Births, Deaths and Marriages

Birth, death and marriage (BDM) records provide an excellent starting point for family history research.

Access to BDM certificates can only be provided by the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Office. See www.cbs.sa.gov.au.

Registration

Registration of births, deaths and marriages with the South Australian government became law in 1842. Over time, South Australia was divided into 34 registration districts. From July 1856, Registrars from outlying districts were required to register births within 42 days and deaths within 10 days. A copy of the registration was then forwarded to the Registrar General’s Office in Adelaide.

Districts were added, re-arranged or abolished on a regular basis and were finally abolished completely in 1992. At that time all district registers and indexes were brought to Adelaide as registration became computerised. After 1992, approval was given for the indefinite loan of district registers to libraries within former registration districts. Details of the libraries and their holdings are available at State Records.

Prior to 1842, records of marriages can be found in church marriage registers and while they did not record births, churches did record the baptism of children.

Genealogy SA holds microfilm copies of registrations for inspection and provides a fee based transcription service. See www.genealogysa.org.au.

Information found in certificates

Births – Name of Child, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Father’s Name, Father’s Occupation and Father’s Age. From 1907 the following details were added: Father’s Birthplace, Mother’s Name and Maiden Name, Mother’s Age, Marriage Date and Previous Children.

Deaths – Name of deceased, Date of Death, Place of Death, Age, Occupation and Cause of Death. From 1907 the following details were added: Number of children, Birthplace and Residency.  The certificate also includes Marriage Details (from 1915), Burial Place (from 1948) and Spouse/Relative Name (from 1968).

Marriages – Date of Marriage, Couple’s Names, Couple’s Ages, Couple’s Birthplaces (from 1908), Previous Marital Status, Couple’s Occupations, Couple’s Residences, Bride and Grooms Father’s Names (from 1856) and Groom’s Mother’s Name (from 1964).

Indexes

State Records holds hard copies of Genealogy SA’s Indexes of Registrations of Births Deaths and Marriages, from 1842 to 1928 (for births), 1842 to 1937 (for marriages) and 1842 to 1972 (for deaths).

These indexes are available online at www.genealogysa.org.au, and at the State Library of South Australia. The online versions contain less detail than those in hard copy.

The Abbott Index covers the years 1837 to c1937 and was compiled by Frank Abbott from notices of births, deaths, marriages and obituaries published in South Australian newspapers. The original of this index is held by the State Library of South Australia.

For death notices and obituaries appearing in Australian newspapers, the Ryerson Index available online at www.ryersonindex.org may provide further information. Entries date from 1803 and represents newspapers from across the country.

Stillbirths

Stillbirths were not registered as births until the BDM Registration Act was passed in 1996, though in some circumstances the birth certificate of a later sibling may mention a previous pregnancy. Information Statements about still births were recorded between 1937 and 1965 (with gaps). Cemeteries sometimes recorded the burial of the stillborn child and hospitals may have recorded the admission of the mother for the birth.

In 1937, it became compulsory to register stillbirths but the Principal Registrar, with the consent of the Minister, was allowed to destroy stillbirth registrations. As a result, there are only a small number listed in an index kept by the BDM Registration Office. The Index records the mothers name and date of birth for the child. The record is not a birth or death certificate rather a medical certificate issued by the hospital where the birth took place.

Further information

Not all copies of births, deaths and marriage registrations arrived at the Registrar’s Office, so researchers may find a district registration or a head office registration only. Also, not all birth, death and marriage events were formally registered. Despite there being penalties for non-registration, some individuals refused to comply with the registration requirements.  Researchers unable to locate entries in the births, deaths and marriage indexes may need to search church records of baptisms, marriages and burials.

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