Name changes in your family can send your family tree into a frenzy when you suddenly discover that no records exist for them. Many immigrants, when arriving in South Africa, changed their names as well as ordinary folk who have lived here all their life. Did you know that anyone can change their name? When looking for family members or ancestors, it is important to remember why they may have changed or altered their first name or surname. You can search our online database for name changes in South Africa here. Names changes in this database start from 1994 – 2021 and constantly being updated.

There are various reasons:

    1. Anglicized
    2. Names were very difficult to spell
    3. Pronunciation of name
    4. Running away from bad debt or a felony
    5. Divorce
    6. Separation
    7. Adoption
    8. Marriage
    9. They did not like their name 
    10. Their surname or name was embarrassing 
    11. People who want to remain anonymous
    12. people who become famous 
    13. Immigration
    14. Change of gender

 Personal Amendmentname-changes

The Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act No. 51 of 1992), read with the Identification Act, 1997 (Act No. 68 of 1997) provides for the rectification, amplification, and amendment of the personal information of individuals as contained in the National Population Register of South Africa (NPR).

The personal information of South African citizens and South African permanent residence holders are recorded in the NPR and involve mainly information in regard to births, marriages, and deaths registered in terms of South African legislation.

Different types of amendments

The aforesaid Birth and Death Registration Act, 1992 provides for the following specific amendments:

Section 11(1): Re-registration of a child born out of wedlock

In terms of this section, a child registered as born out of wedlock and where the parents marry after the registration of birth may be re-registered as born within wedlock. A BI-59 application form must be completed and submitted with proof of the marriage to any Home Affairs domestic office. Both parents must sign the said form in the presence of a Commissioner of Oaths.

Tariff: Free

Section 11(4): Insertion of biological father’s particulars in the birth registration of his child registered as born out of wedlock

The requirements are:

Completion and submission to any Home Affairs domestic office of a BI-1682 application form consented to and sworn to by both the father and mother of the child.

If the mother refuses her consent to the insertion, the father may apply to a High Court for exemption of the mother’s consent


Section 23: Insertion of a forename or surname in a birth registration of a person registered without a forename or surname

In terms of legislation operative before Act No. 51 of 1992 came into operation, particularly members of the Indian community are affected in this regard. Applications for insertion of a forename or surname, as the case may be, must be on a duly completed BI-795.

Tariff: Free

Section 24: Change of forename(s)

Applications must be submitted on a BI-85 application form.

Tariff: R80.00 for a major, R50.00 for a person who has not entered into a legal marriage or declared a major in terms of the Age of Majority Act.

Section 25: Change of surname of a minor

The section provides for the following different scenarios:

25(1)(a): Child born out of wedlock. Mother marries a person other than the child’s natural father and wishes to change the child’s surname to that of her husband.

25(1)(b): A mother after her divorce from or death of her husband (father of the child) wishes to change the child’s surname to her maiden surname or to another surname she bore legally, or if she has remarried, to the surname of her new husband.

25(1)(c): Child born out of wedlock, but registered under the natural father’s surname: Mother wishes to change the child’s surname to her surname.

25(1)(d): Minor in care of a guardian: Guardian wishes to change the child’s surname to his or hers.

25(2): The section provides for instances not covered by section 25(1), but where a good and sufficient reason for the change nevertheless exists.

The natural father’s written consent unless waived by a competent court is a statutory requirement in the case where the child was born in wedlock.

In respect of section 25(1)(a) and (b) cases, the husband whose surname the child is to assume must also give his written consent to the assumption.

Concerning section 25(2) cases, both the natural parents’ written consent is required, as well as a good and sufficient reason, in writing, for the change.

Applications must be on a duly completed BI-193 application form. Tariff:

 Change of surname of majors

In terms of section 26(1), a woman may assume her husband’s surname, or revert to her maiden surname or a prior surname she legally bore and since 1997 a woman may also join her surname with that of her husband’s as a double-barrelled surname. No application to the Department of Home Affairs is necessary in these instances, but to enable the Department to update the Population Register, women should notify the Department of such changes in writing.

Apart from the aforesaid exclusions, no major may assume another surname unless such change of surname has been approved by the Director-General: Home Affairs and have been published in the Government Gazette.

Applications in this regard may be lodged at any Home Affairs domestic office or SA Mission or Consulate abroad.

Applications must be on a duly completed BI-196 form and a good and sufficient reason, in writing, for the change, must be furnished. Tariff:

Change of gender

In terms of section 27(A) read with the provisions of the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act, 2003 (Act No.49 of 2003),a person who has undergone a gender reassignment procedure may apply for the alteration of his or her gender description in his or her birth register.

Act 49 of 2003, provides for two main categories of applications:

Persons who have undergone a sex-change operation or medical treatment resulting in their gender reassignment : Section 2(2)(b) and (c).

In such cases, two medical reports are required (a) one by the medical practitioner who applied the procedures or medical treatment or by a medical practitioner experienced in such procedures or treatment, and (b) a report by a second medical practitioner who has independently examined the applicant to established his or her sexual characteristics.

Intersexed persons: Section 2(2)(d)

In this category, a report by a medical practitioner corroborating that the applicant is intersexed, as well as a report by a qualified psychologist or social worker corroborating that the applicant is living and has lived stably and satisfactorily, for an unbroken period of at least two years in the gender role corresponding to the sex description under which he or she seeks to be registered, is required.

Applications must be on a BI-526 Application form, or a written request accompanied by the prescribed reports and may be lodged at any Home Affairs domestic office. Tariff: