Guide to British Columbia ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth, marriage, and death records found in civil registration, census records, church records, and cemetery records.
Original records of vital events—births, marriages, and deaths—are an important element of genealogical research. They comprise primary information about these events, provide evidence about when and where people lived, may include occupation and religion, and define relationships between individuals. Where these records are not available, christening and cemetery records may substitute for birth and death records, and newspaper articles may substitute for births, marriages, and deaths.
Civil Registration[edit | edit source]
A government civil registration and vital statistics system usually registers all births, marriages, and deaths for citizens and residents, issues certificates for each, and compiles the resulting vital statistics. Also included may be name changes, divorces, and adoptions. In British Columbia, this responsibility lies with the Vital Statistics Agency of the Ministry of Health. British Columbia became a province of Canada in 1871 and began civil registration in 1872. However, Vital Statistics Agency records also include some delayed registration of pre-1872 events, colonial period marriages, and overseas war casualties.
Online Collections with Images[edit | edit source]
The following FamilySearch collections have images of the original registration documents when allowed by privacy laws of the province. For a detailed description of a collection, after opening it click on the "Learn more" link located under the collection description.
- British Columbia Birth Registrations, 1854-1903: Records include birth registrations, delayed birth registrations, and delayed registrations of Native American births.
- British Columbia Marriage Registrations, 1859-1932; 1937-1938
- British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986; 1992-1993: These registrations include overseas casualties, delayed death registrations, and delayed registrations of Native American deaths.
The FamilySearch British Columbia, Victoria Times Birth, Marriage and Death Notices, 1901-1939 collection offers newspaper clipping substitutes for original birth, marriage, and death records. The collection is described as follows: "Newspaper clippings pasted onto cards and arranged chronologically. Includes the date (year, month, day) and page number on each card. The newspaper was variously known as the Victoria Times, Victoria Weekly Times, and Victoria Daily Times."
Online Index Collections[edit | edit source]
British Columbia Archives, Royal British Columbia Museum
675 Belleville Street
Victoria, BC V8W 9W2
Genealogy and Family History Web page: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/Pages/introduction.aspx
Indexes of births (1854-1903), marriages (1872-1941), deaths (1872-1996), colonial marriages (1859-1872), and baptisms (1836-1888) can be viewed online at the Genealogy search page. A guide for searching the records can be opened by clicking on the help link.
Ancestry index collections are listed below. Information regarding record release periods is noted for those with original vital records. ($)
- British Columbia, Canada, Birth Index, 1851-1903: "The Vital Statistics Agency has released registrations of births that are at least 100 years old..."
- British Columbia, Canada, Marriage Index, 1872-1935: "The Vital Statistics Agency has released registrations of marriages that are at least 75 years old..."
- British Columbia, Canada, Death Index, 1872-1990: "The Vital Statistics Agency has released registrations of deaths that are at least 20 years old..."
- Canada, War Graves Registers (Circumstances of Casualty), 1914-1948 The collection can be browsed by province.
- Canada, Obituary Collection, 1898-2015: This collection of substitute vital information was compiled from hundreds of newspapers.
- Central Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, Newspaper Birth, Marriage & Death Indexes, 1911-1990: This substitute vital information was extracted from three newspapers serving the Campbell River, British Columbia, area in central Vancouver Island.
British Columbia indexes are also found in the FamilySearch Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959 collection.
Ordering Register Copies from the Vital Statistics Agency[edit | edit source]
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
PO Box 9657, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Telephone: (Victoria & Outside B.C.) 250 952-2681, (within B.C.) 1 888 876-1633
Web page with ordering forms and information: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/order-certificates-copies
Copies of original registration documents are available on microfilm at the British Columbia Archives, at several libraries in the province, and at the FamilySearch Library (see below). To order copies from the Vital Statistics Agency, click here to open an online fillable Application for Genealogy Certificate. Included with the application are relevant instructions, including the address to which the application is to be sent and the fee. Event records are available when the individuals have been dead for at least 20 years. Attach a copy of the entries you found in indexes to avoid errors.
Census Records[edit | edit source]
A census is a count and description of the population. Census records can provide family relationships, age, year of birth, description of property, religion, and place of birth. Recent censuses are generally more complete than earlier ones. They can provide information missing from other records. Use census information with caution because information (which may have been given by any family member) may be incorrect or deliberately falsified. British Columbia was not part of Canada until 1871, so it was first included in the Canadian census in 1881.
Online Canada Census Indexes and Images[edit | edit source]
|Online National Population Schedules of Canada|
|Free||Free at Some Libraries (usually with a library card)*||Pay|
|Automated Genealogy||Library Archives Canada||Ancestry FHL||Ancestry Library||Ancestry Home|
|Family Search||Automated Genealogy||Library Archives Canada||Ancestry FHL||Ancestry Library||Ancestry Home|
|Free||Free at Some Libraries (usually with a library card)||Pay|
Church Records[edit | edit source]
- Church records can include baptisms, marriages, burials, membership lists, financial business, and other records for a particular congregation.
