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Family history research guide

You can search our records of births, marriages and deaths in NSW for free. Here you'll find some tips to help you successfully complete your search.

Searching online

Our online family history search provides free, unrestricted access to searching NSW life events for:

Follow these instructions to complete your search and order the certificates you need.

Search services

  1. Select a life event: births, marriages or deaths.
  2. If you know the registration number, select "Yes" from the Search by number only drop down.
  3. Enter the registration number and click the search button.
  4. If you don't know the registration number
    • fill in at least one name and
    • the date of event range fields.

You must enter at least one name field.

If you don't find what you are looking for, try these advanced search options.

Use

To find

Example

*

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.

Select date of event range from drop down: either yes or no.

If you select date of event range "yes" then enter a start and finish date for the period of your search.

Date of event from

Date of event to

01/01/1900

31/12/1910

  • If you select date of event range "no", then enter the exact date of event: day, month, year such as 22/01/1908.

You can search life events within the time frames.

Event

Search Time Frame

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.

When your search results are displayed you can:

  • buy a certificate: click the box next to the item you want, select 'add to order' and go to step 3
  • 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
  • continue searching: takes you back to the family history search page with no search details selected.

Order details

  • Enter 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'.

Applicant details

You must complete all details in this section except 'other given names'.

Transaction summary

This will display details of certificate/s ordered. Choose from the options.

  • Back: will return to applicant details
  • Discard: will return to the order details
  • Submit Payment: will take you to the payment details screen. Select 'submit payment' and the payment details page will display.

Payment details

  • You can pay with a credit card.
  • You must complete all the details on the payment details screen and then click 'next'.

When you complete your payment you will:

  • see a confirmation message and
  • receive a tax invoice at the email address you provided.

Processing begins when we have received your complete and correct application.

The number of working days to process certificates depends on how you apply.

Certificates are delivered by registered post. The processing time does not include delivery which can be up to 6 working days. 

Family history  certificate Standard service
Online application - email delivery 2
Online application - postal delivery 2
Submitted by post 18
Registry agent (Service NSW) 10

 

Tips for researching family ancestry

Whether you are exploring your family history, involved in a legal matter, or just curious about a few details, our tips will help you track down the information you need.

Work back through your family tree: parents, then grandparents, then great grandparents.

Ask family members about your family history. Talk to friends of your parents and grandparents, their neighbours and members of the community. Put together a list of questions and ask if you can record your conversations.

Once you have names and dates you can search for information online and apply for certificates.

The details provided in certificates will help you search for information about other family members and earlier generations.

The amount of detail in the certificates depends on the year of the event and the condition of the original records we hold in the registry.

Certificate

Information 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.

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.

While you are able to search for free, there will be a fee for each certificate you order.

Learn more about online searches

The registry holds records from 1788. The level of detail and accuracy you'll find when searching our records is directly related to the:

  • original format
  • condition 
  • source
  • information provided and
  • age of the records.

 Learn more about the records held by the registry

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 codes.

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 certificate 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.

Before 1856, churches kept records for life events. This means that the early records were for baptisms and funerals rather than births and deaths. Marriages were also recorded by churches.

If you request a certificate for someone who was born or died before 1856, you will receive a:

  • baptism certificate instead of a birth certificate
  • burial certificate instead of a death certificate.

Continue your ancestry research by visiting these websites.

State Library

State archives and records

Land registry services

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 transcription agents, see our Ancestry research help options.

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