Australia Civil Registration

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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Records[edit | edit source]

View the Australia BDM Civil Registration Index online tutorial from FamilySearch.

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

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.

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.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Civil registration of births, deaths and marriages was introduced in England in 1837 but was not made compulsory until 1875.[1] 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: [2]

Tasmania 1838 1 Dec
South Australia 1842 1 Jul
Western Australia 1841 9 Sep
Victoria 1853 1 July
Queensland 1856 1 March ¶ Note 1
New South Wales 1856 1 March
Northern Territory 1870 24 Aug ¶ Note 2
Australian Capital Territory 1930 1 Jan ¶ Note 3

Note 1. Civil registration commenced in Queensland when it was still part of the Colony of New South Wales. The relevant records were transferred to the control of the new Colony of Queensland at its formation in 1859.

Note 2. Civil registration began in the Northern Territory when it was administered from Adelaide. Responsibility was taken over by the Commonwealth from South Australia in 1911. The function was transferred to the Northern Territory Government in 1978 when internal self-government was granted.

Note 3. Civil registration began in the Australian Capital Territory from the creation of the Territory. At first, the function was carried out by New South Wales until 1930 when the Commonwealth took over. In 1988, the function was transferred to the Government of the Australian Capital Territory when internal self-government was granted.

State Registrars' Details and Costs of Certificates[edit | edit source]

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.

Coverage and Compliance[edit | edit source]

Information Recorded in the Records[edit | edit source]

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

  • 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

  • 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

Divorce records may be a clue to search for a subsequent marriage and children:

Death records

  • 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[edit | edit source]

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 Registry records.

Western Australia has online indexes of their civil registration beginning in 1841 at

Queensland indexes of birth to 1914 and marriages and deaths to 1929 are available online at

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.

Records at the Family History Library[edit | edit source]

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 Catalog/frameset_fhlc.asp Catalog/frameset_fhlc.asp under:


There may also be information under:


Archive offices may have inventories and guides that describe the record keeping systems and available civil registration records in Australia.

Related articles:

Wiki articles describing these collections are found at:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Chas. H. Wickens, "Messenger Prize Essay (1905)" (1909) 43 (1) Journal of the Institute of Actuaries PP 23-84 accessed via JStor lt;; accessed 15 July 2013, p. 38.
  2. Deaths outside Tasmania Government of Tasmanaia. LINC Tasmania, bringing together the State Library of Tasmania, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office (TAHO), Adult Education and Online Access Centres. Accessed 15 Jul 2013.