- They may be available online or on microfilm, but frequently they are still with the local church or in centralized archives by religion.
- Canadian census records, which include the religion of those listed, can be checked to determine which archives to consult.
How to Write for Records[edit | edit source]
- For help with writing a letter requesting copies of records, see Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy.
Links to Archives[edit | edit source]
- Link to Anglican Church of Canada archives
- Link to Baptist church archives
- Link to Evangelical Lutheran church archives
- Link to Roman Catholic church archives
- Link to United Church archives
- Link to Aboriginal church archives
Online Records[edit | edit source]
- British Columbia, Canada, Baptism Index, 1772-1888 ($)
- British Columbia, Canada, Baptism Index, 1836-1888 ($)
- Canada, Quaker Meeting Records, 1786-1988: Browse to Victoria Meeting Minutes for 1908-1922 and 1922-1932. ($)
- Canada, births and baptisms, 1661-1959 (Index)
Writing for Church Records[edit | edit source]
- The Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy will help you with composing letters to write requesting searches in church records and other onsite records.
Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]
See British Columbia Cemeteries for general information about several cemeteries, publications, and the Genealogical Society Cemetery Committee.
Online Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]
- British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid: The database consists of more than 344,000 entries collected from records and headstone inscriptions associated with 264 cemeteries situated in the province, and two from the state of Washington, USA. The website includes a map showing the nine geographical regions into which the database is divided, and a list of cemeteries in each region. It can be searched by name, cemetery, location, or region.
- The following websites have indexes to the cemetery and burial details that are available on the Find A Grave website, an expansive family history database from the world's cemeteries. The limited indexed information on the websites below is linked to the photographs, portraits, biographies, and stories that are available at findagrave.com.
- Web: CanadianHeadstones.com Index ($): This third-party database is derived from Headstones.com. The parent website includes images.
- Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, Cemetery Records, 1901-2010 An index of headstones in the cemeteries of northern Vancouver Island and some adjacent islands in the Province. Photographs are attached to some individual records. ($)
- Web: Vancouver, British Columbia, Mountain View Cemetery Index, 1887-2007, from City of Vancouver website.
How to Use the FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]
Microfilm copies of additional church and cemetery records may be identified by searching the online FamilySearch Catalog. Go to FamilySearch Catalog Place Search for guidance in conducting a search for church or cemetery records near a locality where your ancestors lived. Once located, microfilm can be ordered for viewing at one of the worldwide FamilySearch Centers or participating libraries near your home. Introduction to Family History Centers explains how you can receive one-on-one assistance at a Center without charge. Also provided are links to information about the microfilm loan program and how to find a Family History Center.
- To see all the localities in British Columbia for which the library holds records, Click Here, then click on "Places within Canada, British Columbia."
- Or you can search or a specific locality:
To search for Vancouver records, follow the steps below.
- Open the FamilySearch website.
- From the dropdown menu at the "Search" button, select "Catalog."
- In the "Place" box, enter "Canada, British Columbia, Vancouver," and click the "Search" button.
Among the search results are three cemeteries collections and four collections of church records. By clicking on the links, two of the cemeteries collections are found to be in "books/monographs" format. For these, a link to the Worldcat website allows the researcher to determine which libraries worldwide have copies of the books. The third cemetery collection includes four reels of microfilm that are available for ordering. By clicking on a reel icon and following the resulting instructions, it can be sent to the Family History Center designated by the researcher. Other reels can be ordered at the same time.
One collection of the church records is in book form. The other three are on microfilm and available for ordering if they are consistent with the time period and religion of the researcher's ancestor.
This example provides a limited view of search options and experiences that can actually be expected. In addition to the microfilm reel icon shown below, one of the other two icons may appear next to the description of a collection. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on this icon will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.
The results of the example search demonstrate that other record types can also be found in the FamilySearch Catalog. These include probate and wills, land records, emigration and immigration records, and voting records. Finding these record types tends to be a greater research challenge, but should ultimately be pursued in order fully describe one's ancestral history.
Websites[edit | edit source]
- Census Finder, British Columbia, Canada
- Census Online
- http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/archivianet/index-e.html Archivianet Online Research Tool]
References[edit | edit source]
- FamilySearch, a free online service of the Family History Library. For a full description of FamilySearch collections, after opening the collection click on the "Learn more" link just below the brief collection description.
- Automated Genealogy, a free online service includes links to free images found at the Library and Archives Canada.
- Library Archives Canada, a free online service includes links to free images and partial indexes found at the Library and Archives Canada.
- Ancestry FHL: Ancestry.com is a subscription site that provides online indexes and images to all surviving national and many provincial census records, among other ancestral records. The FHL edition is free only at the Family History Library and local Family History Centers.
- Ancestry Library edition of Ancestry.com is a slightly smaller library edition that is free only at some public libraries.
- Home Edition of Ancestry.com is a subscription service for individuals.