the births, marriages, and deaths in his area. Although the Catholic clergy had previously maintained such records and even occasionally submitted them to the government, this was the first time that they had been required to regularly submit detailed reports. This system continued until the end of the Spanish administration in 1898.

After the Philippine Revolution of 1898, the church and state became separate. Within the first few years, officials responsible for civil registration were appointed in each municipality. In 1922, the Civil Records Centralization Act required “all municipal secretaries to submit quarterly reports on all registration matters to the Chief of the Division of Archives.” In 1930, civil registration became mandatory and, in 1932, the Bureau of Census and Statistics was created to oversee all civil registration in the Philippines. It was not until 1940 that most registrations began to be recorded.

The records of birth, marriage and death provides important information of events in a person's life; therefore, it became necessary for legal authorities to record and keep these events in their citizens life, in formal books, for the benefit of civil and personal purposes.

Civil Registration (Registros Civiles)

Research use: Information can be used to compile pedigrees and family groups. Identifies parents, children and spouses and dates and places of vital events. Other relatives are often identified.

Record type: Births, marriages, marriage applications, deaths.

Time period: 1889-present. Laws were passed in 1889, 1898, 1901 and 1922 requiring the keeping of registers, but few registers were begun before 1922. Also a number of records were destroyed during World War II.

Contents: Births: Child’s name, birth date and place; parents’ names, residence, and occupation; witnesses’ ages, relationships, residences. Marriages: Bride and groom names, ages, residences, occupations, marriage date and place; sometimes ages and/or birth dates and places; parents' names; residences, occupations; witnesses and officer who performed ceremony; former spouses. Marriage applications, licenses, contracts: Names of prospective marriage partners, intentions, residences, parents, etc. Death registers: Name of deceased, age, death date and place, occupation, name of surviving spouse, informant’s name and residence, cause of death, sometimes birth date and place, parents’ names, children’s names. Fetal deaths: Record of all stillbirths, includes information similar to birth and death data shown above.

Location: Most records prior to 1922 have been sent to the National Bureau of Records Management, others, particularly certificates after 1950 are in the National Census and Statistics Office or have been retained in local civil registry offices. Population coverage: Before 1922, 20%; after 1922, 90%.

Reliability: Excellent.[1]

Online Civil Registration Records


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Philippines,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1986-1999.