Saturday, August 11, 2012

Other SA certificates

Compulsory official registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in South Africa commenced as follows:

Cape: marriages 1700; births and deaths 1895
Natal: marriages 1845; births 1868; deaths 1888
Transvaal: marriages 1870; births and deaths 1901
Orange Free State: marriages 1848; births and deaths 1903

If your ancestor was born prior to the start of civil registration, a birth certificate will not be available.

Marriage certificates are uninformative. No parents’ names appear on the document. Witnesses’ names – often siblings of the bride/groom or other family members - can be interesting. If the couple later divorced, a copy of the marriage certificate is likely to be among the documents generated by the court proceedings. This is a good reason to access a divorce file for which you find a reference on NAAIRS.

In early civil marriages where the bride was under age her parents’ signatures would appear on the entry, indicating their consent.

As is the case with death certificates, you need to have full details – names, precise date and location - of births and marriages before you can proceed with ordering certificates. Generally these details are precisely what the family historian is endeavouring to discover.

There are alternative research avenues such as Church records. However, some definite clues as to location and a reasonably narrow date parameter for the event are required as starting points.

Check the Family History Library Catalogue at for filmed registers.

My grandparents' marriage entry 1909 St Peter's Church, Pietermaritzburg
 from filmed register

UPDATE: The Natal Marriage Index is now accessible online at Family Search. 
To read more about this extremely useful and long-awaited facility, go to the Family Search Wiki pages at

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