Civil registration

This guide was last updated in 2009

Birth, marriage and death certificates are some of the major sources for research in Australia.

Each state began its own system of registration at different times. Tasmania was the first to record such events – starting on 1 December 1838.

The majority of the other states began either in the 1840s or the 1850s, but the Northern Territory records start as late as 1870. The details recorded in the early years were fairly lax, but more consistent information is usually found from the 1880s onwards. Indeed, the information provided is often more detailed than that given on the same type of documents for England and Wales.

Certificates of birth, for example, will provide not only the name, date and place of birth of the child, the full names of both parents and at least the father’s occupation, but also their ages and the date and place of their marriage. The number of previous children born to the couple is also recorded.

Marriage certificates will give the full names of the bride and groom, their occupations, ages, birthplaces and the date and place of marriage, along with the full names and occupations of both sets of parents.

Death certificates will give the date, place and cause of death, the age of the deceased and details of the time that person has spent in Australia. Other information given includes the number (and often the names and ages) of the children of the deceased, along with details of his or her parents. The birthplace of the deceased and where they were married are also recorded, along with the name of their spouse and the age at which they married.

Each state has different access rules for their birth, marriage and death records. Some have made all or part of their indexes available on the internet (NSW, VIC, QLD, WA) and Victoria will allow you to download uncertified copies of the documents to your computer.

Other states, such as South Australia, require a searcher to either view the indexes in person or to look at one of the microfiche copies, which are usually available at good reference libraries.

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