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Canadian Birth, Marriage and Death Records
Article updated: 15 April 2008
By: Fawne Stratford-Devai   Biography & Archived Articles




BRITISH COLUMBIA

The government registration of births, marriages and deaths in British Columbia began in 1872. As with most provincial registration beginnings, records for the early years are notoriously incomplete. (There are also some baptismal records as early as 1849).

HISTORIC RECORDS
Indexes to historic records of early birth, marriage and death registrations can be searched online at the British Columbia Archives website: http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/textual/
governmt/vstats/v_events.htm


As of August 2001, the following years are available:

BIRTHS : 1872-1900 (events over 100 years old)
MARRIAGES : 1872-1925 (events over 75 years old)
DEATHS: 1872-1980 (events over 20 years old)

Note: The 2001 release of death registrations includes four additional reels containing World War Two overseas casualties covering the years 1940 to 1945. The 3423 names also appear in the updated online deaths index.

The British Columbia Vital Event indexes contain only the basic index information to historical birth, marriage, and death registrations, but not the actual registrations. The indexes are available online for research purposes only. Microfilm copies of original registration documents for those years covered by the indexes at the BC Archives are available for on-site consultation in the reading room(s) of the British Columbia Archives, and at several other locations, including public libraries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) through the Church's local Family History Centers. Individuals may view the microfilm at the BC Archives or order rolls through local LDS Family History Centers. The microfiche indexes are also available at additional locations in British Columbia and other jurisdictions.

Some Vital Event registration records are now available in digital image format for on-line purchase, and delivery via E-mail. See the British Columbia Vital Event Image Gateway Frequently Asked Questions for more details at: http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/services/inquiry/faqs/vchekfaq.htm

The provincial archives can be contacted as follows:

British Columbia Archives
655 Belleville Street, VICTORIA, British Columbia
or by mail: P.O. Box 9419 Station Provincial Government
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9V1
Telephone: (250) 387-1952
Fax: (250) 387-2072
E-mail: access@www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca
Website: http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/index.htm

The Archives' collections include a variety of other sources for vital records such as:

  • Pre-confederation marriage records (1859-1872). Pre-confederation marriage records consist of records of marriages occurring in the colony of British Columbia, and the colony of Vancouver Island (the two colonies were united in 1866), prior to the entry of British Columbia into the Confederation of Canada. The records are bound into eight volumes in two accessions. The volumes contain certified copies of marriage certificates, or returns of marriages, submitted by clergy of various denominations.


  • Coroner's Records: The British Columbia Archives has legal custody of coroner's inquests from 1859 to 1967 and coroner's inquiries from 1859 to 1970. Inquests are investigations in which a coroner's jury was called, and the files tend to be larger, often containing witness statements, transcripts and autopsy reports. Inquiries took place when a coroner worked alone, and the record is often a single form containing basic information.


  • Wills 1861-1981: Wills probated in British Columbia between 1861 and 1981 are available at the British Columbia Archives. To learn more about using the records, read the online Wills Research Guide at: http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/general/guides/ag_wills.htm


  • Probate Case Files: Probate case files and other probate records for persons who died with or without a will are available at the British Columbia Archives. Probate files were usually created and maintained by the court registry nearest the residence of the deceased person or the executor of the will. For specific dates of probate records held by the BC Archives and information on how to use the records, take a moment and check out the online Probate Case Files Research Guide at: http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/general/guides/ag_prob.htm


  • Newspapers: The BC Archives has a large collection of newspapers on microfilm, though major twentieth-century Vancouver papers are not available. The records can be accessed at university and public libraries. A listing of holdings of British Columbia newspapers on microfilm is available on-line that lists newspapers alphabetically by community, and provides a reference number to the self-serve microfilm collection. Indexes to the content of newspapers held by the BC Archives are not available electronically. http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/library/newspapr/newspapr.htm


  • MODERN RECORDS
    For detailed information about modern records and registrations contact:

    British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
    818 Fort Street, Victoria, B. C. V8W 1H8
    Telephone: (604) 952-2681 Fax: (250) 952-2527
    In Canada toll free at 1-800-663-8328
    Additional contact information and locations for the Vital Statistics Agency is available from their website at: http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/admin/

    ADDITIONAL LINKS & SOURCES
    For more information on these and other family history topics in British Columbia visit the websites noted below.

    City of Victoria Archives: http://www.city.victoria.bc.ca/depts/archives/ is responsible for acquiring, preserving and making accessible archival material in the form of civic and private records documenting the history of Victoria. The following searchable links are available 1. Obituaries From the Victoria Daily Times Newspaper, 1901-1939; 2. Marriage Notices From the Victoria Daily Times Newspaper, 1835-1953 (predominantly 1901-1939) and 3. Ross Bay Cemetery Burial Records, 1872-1980.

    Guide to Archival Repositories in British Columbia: Entries for 173 archives in the province and includes the name and location of each repository, contact information, and a brief description of the extent, nature and scope of holdings at each institution. http://www.aabc.bc.ca/aabc/bcguide.html

    British Columbia Genweb project: http://www.rootsweb.com/~canbc/

    British Columbia Museums Association British Columbia Museums Association provides a unified voice for the institutions, trustees, professional staff and volunteers of the BC museum and gallery community. The website includes an index to all of the museums, art galleries, historic sites, cultural and science centres in BC known to the BCMA. http://www.museumsassn.bc.ca/

    Doukhobor Collection, University of British Columbia The collection includes printed and manuscript material relating to Doukhobor life in Canada and the former Soviet Union. http://www.library.ubc.ca/spcoll/sp_home.html

    Esquimalt Municipal Archives http://www.mun.esquimalt.bc.ca/Main/archives.htm The Esquimalt Municipal Archives collects, preserves and makes available to the public archival material pertaining to Esquimalt from the earliest times to the present and within the current and historical boundaries of Esquimalt.

    Surrey Public Library http://www.spl.surrey.bc.ca/SearchtheWeb/Genealogy/Default.htm The library site includes and online guide to its extensive collection of Canadian genealogical materials.

    British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid http://www.islandnet.com/bccfa/ The British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid is a pointer database consisting of the surnames, cemetery name and location of more than 344,000 entries collected from records and headstone inscriptions associated with 264 cemeteries situated in the province of British Columbia, Canada and two from the state of Washington, USA.

    Old Cemeteries Society http://www.oldcem.bc.ca/ This is a non-profit society to encourage the research, preservation and appreciation of 20 heritage cemeteries in Victoria, BC. Web site contains information on symbols used on stones, a database for Ross Bay Cemetery, and tips for recording cemeteries.

    British Columbia Genealogical Society: http://www.npsnet.com/bcgs/



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