The office of the Registrar General was constituted on 1 January 1844 by the "Deed Registration" Act of 1843 (7 Vic. Act No. 16). This Act provided for the appointment of a Registrar General to replace the Registrar of the Supreme Court (1) as the officer responsible for the "registration of wills and devises deeds conveyances and other assurances affecting real property"(2) ; "Acts of the Colonial Legislature charters of incorporation memorials of public companies"(3) ; and "of certain marriages births baptisms and burials".(4)
In December 1849 the office of the Registrar was abolished and its functions transferred to the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court (5) . In 1855 An Act for registering Births, Deaths and Marriages (Act 19 Vic. No. 34) revived the office of Registrar General (6) making compulsory the registration of births, deaths and marriages (7) and for the division of the colony into registration districts(8). It also provided that quarterly returns of registrations were to be made by District Registrars to the Registrar General, who was to keep these returns in the General Registry.
In 1857 an "Act for the transferring to the Registrar General the duties of the Chief Clerk of the Supreme Court as Registrar of Deeds and other Instruments (Act 20 Vic. No. 27), which was assented to on 11 March, 1857, transferred all Instruments and duties of registration to the Registrar General. (9) In 1858 the Registrar General's activities were carried out by two branches - Births, Deaths and Marriages and Registration of Deeds.(10).
The Registrar General kept the life histories of the citizens of New South Wales. Copies of the Church records held by the Supreme Court were transferred to the Registrar General. In an endeavour to obtain a complete set of records for the period prior to 1856, an arrangement was made in 1878 for the transfer of old Church of England records of burials, baptisms and marriages. With the co-operation of the various churches further additions have been made to the records (11).
With the post war boom there was an increase in the number of civil marriages, which were the direct responsibility of the Registrar General's Department. (12).
On 9 October 1975 the Registrar General's Births, Deaths and Marriages Branch became a separate agency known as the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (13). The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Amendment) Act, 1975 (Act No.57, 1975) made provision for the appointment of a Principal Registrar and transferred to him the powers, duties and functions previously entrusted to the Registrar General.(14).
On 26 May 1982, the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages was removed from the Department of Services and added to the Department of Attorney General and of Justice (15).
From 1993 the Registry was placed in the Information and Regulation Program of the Attorney General's Department (16) and the following year it was one of the commercial enterprises conducted by the agency. (17) By 2002 the Department's division into programs had ceased and the Registry began reporting directly to the Director General. (18)
In 1996 the agency listed its prime function as the registration of" births, deaths and marriages, changes of name, adoptions and legitimation occurring in NSW. It undertakes the maintenance and safekeeping of the records relating to this function, and offers the following services: the issue of certificates relating to births, deaths and marriages, the collection and provision of selected statistical data to approved organisations and government agencies, the performance of civil marriage ceremonies and administration of matters related to the Commonwealth Marriage Act of 1961 (19).
From 1 July 2009 when the Attorney General's Department was abolished the Births, Deaths and Marriages Branch became a branch of the new Principal Department, the Department of Justice and Attorney General. (20)
From 4 April 2011 when the name of the Department of Justice and Attorney General was changed the Births, Deaths and Marriages Branch became a branch of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. (21)
(1) Deed Registration Act 1843 s.1
(2) Ibid s.3
(3) Ibid s.3
(4) Ibid s.3
(5) An Act to abolish the office of the Registrar-General and to make further provision for the Registration of Deeds,. and other Instruments (Act 13 Vic. No. 45) s 1,2
(6) In 1855 An Act for registering Births, Death and Marriages, 1855 s. 2
(7) An Act for registering Births, Death and Marriages, 1855 s. 17, 21
(8) An Act for registering Births, Death and Marriages, 1855 s. 3
(9) An Act for the transferring to the Registrar General the duties of the Chief Clerk of the Supreme Court as Registrar of Deeds and other Instruments, 1857 s.1,2
(10) Blue Books (Public Service Lists) 1858, Sydney, Government Printer, 1858 pp23-24
(11) 'Know Your Departments, 18. Registrar General', Progress Vol. 5, No. 2, February 1966, p. 21.
(12) Ibid. p. 95-96.
(13) Public Service Notices 3/12/1975.
(14) The Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Amendment) Act, 1975 , s.4, 4A
(15) Public Service Board Notices No 135. 9/06/1982.
(16) Report of the Attorney General's Department for the year ended 30 June 1993 p. 15, 58ff
(17) Report of the Attorney General's Department for the year ended 30 June 1994p. 46-47
(18) Report of the Attorney General's Department 30 June 2002 p. 7
(19) New South Wales Government Directory, Sydney, New South Wales Government Information Service, 1996.p. 83-84
(20) Public Sector Employment and Management (Departmental Amalgamations) Order 2009 (2009 No 352) cls. 20; notified on NSW Legislation website, 27 July 2009.
(21) Public Sector Employment and Management (Departments) Order 2011 (2011 No 184) cls. 36; notified on NSW Legislation website, 3 April 2011.
(1) Blue Books (Public Service Lists) 1858 - 1960, Sydney, Government Printer, 1858- 1960
(2)NSW Department for the Attorney General and of Justice. "Outline"", 1966-1976.