Department of the Attorney General
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Family history

The best way to trace your family tree is to start with the information you know and work backwards - yourself, your parents, grandparents, great grandparents.

Your relatives can give you information about other family members, but as you move through the generations, you will need to start checking other sources. This is where birth, death and marriage certificates can help.

Compulsory registration of births, deaths and marriages started in Western Australia in September 1841. Previously the churches assumed responsibility for recording details of baptisms, burials and marriages. The J S Battye Library in Perth, which is part of the State Library of Western Australia, has certain church records prior to 1841.

The registry has more than 2.6m records relating to people who were born, married or died in Western Australia. A similar registration system operates in other Australian states and territories, and records relating to your ancestors who may have lived interstate can be traced by inquiring at that state's registry.

Historic index search

The registry offers free online historic index searching of Western Australian births, deaths and marriages registered from 1841. This service incorporates a family history certificate ordering option for a reduced fee. For full details on how to conduct online historic index searching, go to Searching Western Australian Online Indexes.

Family history certificates provide information not just about the subject of that registration but also other family members. For example, depending on the year of registration, a death certificate may detail a person's name, occupation, age at death, parents, spouse and children. A death (or birth or marriage) certificate can be the stepping stone back to the previous generation.

A ten year search of the indexes for the record you have requested is included in the certificate fee. If the date you provide for the birth, death or marriage is incorrect, the indexes will be searched for five years either side of the nominated date. If you do not know the date of the event, a search of the records can be undertaken by nominating the period you want searched (for a fee).

When applying for a certificate, give all the details you can to ensure that the correct certificate is issued. Additional information such as a mother's maiden name for birth certificates or spouse's name for death certificates are especially useful. If you are unsure how a name is spelt, indicate this on your application and any minor variations will be checked. However, searches under different family names require separate search fees.

More information on family history can be found at the State Library of Western Australia.

Last Updated: 23-Jul-2014

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