Mothers and babies at the Drouin Infant Welfare Centre, Victoria [picture]

Mothers and babies at the Drouin Infant Welfare Centre, Victoria. Photo by Jim Fitzpatrick. nla.obj-147033868

People often take for granted that information about their birth, such as the time they were born or their weight, will be held on record. Unfortunately it is not the type of information that is retained by government archives and so it can easily be lost in the sands of time. 

Birth certificates

Occasionally some surprising information is included on civil registers of birth, or birth certificates, but typically time of birth is not recorded on Australian birth certificates (some countries, such as France, do note this information). These records are retained by the State or Territory Registry Office where the birth was registered.

If you would like to know what information is typically found on a civil register of birth, one of the best resources for Australian resources is on the Graham Jaunay website under: What you can expect to see on an historical Australian BDM certificate.

Hospital records

If a baby is born in a hospital, initially the hospital will retain the medical records with measurements and all other notes pertaining to the birth. You may wish to reach out to the hospital where you were born, however, they may have since disposed of your records. Hospitals are not required to retain these records indefinitely and it is not unusual for them to be disposed of after seven years. There are occasions when some records may be retained longer term, for example if they belong to a Church led facility or the archives of a hospital which is being closed. Those larger archives may be retained by the church administration or donated to State or Territory libraries or archives. For example, the State Library of New South Wales hold St. Margaret's Hospital at Darlinghurst records. However, these are the exception rather than the rule.

Birth announcements

If parents have placed a birth announcement in the local newspaper - which was far more in fashion in decades past - then this might serve to confirm details of the place of birth and date. However, it is not unusual for these notices to be sparse and rarely did they include the time of birth. If you are unsure whether you parents may have published a birth announcement you can search for one in Australian newspapers held at the National Library. Learn more in our research guide on Australian newspapers.

Family records

Typically the best source of information is kept in the family. Parents may have retained medical booklets, or the baby's wrist or ankle tags from the hospital. Some hospitals began issuing parents of newborn bubs with cards containing information not found on the civil register as early as the 1920s, according to an article published in the Newcastle Sun. It is worth asking if there is a lock box somewhere with these kinds of treasures, perhaps with early school report cards, a first tooth or a lock from your first haircut!

If no such treasure box exists, you might need to look further afield to see if members of your wider family retained old letters and correspondence. It may be that there is one that was kept by an aunt or uncle which includes details of your birth.

Family history and genealogy