Birth, marriage and death records housed in the Cape Town Archives from 1895 – 1971 are now open to the public for the Western Cape, Northern Cape and some of the Eastern Cape. However, actual copies of in South Africa can only be obtained by physically going to any Department of Home Affairs branch and standing in a queue. They do not have forms on-line that you can download and you cannot apply on-line either. Only immediate family members can apply for a copy of birth certificate of someone else in your family and they no longer allow 3rd party applications. The Archives are extremely understaffed and you will either need to go in personally to access the records or you can contact me and I can do it for a fee. Search birth registers here.
For anyone that wants a copy of a death certificate, be it an abridged version or unabridged version, you need to go in person to any Department of Home Affairs offce and apply.
The Department of Home Affairs will issue a Death Certificate on receipt of the notification of death (Form BI-1663)and the Death Report (Form BI-1680).
Applications for a Death Certificate must be lodged at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or at any South African embassy, mission or consulate if the death occurs abroad.
An abridged death certificate will be issued free of charge on the same day of registration of death. An unabridged death certificate can be obtained by completing Form BI-132 and paying the required fee.
Read more about Birth Records and finding the entries.
The Registration of births and deaths was made compulsory when Act 7 of 1894 came into operation on 1 January 1895. (Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette No. 7605 dated 11 May 1894 page 926).
Please note: the CLOSED PERIOD for Marriage and Deaths is 20 years but Birth Records in the Cape are open to the public pre-1971 only and everywhere for births is 100 years or as stipulated by the office of origin.
The Archives of the Registrar of Marriages, Births and Deaths for the Cape Province is sub-divided into three groups, namely, the North Cape Region, Eastern Cape Region and Western Cape Region, for practical purposes. In order to obtain a broad outline of all towns involved, the relevant three inventories should be consulted as each inventory reflects an alphabetical list of towns for that specific region.
For additional information the following finding aids should also be consulted:
Inventory 1/62 of the Archives of the Register of Marriages, Births and Deaths (MRG), 1892-1913 which contains two volumes of correspondence on certain legal issues pertaining to individual cases.
Inventory 1/16 of the Archives of the Colonial Office (CO), 1806 -1912 Volumes CO 4572-4593 which contain Certificates of Registration of Marriages for the period 1818-1882. (Cape Town Archives)
Various inventories of the Archives of the Magistrates’ Offices of the corresponding towns, since duties performed by the resident magistrates included those in connection with the matrimonial courts. These courts were abolished in 1882.
By order of Her Excellency the Queen, legislation was issued for the registration of Marriages to take effect from 1 February 1839. See Cape of Good Hope Government Gazette No 1737, dated 5 April 1839, Order-in-Council dated 7 September 1838.