This series of blogs highlights resources I use in my family history research, or other tips on researching your family history. Since my ancestors came to Australia between 1840 and 1863, and all ended up in Victoria, my focus to begin with will be on resources here in Victoria.
The first resource I am going to look at is the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Victoria. Civil registration began in Victoria in 1853, while it was still a colony. All the birth, death and marriage records for Victoria are therefore held at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in Melbourne. They also hold some of the Early Church Records, including those from when the area now known as Victoria was part of the colony of New South Wales (copies of these records are also held at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in New South Wales).
Since vital records are the best resource for finding out information about births, deaths and marriages, this is the first place to start looking for information about your family here in Victoria. The Registry has a website at https://www.bdm.vic.gov.au/. This includes a section Research and Family History. To access the historical index, you would select “Search Your Family History” from the Home Page.
The first page provides information about what records are restricted, as well as what’s in the historical index, and a link to “Search Our Records Now”.
The index provides basic information. For births, the year the birth was registered and the registration number, the child’s name, the registration place, and the child’s parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden surname. For deaths, the information is the same as for births, except it also includes the age of the deceased, and in some cases, the birthplace of the deceased, and the spouse’s name. The marriage index has the least information – just the year the marriage was registered, the registration number and the names of the couple.
You then have the option to order the certificate as an historical certificate uncertified download, have a historical certificate uncertified printed, or historical certificate certified printed. The uncertified certificates cost $24.50, while the certified certificates cost $33.80.
The certificates include a lot more information that isn’t in the index. Birth certificates include the date and place of the birth, the name and sex of the child, and whether they were present or not, the age, occupation and birthplace of the father, the date and place where the parents were married, the names and ages of older siblings, and the age and birthplace of the mother, as well as the name, relationship and address of the informant, and when and where the birth was registered. Some of the early birth certificates only include the number of previous children who are living and deceased, and don’t provide their names and ages.
Death certificates are a gold mine for the genealogist. They include the date and place of death, the name, occupation and age of the deceased, the birthplace of the deceased, as well as how long they have lived in Australia, the cause of death, and the certifying medical practitioner, and earllier certificates provide when they last saw the deceased. Later certificates also include the residence at the time of the death. The death certificate lists the name, relationship, address and occupation of the informant, the date and place of the burial, the name of the undertaker, and the names of the minister and/or witnesses to the burial. The death certificates also show at what age, where and to whom the deceased was married, and the names and ages of their children. It also lists the names and occupations of the parents, including the mother’s maiden name. It depends on how well the informant knew the deceased as to whether the certificate provides all this detail, and how accurate the information that has been provided is.
Marriage certificates provide the date and place of the marriage, the names of each party to the marriage, their conjugal condition, how many living and deceased children to previous marriages, birthplace, occupation, age and present and usual residences for each party, the name and occupation of the father for each party, and the name, including the maiden surname, of the mother of each party of the marriage. The certificate also shows the name and religion of the minister, or of the Government statist or Registrar of marriages who performed the marriage, and the signatures of the witnesses to the marriage.
Our certificates provide such a wealth of information that they are the best resource to use. However, it can become quite expensive to order every certificate for every person you are researching. My next posts will focus on alternative resources that can provide birth, death and marriage information.