Since the French Revolution, the registration of births, marriages, deaths and other facts relating to personal status (divorces, recognitions, legitimisations, adoptions) is governed by a legislative framework. It is on this basis that the collection of data for statistics on civil status has been developed.
All events relating to civil status must be the subject of a deed entered into a special register, in accordance with precise standards, by a person holding the position of civil registry officer. Each municipality has a civil status registry office. The mayor is the de facto civil registry officer, but may delegate his or her functions to a deputy, to a municipal councillor or to a municipal employee.
All events occurring in the municipality must be registered. Also, certain events occurring elsewhere or having been the subject of authentic deeds (or ruling) must also be transcribed (the certificate of the death of a person residing in the municipality must be transcribed when the death occurred elsewhere, as must an adoption ruling) or mentioned in the margin of the certificates drawn up in the municipality (mention of a divorce ruling, for example, in the margin of the birth and marriage certificates of the persons in question).
The applicable rules (on drawing up the registers, keeping them, etc.) are specified in legislative or regulatory texts.
The organisation of the town hall regarding the registers is left to its initiative. Large municipalities generally have several types of registers (for the different types of certificates, or even several registers of the same type) while smaller municipalities generally have a single register.
The Registry Officer must fill out a questionnaire known as a "Registry Office Statistical Bulletin" each time they enter a deed into the registers and, in certain cases, when they mark a marginal note on an existing deed. The number allocated to each deed (sequential from 1st January each year) is noted on the statistical bulletin to ensure that all the bulletins are present. These bulletins are subject to the Law of 7 June 1951 meaning that all the questions must be answered and that the answers to them are subject to statistical confidentiality. The bulletins are filled out in a single copy and then sent to the INSEE.