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South Australian Certificates Story

In the Province of South Australia, there was no dominant parish church where marriages, baptisms and burials could be recorded, as happened in England. By November 1839, there was a push to consider the need for a system of registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths. The legality of marriages solemnised by other than Church of England clergy caused controversy in the colony, so you might find two registrations of a marriage in some cases, while there will be no marriage certificate in others.

After much public debate, Parliamentary Acts for registering Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) passed in Council and came into operation on 1 June 1842.They allowed the Governor to establish a Registry Office and appoint a Registrar General. They also allowed the Governor to divide the Province of .South Australia into Districts as he shall think fit, each with a District Registrar.

Registration initially was in the Districts of Adelaide and Flinders (Port Lincoln), but not all events were registered, so proclamations over time divided South Australia into a total of 34 Districts. From July 1856, District Registrars were required to register Births within 42 days and Deaths within 10 days, then send a copy of the registration to the Registrar General’s Office in Adelaide.  However not all copies arrived, so we may find only a District registration or only a Head Office registration. A late fee or penalty applied to registrations not made within the required time, so there may be no registration to find. We have no access to birth certificates of children born before 1928 but registered after 1928.

Every Clergyman, Officiating Minister and Deputy Registrar before whom any marriage was solemnised, was required in the months of January, April, July and October to make and deliver a true copy to the Registrar, of all entries of marriage in the register books kept by them since the last notification. Registrations of BDM events from 1870 in the District of Palmerston (Northern Territory) were sent to DARWIN after 1911 and are now held in their Registry Office.

Districts were added, re-arranged or abolished on a regular basis, but these were closed in 1992 and all District registers and indexes were brought to Adelaide as registration became computerised. As the Registrar General no longer required the District registers, approval was given to return some of them on indefinite loan to libraries within former registration Districts.

At Genealogy SA, Gloria Stewart and her team of volunteers, filmed the District registers and indexes of Births to 1928, Deaths to 1967 and Marriages to 1937. These images are on microfiche in our library, and available to researchers where you can transcribe the information recorded since 1842.

Formal adoption procedures were introduced to South Australia on 17 December 1925, but all birth certificates which relate to adopted children were removed from the registers during the filming process, as permission is required from Adoption and Family Services for access to this information. 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 the index kept by the General Registry Office. However, there are many records of stillbirths in our cemetery index. The indexes of births, deaths and marriages available on our website were created by volunteers from the registrations held by the General Registrar’s Office.  These are also available on CD, microfiche and in books.

Not all BDM events were registered, as in the early years, Catholics refused to comply with the Act. Researchers may need to search church records of baptisms, marriages and burials, and also school admission registers held in our research library. Our early Certificates have only minimal information, so you should refer to the Charts to see what information was recorded in which years.

Links to tables which show what information can be found on Certificates can be found at the bottom of the 'individual results' pages for births, deaths and marriages..

Information about District holdings and maps of each area are contained in the book "South Australian Registration Districts of Births, Deaths and Marriages", published in 1998 by Beryl Schahinger FSAGHS.