Family History Class Notes- Searching the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages On-line Indexes for NSW


In our former classes we looked at Birth, Death and Marriage certificates and the registration of these events in Australia. We noted the on-line indexes for each of the states was a little different in the information given. The New South Wales Indexes do not have the dates of the event, only the registration year. They do not give the maiden name of the mother either. This can present difficulties in using these on-line indexes.

IMG_9364 (2)

Collection of Birth,Death and Marriage Certificates for New South Wales,Australia

The New South Wales website for the on-line indexes is found at –

If you open the Home page of this website you will note tabs across the top of the page. On the right-hand side, you will note a ‘Family history research’ tab.

When you click on this tab it will open in a new window. On this page, you will note this list:-

  • Start searching
  • Or ask a transcription agent
  • Tips for family history research
  • Contact us for help


Click on the ‘Tips for family history research’.

Please download and read the “Family history search help guide” (Pdf format) found here.

This will help you get started on your search.

However, I know some of you will still have problems. I have prepared a more in-depth guide, which I hope will help with some of the more specific problems. This is also in pdf format. You will find it under the Resources & Tips Tab above.

This guide includes:- Historical background
Other States websites for Birth, Death & Marriages
Accessing the on-line indexes for NSW
Transcription Agents
A Basic search for:- Birth Certificates
                                    Marriage Certificates

Death Certificates

Problem-solving using Advanced Techniques with ‘Wildcard Options.
 Problem with:-Surname
                             Christian Name

Place and Time period


You will see listed on the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for NSW website the Historical Indexes range from 1788 – 1989. ( Plus part of the current year)in this way. Baptisms 1788 – 1855, Births 1856 – 1919 +; Marriages 1788 – 1969 +; Burials 1788 – 1855 and Deaths 1856 – 1989 +.

[In the list above you will note Baptisms 1788-1855 and Burials 1788-1855. These are before the official registrations came into effect on 1 March 1856. They will be explained in another class.]

Good hunting to you all. If you are still having problems please contact me.



Family History Class Notes – Death Certificates, Australia – 101

In previous classes, we looked at birth and marriage certificates in Australia. We also used our own birth certificate to gather clues to assist us to step back to another generation in our family history.

However, birth certificates seldom help with finding our ancestors’ death certificates. Occasionally if one of the parents is deceased at the registration of that birth the fact may be noted on a certificate but not always.

Death certificates are probably the most difficult of the three events of birth, death or marriage to track down. The information on them may be the most unreliable too. The person whose death is being registered may not be known by the informant or little more than their name. The fact that they were married or had children or the names of their parents may not be known.

There is no central place for the registration of deaths in Australia. Each state has a Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in their capital city. Until recently the deceased’s family and friends were responsible to register a death.

Now the undertaker needs to supply information on a death to obtain a license to bury or cremate. Once people were able to bury where they wished, but after the beginning of registration of deaths, all burials were to take place in a designated burial ground. The friends and family had a specific time to register a death with the Registrar’s Office-usually at the local Court House, but for various reasons, this didn’t always happen.

In recent years each of the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and marriages in each state has built a website where you can search for free their indexes. These can be found at:-

However, just as there are a hundred years for births and a fifty-year rule for marriage certificates, there is a thirty-year rule for deaths. That means you cannot get a death certificate for a death that took place less than thirty years ago.

Be aware that each of these indexes in each state is a little different. For example in the death index for Queensland, the actual date of death is given but in New South Wales only the year of registration is given.

On each of these indexes, the name of the deceased, date or year of registration of the death is given as well as the parent’s names if known.

Of all the certificates, the information on a death certificate is possible the most unreliable. The informant of the death may have known very little about the deceased particularly the names of parents, spouse or children. For this reason alone it is important to get further documents that may confirm the information given on a death certificate.

Just as you may not be able to find a reference in the indexes for a birth or marriage you may not be able to find a death registration.  Sometimes this is because you are not using the spelling of the names used at the registration. However, the death may not have been registered in the first place.

