Biographical Database of Australia

Church Registers


Church Registers and associated sources

This page provides a summary list of register transcripts included in BDA compiled from three sources:

1. Original Church Registers

2. Clergy Returns

3. Kerrison James Index

For more detailed information for each parish, and the sources used click on the word view.


CEAll Saints1826-1829view
NSWBathurstRCSt Michael 1839-1844view
NSWCampbelltownCESt Peter
NSWCastlereaghCEChrist Church
NSWCobbittyCESt Paul1827-1833
NSWGoulburnCESt Saviour1833-1865view
NSWIllawarra (Wollongong)
CESt Michael1828-1864
NSWLiverpoolCESt Luke
NSWMaitland - East
CESt Peter1828-1831
NSWNewcastleCEChrist Church
NSWParramattaCESt John
NSWParramattaRCSt Patrick1836-1888view
NSWPitt Town
CESt James
NSWPort Macquarie
CESt Thomas
NSWQueanbeyanCEChrist Church1838-1866view
NSWRichmondCESt Peter
NSWRydeCESt Anne1826-1831view
NSWSackville Reach
CESt Thomas1826-1831view
NSWSt Alban's
CESt Alban
NSWSutton Forest
CEAll Saints
NSWSydneyCEChrist Church St Lawrence1838-1867view
NSWSydneyCESt Andrew1842-1856view
NSWSydneyCESt James
NSWSydneyCESt Philip
NSWSydneyPresScots Church
NSWSydneyRCSt Mary
NSWWellingtonCDSt John1844-1856view
NSWWilberforceCESt John
NSWWindsorCESt Matthew
NSWWindsorRCSt Matthew1835-1855*
NSW(baptisms multiple locations)
QLDMoreton Bay CESt John (Brisbane)
VICMelbourneCESt James1837-1842view
Marriage Licensesview
Churchings of Womenview

1. Original Church Registers

The registration of Australian baptisms, marriages and burials began in 1787 during the voyage of the First Fleet, and continued thereafter. Many original church registers have survived. Some are still held by the church itself, others are in archives. Many registers have been microfilmed by groups like the Society of Australian Genealogists (SAG). Copies of the SAG films are included in their resource collection and also in the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

2. Clergy Returns

Clergy Returns are copies of baptism, marriage and burial entries from the original church registers which were sent in to the authorities (similarly to the bishop’s transcripts in England). Initially the registers were centralised in Sydney (St Philip’s, from 1787-1788) and Parramatta (St John’s, from 1790). There was a shortage Anglican clergy and initially little or no provision for other denominations. Some baptisms, marriages and burials of persons on the frontier, or of Catholics, Presbyterians and others, were not recorded and amid the relaxed social mores of the early colony together with isolated places of residence, many couples did not marry or baptise their children. From 1810 separate parishes were formed as more Anglican chaplains arrived. Soon other denominations were allowed to practice but their parish registers were initially kept by itinerant minsters not based on specific parishes.


In September 1810, Governor Macquarie ordered that returns of births and deaths were to be prepared by chaplains (or in their absence magistrates or commandants) for the colony’s various districts and sent to him every quarter. In December 1810, the governor further ordered that quarterly returns of all marriages, christenings, funerals and churchings should be . In December 1810, Macquarie ordered that all marriages, christenings, funerals and churchings should be sent to him.

Although the Clergy Returns should be identical to the church registers, in many instances they contain additional or different information. For example, the baptism entries in the church registers for St Johns, Parramatta, rarely included place of birth prior to 1814, however some St Johns entries in the Clergy Returns included place of birth in 1813. BDA staff add any additional information from these returns into the transcripts of the original registers to produce detailed composite entries.


3. Kerrison James Index

The Kerrison James Index is a three volume index  to Anglican baptism, marriage and burial records in NSW for the years 1787 to 1831 prepared by Henry Kerrison James between the 1830s and 1850s. The index was used as a finding aid by the church and was later acquired by the NSW colonial government.


NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages: indexes and entries

The NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages provides online indexes to the pre-1856 baptisms, marriages and burials in their collection, and provide certified copies of the entries themselves. Sometimes these entries have been sourced from the original church registers which have found their way into the Registry’s collection, however from 1826 onwards most have been sourced from the Clergy Returns (see above), which are copies of the original registers (UC all copies include errors).


The BDM Indexes themselves are problematic. They contain many errors which make individuals of interest difficult to locate.


While transcribing the church registers using all three of the abovementioned sources BDA staff noted the following problems in the BDM Indexes:


1. Transcription errors. Many given names have been mis-spelt during the typing process: eg. Goerge instead of George. Surnames have also been mis-transcribed.

2. Abbreviated given names. For example, if a user requests the name Elizabeth, the programme will not call up entries listed as Elzth, Elizabth, Eliz, and so on unless a wildcard search is used.

3. Incorrect years.

4. Incorrect places.

5. Incorrect registration numbers.

6. Entries are missing altogether.


By starting from scratch, BDA will eliminate most of these problems.


BDA Transcriptions

In transcribing baptisms, marriages and burials for BDA, research assistants tried to access the original church registers where possible. Occasionally, original registers have been lost and other sources were used. Details are included in the notes for the relevant church (hyperlinks provided in the index table above). By using the original registers and transcribing all the information contained within, the problems with the BDM Indexes have been remedied.

Checking original parish register entries on ARK

The Archives Kit (ARK) published by State Records of NSW includes copies of all baptisms, marriages and burials listed in the online indexes to the NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages.  Users wishing to check the original manuscript entries will need to access microfilm copies of these entries.

How to decode a reference on ARK (example):

  • The baptism entry for Charles Anderson in 1844 has the registration number: V18441232 28;
  • V indicates that the entry comes from a church register rather than a birth, marriage or death certificate (the latter are only found from 1856 onwards when civil registration began);
  • 1844 means that the child was born in 1844 (or baptised in that year if no birth date was recorded in the baptism entry);
  • 1232 reflects the number of the baptism entry within the relevant volume;
  • 28 reflects the volume in which the above baptism entry is located.


If users then go to the State Records guide to Volumes 1 to 123 of ARK, they will learn that volume 28 records Church of England baptisms (and marriages and burials), and that this volume is found on Reel 5008 of ARK. Users can examine the actual entry in a library that holds copies of ARK.


When attempting to locate an entry, users will need to ignore any entry numbers listed on the left-hand side of the page. The Registry included a single number at some point on the page in small writing (generally near the top-left side of the entries) and users need to count from that number to locate the entry of interest on that particular page.


This general information page has been compiled by Malcolm Sainty and Michael Flynn, May 2013.

The text on this page is copyright. Permission to reproduce it should be obtained from BDA.