Family History Class Notes, Marriages in NSW – Transcription Agents

In our class about the Marriage Index for New South Wales Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, I solved a little problem of the place and date for the marriage for my Great-Uncle, Henry William Bell, by finding an article about this marriage in a newspaper.

Should I leave further research and be content with these two references for this marriage? Remember newspapers may not be correct for an event either.

I need more references to enter onto my datasheet of the marriage event for this individual.

In this case, I decided to seek a more solid reference for information by using a transcription agent for the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages for New South Wales. If you consult the web page for this office you will see there are three such licensed agents.


I have used each of these agents from time to time and have been happy with all of their services. I used a transcription agent because  a transcription is about half the cost of obtaining a certified copy of this certificate from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages Office. All family historians know just how quickly these costs can add up when you are seeking documentation of your family tree.

This transcription is not a certified copy and cannot be used in any legal transactions. This is stated in the transcribed document supplied by the agent.


The transcription agent actually looks at the official copy of the marriage certificate held by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages and carefully extracts all the information into a transcription form. Although there is a possibility of errors in transcribing I have found none to date.

We family historians can be a generous lot when it comes to sharing information and we might be tempted to photocopy or scan one of these transcriptions and share it with family and friends.

Legally we should not do this. That document is copyright to the agent who produced it. You actually purchased the information on this transcription not the copying rights of the document.

When I want to share this information I transcribe the information onto my own marriage transcription form clearly giving full credit for where I got the information and adding any notes I wish to add. Here are my sharing documents for this marriage.

Marriage Certificate Transcription


 A pdf download of this marriage transcription document can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples Tab.


My transcription copy of the marriage report in the newspaper.

Marriage Report Transcription


A pdf download of this marriage newspaper report transcription document can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples Tab.

By doing my copying in this format there is no confusion about the source of the information and when I obtained it.

Over time when collecting information it becomes difficult to remember who gave you the actual information and when. If you get into good habits early on in your research you have fewer problems on this front.



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 – Marriage Certificates, Australia -101

In our last class, we looked at Birth Certificates in Australia. We looked at our own full birth certificate and made note of the information it gave to step back another generation.

Remember when researching your family history, you start with yourself and move back generation by generation with documentation.

We learned that on modern full birth certificates the parent’s names, age, and place of birth are recorded. Also on the certificate, you will usually find the date and place of marriage of the parents. Due to the cost of the certificates and with the actual date and place stated on your birth certificate you might be tempted to assume the information is correct and you can skip getting your parent’s marriage certificate.

My answer to that is ‘maybe’, but only if you can find other records which all lead you to the same conclusion.

The parent or the informant on a birth certificate is not required to offer proof of marriage when they register a birth. The information is taken in good faith, but it may not be correct.

In the last class, I said that the parents were responsible to register a birth. However, they are not, nor ever have been responsible for the registration of a marriage.

In Australia, you can only be married by a licensed celebrant. These are ordained ministers or priests, court magistrates, and state celebrants. They obtain their ‘license to marry’ from the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in the state where they reside, not the church authority. It is the licensed celebrant’s duty to register the marriage with the Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages offices.

However, just as there is a ‘hundred years rule’ for births, there is a fifty-year rule for marriage. That means you cannot get a marriage certificate unless the marriage is more than fifty years ago.

In Australia, there is no central place for births, marriages, and deaths. Each state has its own Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriage in its capital city.

In recent years each Registrar’s office has built a website where you can search for free the indexes to their historical documents.  These indexes are free to consult. The large subscription sites use ways to link and use these free sites. They do not have access to any more information than is on the free government websites.

Be aware each of these indexes is a little different. For example- In the Queensland Index for marriages, which took place over fifty years ago, it actually gives the date of marriage, while on the NSW Index it only gives the year of registration.

Here are the websites for these indexes.

Just as you might not be able to find a reference in the index for birth, you may not be able to find a marriage in these indexes, even if the date and place are stated on a birth certificate.

Sometimes this is because you are not using the spelling of the names as given on the registration, but more often or not it is because for various reasons the marriage did not actually take place.

Remember you are looking for information concerning an ‘event’ in the person’s life. There are many records that give information on a person’s marriage or leading up to the event. Some of these you may be able to get even if the marriage is not fifty years ago.

Remember one document is not ‘definite proof’ of an event. You can only get a reasonable proof by a range of documents all pointing to the same conclusion.

Here is a list of records you may use to build a reasonable case for the marriage information for an ancestor:- Certified Civil Marriage Certificate; Marriage Transcription; Church Register Entry for Marriage; Church certificate of Marriage; Banns Register Entry for Intended Marriage; Banns Notice in a Church Newspaper; Statement of Intention to Marry Register; Newspaper Engagement Notice/Kitchen Tea; Newspaper Notice/ Report of Marriage; Photographs of Marriage Ceremony/Reception; Family Register in Bible/Prayer Book; Memorabilia-bucks and/or Hen’s Party/Wedding; Newspaper Report of Tin-kettling/House Party; Official Divorce Papers/Report in Newspaper; Letters and diaries and Oral Stories-Personal Recollections of marriage by family and/or friends.

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

I have used this list to make myself a Data Sheet to put in my files on an individual person.

MALHN029177 003

[A pdf download of this Data Sheet can be found on this website under the Resources and Examples tab.]

Many of these records you may find in family papers and memorabilia. If someone shares these with you please record them as the source of the document with their name, date, and address on your copy of the document. 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.

If you have been one of my students in the fifty years I have been teaching family history you know I actually practice what I preach when it comes to records. Here is the Evidence of Marriage Data Form for my mother.


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.

For example- My Maternal Grandmother Harriet May Bell only had one brother, Henry William Bell. According to the index on the website, he married Hilda Annie Peck at Broken Hill in 1915. If you check the index on the website of the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages for New South Wales, the marriage was registered at Bulli in 1915. These two places are approximately 1100 kilometres apart. Which is correct? By making a search in Trove Historical Newspapers on the National Library of Australia website you will find an account in the local newspapers for 1915, which states the marriage took place in the Methodist Church at Thirroul on 21st April. Thirroul and Bulli are less than three kilometres apart. 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.