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Civil Registry and Church Records around the World

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About this project

The aim of this project is to provide a tool for researchers in order to learn when church and civil registration became available in different countries in the world. Please add the country information to the list below in alphabetical order and where possible also add the registry office or other sources where civil or church records can be ordered or found.

Other Projects about Sources:

Civil Registration

Civil registration forms the backbone of genealogical research because birth, marriage and death records help us to identify family groups. Being 'Government' records (not church records) these Irish 'vital records' are often the most accurate documentary evidence of our ancestors' lives and they also survive intact.

Church records

In 1497 Cardinal Ximenes introduced a register of baptisms, first in Toledo, Spain , then throughout western Europe. In 1563 the Roman Catholic Church ordered the general keeping of baptismal and marriage registers.

To trace family history in pre-civil registration, you will usually need to get to grips with parish Church registers. For records of births, marriages and deaths later your ancestral search is better directed towards the civil registration system.





in progress, by gjh
  • As per 2013, the Belgian National Archives have made tremendous progress in bringing both church and civil registries online. Over 15 million pages are searchable for free (registration required), but navigation isn't too good (ask a Belgian Geni user for assistance if required, or raise a question through the International Dutch Portal).


The civil registration started only in cities of larger municipalities around the year 1875 ; however, it wasn't until 1888 that it became enforced with the new law of the civil registry pronounced just before the proclamation of the Republic. Formerly, the Catholic Church was only responsible for the registration of individuals and its titles, as a continuation of a classical tradition to register events that involved only people of wealth either of ecclesiastical order, dynasty, or nobility.

Where to find records :



Civil Registration in Chile started it's functions in 1885. You can find civil records of births, marriages and death in familisearch under the next web address:

You have the option to surf through the documents, which are organized in provinces and it's cities. The records go from 1885 to 1905 (even 1920 in some cases) If you wanna get further information or getting documents, you need to have the id number and ask for a free copy of birth, marriage or death certificate at Registro Civil , under the link "Certificados en Linea"



Croatia / Hrvatska

Hrvatske crkvene knjige dostupne preko Interneta - pogledajte Croatia Church Books 1516-1949



The oldest parish record in France dates from 1303-1357 and records the baptisms, marriages and burials in Givry, a town in Burgundy. In 1539, church registries were formalized by the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts; it established (amongst others, such as the officialization of French) the registration of baptisms and burials by parish administrations throughout France. This is extended to marriages in 1579, by the Ordinance of Blois. In 1667, the Ordinance of Saint Germain en Laye requires doubles of all parish registries to be made and kept by local courts. By royal edict in 1691, the position of a civil officer is created, charged with assuring and archiving these registry copies. Finally, the civil registry was instaured by decree on September 20, 1792 - which definitively transfers the obligation to keep registries from the church to the state.

Where to find records :

  • There is no formal centralization of sources in France, but the "Départements" are formally responsible for the archives and are by law encouraged to bring them online. The best way to start is GeneaWiki (an initiative of Geneanet), as it acts as a gateway to all the available local archives, databases and scans (for both church and civil registries). The search is by department, by town, and in French.
  • A short index of other French-language sources can be found on the International French Portal







Civil Registration -Compulsory civil registration of non-Roman Catholic marriages began on April 1st, 1845. The registration of births, deaths and all marriages commenced on January 1st, 1864 For records pre 1864 we are depending on Church registrations.

Church registers -Church of Ireland registers generally start a lot earlier than those of most other faiths in Ireland. This is because it was the Established or State Church and, as such, was legally obliged to keep records. This obligation dated back to the 17th century when baptisms and burials of Irish Protestants started to be recorded. This process began with urban areas and gradually spread out to the surrounding countryside but it was more than 100 years before some rural parishes started to create and keep records. Most Roman catholic church registrations started around 1800 .

Where to find records :




in progress, by KKW


in progress, by gjh
  • In 2013, WieWasWie was launched to pull together all the regional and local databases with church and civil registries. Most local databases continue to operate and offer a far bigger wealth with local history, images etc (check the Dutch Sources project). But, for person search, WieWasWie is your best access point. (Registration required. Search is free).

New Zealand

Civil registration began in 1848.
Birth, Death and Marriage Historical Records
The index is free to search.
Information available includes:

  • Births that occurred at least 100 years ago
  • Stillbirths that occurred at least 50 years ago
  • Marriages that occurred 80 years ago
  • Deaths that occurred at least 50 years ago or the deceased's date of birth was at least 80 years ago.


Where to find church records in other countries:



South Africa



United Kingdom

The mandatory civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths in England and Wales was introduced on 1 July 1837 . Initially the onus lay on registrars to discover and record events, so parents only had to supply information if and when asked. In 1875 the Births & Deaths Act 1874 came into force, whereby those present at a birth or death were required to report the event. Subsequent legislation introduced similar systems in Ireland (all of which was then part of the United Kingdom) on 1 April 1845 for Protestant marriages and on 1 January 1864 for all birth, marriage and death events. Civil registration was introduced in Scotland on 1 January 1855

Where to find records :

United States

Church records in the United States began in the early 1600s. Unfortunately, the United States did not require a civil registration or recording of births, marriages, and deaths until into the 20th Century.

Where to find records :