A few years ago the Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages announced plans to release on CD the images and indexes of pre civil registration church records. Since then a number of articles on the subject have appeared in the Genealogical Society of Victoria's quarterly journal "Ancestor". These have been written by Anne Fullarton in her regular 'Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages - Update' segments.
In 2002 Anne stated: "For the most part, these records cover the early period of Victorian history from 1836 to 1853 when civil registration was introduced on 1 July 1853. However, we do have index entries for church records post 1854. With the proclamation of the 1898 Marriage Act, the churches were instructed to deposit their records with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for events that occurred prior to 18 January 1853."
"Over the past two years I have been working on our Early Church Records, attaching images, correcting index entries, expanding place names and filling in gaps in information on our baptisms, burials and marriages. With the onset of our new on-line services, there is now a need to speed up the enhancement of these records and to finish attaching the images to the respective index entry. Unlike the civil index records, we have had to manually load most of these images due to the complex numbering system implemented at the Registry as the records were received from the churches back in the late 1800s."
"Recently, we uncovered approximately one hundred and five Victorian early church records in New South Wales that were not on our Historical Index database. We have imaged these baptismal records and they are now included on the database. The Registry will continue to look for records that have been omitted or not deposited with us."
In March 2003 she estimated that this Early Church Records CD would contain approximately 77,000 baptism, burial and marriage index entries and over 10,000 images of the original church records, predominantly covering the years 1836 to 1853. She added: "We have uncovered some records from New South Wales, Tasmania and the Geelong district that were not previously held in the Victorian Registry. These records, together with their images, will be available on this new CD when it is published. Some of these records will be outside the 1836 to 1853 date range." At that time the CD had a planned release date of 1 July 2003 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the introduction of civil registration.
In June 2003 publication of the CD seemed imminent. An image of Christ Church, Geelong had been chosen to appear on the cover and a price of $284.00 (incl. GST) was even quoted. It was stated that the auditing and editing of the index data had been completed and the last image attachment had been checked. Over 76,000 index records had been updated. "In addition, each record has now been data enhanced with the information that was stated on the baptism, burial or marriage but previously omitted from our index records. On the baptisms, we have provided (where stated) the name of the person, the parents' names (including father's family name and mother's maiden name), the date of birth (in most cases) and the 'place of birth' which is actually the abode at the time of baptism or birth. The burials contain the name of the deceased, the parents' names (as with baptisms), the age at death, the place of death, the place of birth (usually unknown) and if the person was married the details of the spouse (where stated). The marriages contain both the bride and grooms' names (indexed under both parties), the place the marriage took place and the birth place of each party (usually unknown)."
Also: "In 1803, there was a settlement at Sullivan Bay Camp, Port Phillip. The Tasmanian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has kindly given their permission for these records and their images to be included on our CD. Amongst these records there are two baptisms, twenty-seven burials and two marriages, with some of these events taking place on board the ship "Calcutta". We have also uncovered a group of one hundred and seventeen baptisms from the Manaroo district in Victoria that are currently in the New South Wales Register. The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales have kindly given their permission for these index records and their images to be included on the CD also."
"We would like to thank St. Andrew's Uniting Church, Geelong for their co-operation and subsequent permission to include the twelve baptisms, twenty burials and one marriage that were omitted from our Registers and will now be released on this Early Church Records CD."
"For many years, we have all thought of the Early Church Records as spanning the years from 1836 to 1853. Now, we want you to expand that view. The inclusion of the above mentioned, additional records to the Registry's database, will mean that our index will cover 1803 and 1836 to 1906, with the majority still falling between 1836 and 1853. So if you know of any church records, or you may have an original certificate of a baptism, marriage or burial event that does not appear in Victoria's indexes, please let us know, so that we may explore that avenue."
"The 1898 Marriage Act, which provided for the deposit of all church records with the Registry only stated that records prior to 18 January 1853 had to be sent in. However, this left a six-month gap, before civil registration began on 1 July. Some churches provided their records well past the January date, others simply complied with the legislation. So, just as we are finishing one project, it looks like we have another one in the making."
This additional work has delayed the release of the CD for a long time however in the March 2005 issue of "Ancestor" Anne reported: "The registry has been looking at the early church records over the past few years and we have established that there are quite a lot of civil births, particularly in the early 1850s, 1860s and 1870s, that were not registered under Civil Registration Legislation. People would still have their children baptised but did not, for various reasons known to them, register an official birth with the registry."
"We have begun requesting some churches to allow us to view their registers of baptisms, burials and marriages with the view to obtaining copies of these records to help complete Victoria's record base. This will be a long process, but I am sure, a very worthwhile and interesting task for the Registry and our volunteers."
Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes (PPPG Member No. 52)
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