Government Departments

Department of Home Affairs

The documents available from the Department of Home Affairs are:

Approximate commencing dates for the registration of Births, marriages and deaths in the various provinces are as follows:

Provinces Births Marriages Deaths
Cape 1895 1700 1895
KwaZulu Natal 1868 1845 1888
Transvaal 1901 1870 1901
Orange Free State 1903 1848 1903

The facilities, files and records of the Department of Home Affairs are not accessible or available to private sector genealogists and researchers, and neither is there an index for perusal by the public, however the public may submit applications for copies of birth, marriage and death certificates.

Many of the earlier records are in the possession of the National Archives of South Africa Repositories, and although the issue of certificates can only be done by the Department of Home Affairs and the records cannot be photocopied, researchers can get access to marriage and death registers older than 20 years.

Two types of certificates are available, as follows:

For genealogical purposes Full certificates should be obtained.

Within South Africa official application forms can be completed and handed in at any Department of Home Affairs office within the town or city where you live or work, and the completed certificates will be posted to you.

To apply for certificates from outside South Africa one must post a request to the Department of Home Affairs in Pretoria, or alternatively request these certificates through a South African Consulate within ones own country.

There is a charge associated with obtaining copies of these certificates, which can be obtained when writing or applying for certificates.

Master of the Supreme Court

The documents available at the Master of the Supreme Court are:

Estate Files that comprise:

  • A death notice.
  • A last will and testament.
  • The distribution account.

Commencing dates for the estate files kept at the various Master's Offices.

Province Commencing Dates
Cape 1951 Onward
Grahamstown* 1962 Onward
KwaZulu Natal 1975 Onward
Transvaal 1978 Onward
Orange Free State 1951 Onward
* Eastern Cape Only

The above dates may change as information is passed on to the Archives for storage.

Before the above dates the estate files are kept in the relevant Archives Repositories.

The purpose of the Master's Office is to:

There are four provincial offices and one office presided over by an Assistant Master at Kimberley, whose area of jurisdiction is that of the Griqualand West Local Division of the Supreme Court. The provincial offices are at the seats of the provincial divisions of the Supreme Court, namely, Pretoria in the Transvaal; Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State; Pietermaritzburg in Natal; and Cape Town in the Cape Province.

The Master's Office is not only an office of supervision but also an office of record. In his office, complete information is filed regarding every estate within his jurisdiction, and, with certain exceptions, any person may at any time during office hours inspect any document and have a certified copy made of any document on payment of the relevant fee.

If the estate has not yet been wound up, the public do not have access to that file.

It must be emphasized that not all deceased persons have estate files. Estate files are not opened for those who owned little or no assets.

These very important documents give much information about the deceased including personal details, those of his/her spouse(s), children and other beneficiaries. Addresses often also give clues to the researcher about where to find relatives of the deceased, while wills are valuable for the keen collector of signatures.