Historical Background

As you will be moving backwards with your research you will need the Civil Registration records first. Civil registrations began in NSW on 1 March 1856 when births, deaths and marriages were required to be registered by law at the office of the District Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages,or of the Principal Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Sydney. You should note that in NSW from 1856 to recent times the responsibility for the registration of births and deaths was with the family, friends or employer, unless there was a coronial inquest in the case of a death. This in itself caused problems which I will discuss in a later article.

The Principal Registrar required the District Registers to send in quarterly returns of copies of all the Birth, Death and Marriages registered at their office in the previous three months. To facilitate access to the registration details the agency created indexes to these records both at local and state level. For many years these indexes were entered into large registers, which had what is termed ‘running’ numbers for each year. These were not available to the public, but when people sort a certificate or extract of a registered birth,marriage or death, at the district or central office, these index volumes were used to find the entry, which could be then copied.

However when more and more people wished to purchase copies of birth, death and marriage certificates, particularly for family history, the Registry officers decided to produce indexes, which were released to the public domain. The first series were microfiche made from film copies of the original hand written registers and covered the years 1788- 1855 and 1856- 1900. These could be purchased by libraries, institutions and private individuals. The release of the first Genealogical Kit by the State Records Office complimented and supplemented these indexes. They were very successful and there was a great upsurge in interest in tracing ancestry. The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages could then see the potential with computerisation and consolidation of these indexes, and these too were released on fiche as series. The Pioneer Index covering the period 1788 – 1888, the Federation Series 1889 – 1918, followed by The Between the Wars Series.      However with the necessity to create laws to protect living individuals, The Between the Wars Series were for Marriages and Deaths only, 1919 – 1945. Later these indexes were released on CD’s.

With the new technology of the ‘ internet’ the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales has a website at  http://www.bdm.nsw.gov.au. On this website they also have an online index for Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Since the release of the Consolidated Indexes mentioned above,the law has changed in NSW, and the on-line indexes follow these rules- Births 100 years; Marriages, 50 years and Deaths, 30 years.

You can see that the on-line index for Marriages and Deaths has been extended, but the Births have been contracted. The microfiche and CD’s Consolidated Indexes can still be found at libraries and local and family history societies for the Birth Index 1910-1918 gap. Talk to your local librarian about the availability of these, if your birth searches fall in this time period.

Other States may have similar arrangements and formats and information concerning these may be found at –

ACT http://www.rgo.act.gov.au/bdm.shtml

Victoria http://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/home

Queensland http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/bdm/home.htm

Tasmania http://www.justice.tas.gov.au/bdm/family_history

Western Australia http://www.bdm.dotag.wa.gov.au/

Northern Territory http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/graphpages/bdm/indexd.shtml

Basic and further information on the Birth, Death and Marriage certificates of all the Australian states can be found on the following website.

Graham Jaunay’s site at http://www.jaunay.com/ has in the Free Help – AUS Info a page showing What you can expect to see on an Australian BDM certificate over any given time period, with suitable extended options for each certificate type.

Remember what you are using on-line is an index only and it has only basic information with a reference to the original copy of the document. You cannot do your family history using only the index, and in fact using these indexes on their own can be very misleading. You need to purchase a document for full information of the individual named in this index.

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