Remember you are looking for information for the death event. There are many records that give you information on a person’s death. Some of these you may be able to get even if the death took place less than thirty years ago. You may find a death certificate; death certificate transcription; Church burial register; Church/Civil burial memorabilia; church/civic funeral order of service; photographs and/or video of funeral/burial service; photographs and/or video of interment of ashes; undertakers records/municipal burial records; newspaper death/funeral notice; obituary; newspaper memorial notice; memorial cards; memorial plaque or headstone; inquest report; original and /or copy of will and testament; probate/letters of administration notice/ family register in bible or prayer book; letters and diaries/ oral and personal recollections by family and friends.

This is not a definitive list and you could possibly think of others. You will not be able to get all these records for each death. They are just a guide.

I have used the above list to make myself a datasheet to put in my files on each individual.

MALHN029177 004


A pdf download of the data-sheet can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples Tab.

Many of these records you may find in family papers. I have found a number of these for my mother’s death and have entered them into my data sheet below.

MALHN029177 002

If someone shares these documents with you, please record them as the source of the document with their name, date, and address, on your document copy. Back or front depending on your skills and preference. Just because you now have a copy, please remember this is not your document to scan and put up on the Internet.

It is good family history manners even if you create your own document, such as a transcription, which is quite legal, you should get permission from the original owner to share the information and give them credit for originally sharing with you. Later down the track, they are then likely to share more with you, and you will feel comfortable sharing with them, as you will expect the same courtesy.

Now just a word of warning about using indexes. They do not have the full information a certificate has. If you only use an index make sure it is the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages website. Transcription errors often creep into copies, which can put your research away off track.

Continue to be very careful and diligent in your research.




Family History Class Notes- Where Do I Start?

You start your family history journey with yourself. Then work backward from yourself slowly, from the known to the unknown, verifying and documenting your information, and if possible from more than one source. If you do not do this you may end up following someone else’s family line, and wasting money and time.

The key family documents for doing a family history are the Birth, Marriage and Death records of our ancestors. Not everyone married but everyone was born and died. There are many records that help us find this information.

Talk to family members and take notes of the information you are told, but remember you will need to verify it all.

This includes getting documents to support your ‘facts’ of birth, marriage and death dates and places. Particularly of interest are the legal documents for these events.

Be prepared to spend money on purchasing full copies of the key birth, death or marriage certificates of your family line. It is a false economy to try to research your family history without referring to your correct key primary documents.

Locating the documents.

Some of you will already have in your possession either by having acquired it previously for legal purposes or being passed down from your parents, a copy of your own birth certificate. However, be aware in Australia there is a difference between an ‘extract of a birth certificate’ and a ‘full birth certificate’.  For example, many years ago most people got an ‘extract of their birth certificate’ so they could get a vehicle license or a passport. This has the full name, place, and date of birth of the individual. Today you need a certified copy of a full birth certificate for many circumstances including applying for a passport, so many people will already have this important document. This full birth certificate will give you clues to other documents you will need as you progress on your quest to find your ancestors.

BELL,John,1856,Picton,Birth Certificate Transcription

In Australia, most modern birth certificates will have what we term ‘full information’ however this was not always so for all states. Since civil registration began in  Victoria,(1852)  NSW (1856) and Queensland (1859),  a full birth certificate has not only the full name; place and date of the birth; but also, parents full names, including mother’s maiden name or in case of a widow her former married name; date and place of parent’s marriage; place of birth and age of parents; and all other children previously born into the family, often including both their name and age.

By studying your own birth certificate you can see that it is a stepping stone back to another generation, that is it gives information on your parents, so now you can search for their certificates.

It is at this stage most people use the Birth, Death and Marriage Indexes for their state of interest. Many Internet-based indexes are being released, but due to the privacy laws of each state, their range and availability vary.

Be aware you cannot photocopy and share the Birth, Marriage, and Death Certificates you purchase from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. All certified certificates from the Register of Births, Deaths, and Marriages are legal documents and when you apply for such you undertake not scan or photocopy.

However, you can make a transcription without legal problems and I encourage you to do so to share and include in your family history research notes. I have included a transcription I made of the certified copy of the birth certificate of my Maternal Great-Grandfather, John Bell.[See Above]. A pdf copy under Resources and Examples Tab on this website.