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IFHAA Software & Resource Reviews

Australian Vital Records (BDM) on CD
A comparison of the content and value for money of the Australian Vital Records CD's issued by the Latter-Day Saints and the State Registry Departments. This is an Independant Review and does not necessarily reflect the views of the IFHAA or it's members but is provided for information purposes


Well after some months of looking into the AVR product and its availablity in Australia, and the price of similar alternatives, I can now give my view of the situation.I apologise for the length of what follows but it is about a prime source of information for Australian genealogists so I believe it deserves full coverage.

The information put out by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in their 'Australian Vital Records Index' (AVR) is on four CDROMS and is an index of births, christenings, marriages,and deaths for NSW (1788-1888),Tasmania (1803-1899), Victoria(1837-1888), and Western Australia(1841-1905).

AVR comes neatly packaged in fold out plastic casing and has easy to read brief instructions.These describe how to load  the program and run it under Windows 3.x or 95(I assume it runs ok also on windows 98), and how to carry out searches.I had no trouble loading and running it under Windows 95. The records are sequential alphabetically by name in one total data base over the four CD ROMS.Thus the birth, marriage and death records for one person will be grouped together if they are in the data base.This single database also allows one search to cover all states.

AVR is not made available for sale in Australia. This restrictive trading situation is created by agreements between the LDS and the State Government BDM entities in theAustralian states concerned. AVR can be bought from anywhere else in the world through LDS. If you attempt to buy in NZ you will be asked if it is destined for Australia, and if you answer yes, sale will be refused.

The over the counter price in New Zealand is NZ$34.It is in no way a prohibited import into Australia. and Customs do not prevent entry.

I have now been using the product for some months  and I find it quite useful. I did identify some new members of my Austrlian ancestry not before found.

The one shorcoming of the AVR is that it is incomplete (I could only find about 70% -80% of the ancestors I know about). To succeed in finding an entry with the automatic search you need to type in the exact names you are searching for, as they are stored in the record, which of course begs the question. Thus if there is no match you will need to try different spellings, use special search characters such as asterisk for alternate spellings, or carry out a manual scroll of the records which is time consuming with such a large data base, depending upon the speed of your CDROM drive and computer etc.

Based on my use of this product it is in the most useful category, but in the end, on its own, it is not fully satisfactory for the serious genealogy researcher, because it is not complete. Another way of putting it is to say it represents very good value for money within its limitations.It may help if the background to the missing records was known.

What I recommend is that you obtain the AVR and use it to find all you can, then book a free hour at the local library or Genealogy Society to check the Pioneer's Index CD ROM or microfiche for any futher entries.

This brings me to the alternative for home use , which is to buy the nearest equivalent CDROM indexes published in Australia. These are  available from various suppliers (not suprisingly all selling at the same price). They are similarly sourced (ie from Australian BDM registers) and appear to be complete from my library use of them.(the Victorian version has undergone one revision so check this)They are currently priced as follows:

NSW  Pioneer Index 1788-1888 = $255
Tasmania Pioneer Index 1803-1889 = $190
Victoria Pioneer Index 1836-1888 = $235
Western Australia Pioneer Index 1841-1905 = $162
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TOTAL $842
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This is about 28 times the price of the  LDS AVR version. In an E-mail from the LDS they advised me that they sell at cost price, so even if they put on 100% markup it would only cost say A$60. If we compensate for the fact that it is not complete to give a better comparison; say allow the theoretically complete LDS version to sell for $100, then the Australian version is still 8-9 times the price. So why are we being asked to pay so much for this information in CD ROM form in Australia?I do not recommend that you buy any of these CD ROMS but use a combination of the AVR and Library resources as mentioned above.

Clearly the existance of two competing (despite attempts to stop it)  CDROM versions of these records has resulted in dual cost of keying in the data and this is being born twice ie one by each product. Also in Australia we are being asked to support the development and perfection of original software.I believe our BDM experts should have been able to avoid this and thus significantly reduced the cost.

I have represented this silly position regarding the availability for  sale of AVR in the rest of the world, but not in Australia, to the appropriate Government minister in Victoria. I have had one reply which did not properly address the main issues and I have made further representations requesting that a licence be negotiated with the LDS for sale of the AVR in Australia.

The easiest ways for an Australian to purchase the LDS AVR are to have a friend in New Zealand who will buy it for you and send it over, or book a package for a few nights and bring it back youself (Its a lovely country, the people are friendly, and they are well organised four tourists). If you go yourself a tourist package can cost about A$600, but this is cheaper than buying the four Pioneers' Indexes as costed above at A$842.

The locations in NZ where AVR can be purchased are:-

Family Resource Centre
409 Queen Street,
Auckland NZ
Phone 0-9-309 0907

The Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints
Temple View
Hamilton NZ
Phone 0-7-847 7110

Remember you cannot order by phone or write for delivery to Australia. and personal buyers will be asked if they are buying for delivery to Ausralia.If the answer is yes, sale will be refused.

Ian Bulte


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Last modified: March 20, 2006