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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Australia Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources.

About Australia Death Index, 1787-1985

Vital records—records of births, marriage, and death—are the basic building blocks of family history research, and this database features some of the most comprehensive indexes available of historical Australian death records. These indexes were created by Australian registrar's offices after civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths became law in the mid 19th century. Exactly when civil registration took effect varied by colony or territory as follows:

    Tasmania — 1838
    Western Australia — 1841
    South Australia — 1842
    Victoria — 1853
    New South Wales — 1856
    Queensland — 1856 (before 1856, see NSW)
    Northern Territory — 1870 (1856–1863, see NSW; 1863–1870 see SA)

However, these dates do not reflect the earliest dates for Australian death records. Church records predate civil registration, and as registrar's offices assumed responsibility for registration, they requested copies of earlier church records to incorporate into their collections. Thus, this database includes indexes that may go back even further for the following colonies:

    New South Wales — 1788
    Tasmania — 1803
    Queensland — 1829
    Victoria — 1836

While these collections make up some of the most important indexes of early Australian death records, they are not necessarily 100 percent complete—compliance to registration laws, of course, varied, and Australia’s vast distances complicated most any record-keeping effort. In this collection records are available for the following span of years:

    New South Wales — 1788-1945
    Northern Territory — 1870-1913
    Queensland — 1929-1959
    South Australia — 1842-1970
    Tasmania — 1803-1919
    Victoria — 1836-1985
    Western Australia — 1841-1980

Searching the Records

Because some later colonies, territories, and states were created out of earlier ones, their history comes into play when searching for vital records. For example, you would look for your Northern Territory ancestor in New South Wales from 1856 to 1863 and South Australia from 1863 through 1870.

These records are indexes; they do not include images of actual death records. They can be searched by: year of death, place of death, estimated birth year, father’s name, mother’s surname.

The index may also include: age, usual residence, occupation, registration year, place, and number, and page, volume, and entry number.

With the information from the indexes, you can order a copy of the record from the appropriate registry office. While these records vary in the information they contain, depending on when they were created, you might find:

  • Date of death
  • Gender
  • Cause of death
  • Residence
  • Marital status
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Spouse
  • Age at marriage
  • Number and gender of children, if deceased
  • Date and place of burial
  • Informant (including relationship to deceased)
  • Length and places of residence in Australia
  • Religion
  • Name of undertaker
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