Monday, September 26, 2016

South African Ancestry Research 4 certificates

Q  How do I obtain SA BMD certificates?

A  In the UK, acquiring relevant certificates is standard practice. In the SA
context, this isn’t the recommended first line of attack. BMD registers and indexes are held by the Department of Home Affairs. The only way to obtain an official certificate is through the Department or, if you live overseas, through the South African embassy or consulate.

The Department of Home Affairs won’t consider applications for certificates unless you provide full details i.e. names, precise date and location of the event. Generally these are what the family historian is trying to find out. If you know all the facts, is it really worth going through the frustrating ordering process? It could take six months to acquire a certificate; there’s no guarantee of a result. If the only information you have is a vague idea that the ancestor was born or married ‘in the Cape’, don’t waste time applying for a certificate.

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

Compulsory official registration of BMD commenced in SA as below:
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

Marriage certificates are uninformative: no parents’ names appear on the document. If the happy couple later divorced, a copy of the marriage certificate is likely to be among the documents generated by the court proceedings; this is one good reason to access a divorce file. In early civil marriages, where the bride was under age, her parents’ signatures would appear on the entry, indicating their consent to the marriage. On FamilySearch you can find Natal Civil Marriages  1845-1955 at

 There are other possible avenues for finding SA birth and marriage records but the discussion here relates to obtaining official certificates for such events. 

No comments: