You are here:

History of the Registry

The Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages was established on 18 January, 1853 with the proclamation of the Registration (Births, Deaths and Marriages) Act. The Registry was first known as the Registrar-General's Department and reported to the Colonial Secretary.

Governor La Trobe appointed English gentleman and statistician William Archer as Acting Registrar-General. One of William Archer's first tasks was to develop the procedures for gathering information and registering the significant life events of Victorians. The new Registration Act commenced on 31 March 1853 and from 1 July that year, all Victorians were required to register births and deaths with their local District Registrar.

The first Victorian Registrar-General was Major Norman Campbell, who was appointed by Governor La Trobe in January 1854. This appointment created some controversy as Major Campbell was a friend of the Governor and was chosen over William Archer - who many saw as the driving force behind the founding of the Registry.

However, five years later William Archer was appointed Registrar-General in his own right by the O'Shannassy government, following the death of Major Campbell.

In the decades since William Archer oversaw the first registrations of births and deaths in Victoria, the Registry has grown to become a leader in the accurate recording of significant life events. The Registry continues to provide secure and reliable evidence of events that shape the past, present and future of Victoria.

While the Registry began recording births, marriages and deaths occurring in Victoria from 1853, it also holds records of church baptisms, marriages and burials dating back to 1836. These records are available for public access via family history search.

William Archer, pastel portrait. Image courtesy of the University of Melbourne Archives

Pastel portrait of William Archer
Image used with kind permission from the University of Melbourne Archives