Researching your Victorian ancestors

A guide to family history research using the major Victorian resources

Victorian church records

Why use church records?

From 1836 to 1853, details of baptisms, burials and marriages were entered into parish registers. On 1 July 1853 compulsory registration was introduced and from this date forwards all details were required to be lodged with the Registrar, Births, Deaths and Marriages. All churches in the colony were required to send their pre 1853 registers to the Registrar, however incomplete records show that this did not always happen.

Search church records for information not found in the Registry. This can include pre civil registration records, 1853 records that were not collected and records that did not appear in the Registry because they were accidently mistranscribed or omitted. Even if you have found a record at the Registry it is sometimes worth checking through church records for extra details i.e. original signatures of the bride, bridegroom and witnesses.

Where to look?

Victoria's early church records: baptisms, marriages and burials (1836-1853). Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. (Available on PCs NFH1-NFH5  in the Newspapers and Family History Reading Rooms).
This database covers early parish church records for the years
1836 to 1853 with additional records dated between 1803 and 1906. It also contains scanned images of hand-written records from original register books.

Parish registers in Australia: a list of originals, transcripts, microforms, & indexes of Australian parish registers by Nick Vine Hall
Provides an alphabetical listing of over 5000 state and territory parish registers and the locations of the record centres where they can be accessed.


Where else?

There isn't one location to go to for all surviving church records of christenings, marriages and burials.  If you know the religion and the suburb or township, try and locate possible churches. Also check to see if there is a central church archive in the relevant state. Unfortunately, over time, some collections of records have been destroyed in fires and floods and some records have been lost. This was particularly the case where a clergyman had an extensive area to cover to minister to his flock and simply never recorded the information in the church register.

Church records - library holdings

A selection of church records and registers are available at the State Library. To see what's available please consult the attached document.

Bishop Perry

Bishop Charles Perry

Bishop Charles Perry, H81.11/41; H93.23/115

Charles Perry was the first Anglican Bishop of Melbourne. He travelled tirelessly around country Victoria establishing parishes and founding churches.