Family ancestry search guide
If you can't find the results you're looking for right away, use this guide to help you navigate the search tool.
Free online search tool
Use our free online search to learn about your ancestry.
Use the tool straight away, or if you’re new to searching for family records, read on to find detailed information about how to start a search.
How to do a family ancestry search
Our online family history search provides free access to NSW Government records of:
- births over 100 years ago
- deaths over 30 years ago
- marriages over 50 years ago.
You can also order a physical copy of any historical birth, death or marriage certificate, for a fee.
Start with what you know
Work back through your family tree: parents, then grandparents, then great grandparents. Try to find out key details like their names, the dates or time frame they were alive and places they lived.
Ask family members about your family history. Talk to friends of your parents and grandparents, their neighbours and members of the community.
Select a life event
Once you have an idea of a person or people you’d like to search for, identify what life event you’d like to find out about. You can search for records on a person’s birth, death or marriage.
Understand what records you can find
It was not compulsory to register a birth, death or marriage in NSW until 1856 and written forms did not come into use until 1918.
This means that some records may be missing key details, or missing entirely. The amount of detail in the records depends on the year of the event, the format and the condition of the original records we hold in the registry.
|Certificate||Information usually included|
|Death certificate||Names of the parents, names of spouse(s), names of the children, place of death, occupation.|
|Marriage certificate||Place of birth, age at marriage, date of the marriage and names of parents. Some late 1800s marriage records do not include all information.|
|Birth Certificate||Place of birth for the parents, residence at time of birth, name and age of older siblings, date of marriage for parents, occupation of father.|
Learn more about the history of births, deaths and marriage registrations.
If you can't find a record, there could be errors in the names, dates and place you are searching, or the record may never have existed.
For example, if you can't find a marriage record for your ancestors, it could be because:
- the event was not registered
- the event did not occur in NSW - try other state registries
- the registration may have been missed when the records were transferred to digital format.
You must enter at least one name field.
If you’re unsure about a name or if you can’t find what you are looking for, try using these advanced search options.
|*||Any string of characters|
R*n will match Ron, Ran, Roan.
Bro* it will match any word starting with Bro, such as Brooks, Bromley, Bros.
|?||Replace a single character||R?n will match Ron or Ran but will not match Roan.|
|@||Represents a soundex||@colin will match Clune, Colan, Cullan, Callahan.|
Spelling of names
When you're researching historical information, you might find differences in the spelling of a name. This could be because:
- a mistake was made in recording the name
- a name was changed from another language into English or
- the records are hard to read.
If you’re unsure about the spelling of a name or you haven't been able to find records for a person, try a few variations.
Search date ranges
If you don't have an exact date, you can try searching a date range.
- Select date of event range from drop down: either yes or no.
- If you select date of event range "yes", you must enter a start and finish date for the period of your search.
- For example: Event from 01/01/1900, Event to 31/12/1910
If you select "no" for date of event range, you must enter the exact date of event. Use day, month, year such as 22/01/1908.
You can also search life events within the available time frames:
- Births over 100 years ago
- Deaths over 30 years ago
- Marriages over 50 years ago.
For example, on 2 January 2020, you can search for:
- Births on or before 1 January 1920
- Deaths on or before 1 January 1990
- Marriages on or before 1 January 1970.
Further support to search a date range
If you’re not certain of the date of a birth, marriage or death, try searching a 10-year period.
You can ask us to search a longer period than 10 years at an extra cost:
- $48 for an initial search of up to 10 years (birth, death or marriage certificate)
- add $45 for each additional search of up to 10 years.
See Request a Registry search for more information.
Include registration numbers
After WWI, written forms came into common use for recording births, deaths and marriages. The Registrar would copy details from forms into register books and allocate a unique registration number to the event.
If you know the registration number of the form you’re looking for, select "Yes" from the Search by number only drop down. Enter the registration number and click the search button.
Sort the search results
Your search results will be displayed under the following headings:
- registration number
- father/mothers given name (for births and deaths) or
- groom/bride’s given name for marriages.
You can sort your search results by clicking on the heading, which will sort them in ascending or descending order.
You can also change search details if you did not find what you wanted.
Select 'modify criteria', to return to the search page and change your search details as required.
If you select "continue searching", you will be taken back to the family history search page with no search details selected.
Church and district codes
Before the establishment of the registry in 1856, baptisms, burials and weddings were recorded by the churches.
If you're searching for records before 1856, you will see a two letter code in the search results under 'District'. This code can be matched to the name of the church that recorded the life event in our list of early church and district codes.
You can buy a physical copy of a birth, death or marriage certificate.
How to order
- Once you have found the record you are after in the search tool, click the box next to the item you want and select 'add to order'.
- Select the number of certificates you want to purchase.
- select delivery method (either email or post). Standard turnaround times apply.
- click 'update order' and then click 'purchase'.
Fees and Costs
When you search online, the records you find will include a registration number.
Save when you buy birth, marriage and death certificates by including the registration number on your application.
The fees for certificates are:
- $35 for each certificate with a registration number
- $48 for each certificate without a registration number.
Family history certificates are delivered by standard post. The processing time does not include delivery, please see Australia Post website for current delivery times within Australia or International.
- Times shown are estimated and may vary slightly.
- Australia Post advises customers to anticipate delays with International post.
Family history certificate
Online application: email delivery
up to 2 weeks
Online application: postal delivery
up to 2 weeks
Submitted by post
up to 6 weeks
Registry agent (Service NSW)
up to 4 weeks
|Church Register records (Volume records)||up to 3 weeks|
Continue your search
Continue your ancestry research with the following resources.
You can pay a family history transcription agent to search for you. They provide:
- either full or partial details of our records (transcriptions) or
- confirm details of the records we hold.
This option might suit you if you only need the facts, and not full certified copies of certificates.
For information about their service and fees, contact a transcription agent.
- Download and complete the family history search application (PDF 727.1KB)
- Include all the details of the person you are researching such as full name, date and place of birth, death or marriage and
- Complete the payment section.
Submit your form using one of the following options:
- visit your nearest Service NSW centre
- mail your form to:
NSW Registry of Births Deaths & Marriages
GPO Box 30
Sydney NSW 2001.
Family history search enquiries
Email our family history team if you have a question about our historical records of NSW births, deaths and marriages dating back to 1788.
Make sure you include your:
- Full name
- Telephone number
- Brief description of your enquiry.
We’ll respond within 10 business days.