How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records For British Columbia, Canada
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|British Columbia Background|
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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.
Birth, death, and marriage information is the foundation for describing your family history. It defines the life span of individual ancestors, and links both generations and ancestral lines. Your best sources for locating this information are these four record types:
- Civil registration
You will find some of these records online in digital form. Others are available on microfilms available through Family History Centers. Correspondence searches are required for records kept in centralized archives or in the original offices that created them. This article gives you links and instructions for accessing these important record groups in their various forms.
- 1 Civil Registration
- 2 Census Records
- 3 Church Records
- 4 Cemetery Records
- 5 FamilySearch Microfilm Available for British Columbia
A government civil registration system registers all births, marriages, and deaths. It issues certificates for each. Also included may be name changes, divorces, and adoptions. This responsibility lies with the Vital Statistics Agency of the Ministry of Health. British Columbia became a province 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
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.
- 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
British Columbia Archives, Royal British Columbia Museum
675 Belleville Street
Victoria, BC V8W 9W2
- Genealogy and Family History Web page
- Guide for searching the records
- Holdings (see Genealogy Search page):
- Indexes of births (1854-1903)
- marriages (1872-1941)
- deaths (1872-1996
- colonial marriages (1859-1872)
- baptisms (1836-1888)
- 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.
FamilySearch Historical Records
- Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959 includes British Columbia.
Ordering Register Copies from the Vital Statistics Agency
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
- 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.
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
|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 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
- For help with writing a letter requesting copies of records, see Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy.
Links to Archives
- Anglican Church of Canada archives
- Baptist church archives
- Evangelical Lutheran church archives
- Roman Catholic church archives
- United Church archives
- Aboriginal church archives
- 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. ($)
- Canada, births and baptisms, 1661-1959 (Index)
See British Columbia Cemeteries for general information about several cemeteries, publications, and the Genealogical Society Cemetery Committee.
Online Cemetery Records
- The database consists of more than 344,000 entries collected from records and headstone inscriptions associated with 264 cemeteries situated in the province, and two from the state of Washington, USA. The website includes a map showing the nine geographical regions into which the database is divided, and a list of cemeteries in each region. It can be searched by name, cemetery, location, or region.
- Find A Grave website, an expansive family history database from the world's cemeteries. Photographs, portraits, biographies, and stories are available at findagrave.com.
- Web: CanadianHeadstones.com Index ($): 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.
FamilySearch Microfilm Available for British Columbia
Microfilm copies of additional church and cemetery records may be identified by searching the online FamilySearch Catalog. To see all the British Columbia localities for which records have been identified in the Catalog, Click Here, then click on "Places within Canada, British Columbia."
- Select a locality to see what types of records are available.
- Click on the "Church records" type to see specific collection titles.
- Choose the title that reflects the correct religion and time period for your ancestor.
- Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.
- Follow the same procedure for "Cemeteries."
- 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.