Archives and Information for Family Historians

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These pages are for all those interested in tracing their family tree, in past or archived records of baptismsmarriages and funerals, as well as information about burials.

NB St James’ Church Registers prior to 1856 contain only minimal information. Unlike modern birth and death certificates they contain almost no details regarding antecedents.

NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages

Prior to the introduction of civil registration in New South Wales in 1856, the only official records of baptisms, marriages and burials were those kept by the clergy. Some years after civil registration began, many of these early church records were transcribed for the Registrar General’s Department in an attempt to provide a full record, for legal purposes, of all baptisms, marriages and burials recorded in the Colony prior to 1856.

The New South Wales Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages website has online indexes for the following records:

Births 1788–1905
Deaths 1788–1945
Marriages 1788-1945

Family History Certificates

Copies (called Family History Certificates) of ‘Unrestricted Records’ may be purchased from the Registry. The ‘Unrestricted Records’ are:

Births 1788–1905
Deaths 30 years ago or more
Marriages 50 years ago or more

It is important to remember that the pre-1856 Family History Certificates provided by the Registry are transcriptions of the original early church records. Difficulties in deciphering hand writing mean that there may be errors in some of these Certificates. In some cases information that is important to family historians was omitted from the
transcriptions (for example, ship of arrival). Researchers should check the microfilm copies of original records, wherever possible, to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in Family History Certificates.

The Parish of St James

When a baptism, marriage or burial is described as having taken place in the ‘Parish of St James’ this does not necessarily mean that the ceremony in question was performed in St James’ Church, but only that it took place in the geographical parish of St James. The boundaries of the Parish of St James, which occupies the north-eastern quarter of
the City of Sydney, have remained essentially unchanged since the parishes were first mapped in the mid-1830s.

There were, and still are, places of worship of several religious denominations within the Parish of St James, including St Mary’s Cathedral, St Stephen’s Uniting  Church and the Great Synagogue. In the early 19th century there were, in Macquarie Street alone, a synagogue; a Friends’ (Quakers’) Meeting House and a Wesleyan Meeting House. These were all in the ‘Palish of St James’.

Research queries

For conservation reasons, the original registers are not generally available to researchers, nor can they be photocopied. An index to entries in the 19th century baptismal, marriage and burial registers is held in the Parish Archives. Research enquiries may be sent by letter, fax or e-mail to The Parish Archivist at:

St James’ Parish Office
Level 1, 169-171 Phillip Street
Sydney NSW 2000

Fax: (02) 9232 4182

A small charge may be made for this service. Please include your full name and contact details (including postal address) with all research enquiries, including those sent by e-mail or fax.