Records at a Glance: South Africa

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Cemetery records
Tombstone inscriptions and burial registers are helpful for tracing people without markers and children without death notices.

  • Genealogical Society of South Africa’s ongoing Cemetery Recording Project index

Church records
Churches’ documentation of baptism, marriage and burial are a major source for vital records before civil registration. Some still kept on parish level

Civil registrations
Registration of births, marriages and deaths began 1868-1900 (varied by province and record type); some death and marriage records appear much earlier. Originals and certified copies from Department of Home Affairs

Civil service lists
Detailed books on members of the civil service were published for many years in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

  • National libraries, national archives.
  • Some on Ancestry24

Estate files
These exist for people with significant financial assets, and contain a death notice, will, and the liquidation and distribution account.

  • Master’s provincial offices for mid-1900s on
  • Provincial offices of national archives for earlier records

Passenger lists
No central index exists, and records after early influx of immigrants are spotty.

Property ownership records
Find deeds to property including land and slaves (until 1838 in Cape Town).

Voter lists
Municipal rolls of eligible voters exist for various years from 1884 to 1907, and a few post-1910.

  • National archives
  • Ancestry24

From the March 2011 Family Tree Magazine