Alberta, Canada, Birth, Marriage, and Death Records 1870 to the Present
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- 1 Introduction
- 2 What You are Looking For
- 3 Steps
- 4 Tips
- 5 Where to Find It
Vital records are birth, marriage, and death records maintained by civil authorities. Civil governments have created records of births, marriages, and deaths.
Records containing this information are commonly called "vital records," because they refer to critical events in a person's life. These are the most important documents for genealogical research, although the births, marriages, and deaths of many people have never been recorded by civil authorities.
Alberta began province-wide registration of births, marriages, and deaths in 1898, which was generally complied with by 1930. There are a few records of births between 1870 and 1890.
What vital records are available? Alberta became a province in 1905. Vital records for Alberta open to the public are for years before 1905, when Alberta was part of the Northwest Territories. They cover only the portion of the Northwest Territories that became Alberta.
Birth, marriage, and death registration continued when the Province of Alberta took over the responsibility in 1905. Some births, marriages, and deaths not recorded in vital records may be in church records.
What You are Looking For
The information you find varies from record to record. These records may include: Name of your ancestor. Names of relatives of your ancestor, such as parents, spouse, or children. Date and place of birth, marriage, or death. For additional information you can find in vital records, see Tip 2.
These 3 steps will guide you in obtaining a vital record.
Step 1. Decide when and where your ancestor may appear in a vital record.
Determine your ancestor's:
- Approximate year of birth, marriage, or death.
- Place of birth, marriage, or death.
For help finding the year and place where a vital event occurred, see Tip 3. For reasons why it is generally better to obtain the death record of your ancestor first, see Tip 1.
Step 2. Obtain a birth, marriage, or death record for your ancestor.
Select the year the birth, marriage, or death occurred:
- Before 1906. Some delayed birth registrations are available for the years between 1870 and 1890. Most of the birth, marriage, and death records are for the years from 1898 through 1905.
- Both sets of records have been indexed in: Alberta Formerly the Northwest Territories Index to Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths 1870 to 1905, Volume 1. Additional information about each of the 30,000 names in the book is at the Provincial Archives of Alberta.
- From 1906 to the Present. Birth, marriage, and death records after 1905 are only available from Alberta Vital Statistics. If you need such a record:
Write or call Alberta Vital Statistics or a Registry Agent to obtain a current copy of the application form. Fill out the form as completely as possible with as much information as you know, including the year the birth, marriage, or death occurred, and your relationship to the person whose record you want. Return the application with the required fee. If Alberta Vital Statistics finds the record and it is not restricted, they will send the information to you.
If you did not find what you were looking for, see Tip 4 and Tip 5.
Step 3. Analyze the record.
Ask yourself these questions to use the record effectively:
- What dates does this record provide?
- What ages are given?
- What places are mentioned in this record?
- Are parents or a spouse named?
- Are witnesses to the event related to the family?
- Who provided the information? Was that person someone who knew the family well?
- Does the death record give the name of the cemetery or funeral home? You may be able to search those records for more information.
- Does the information from the record fit with what you know about the family from other records? If it does not agree, it may have been miscopied by a clerk. Check your sources.
Tip 1. Why might it be better to look for the death record of an ancestor first?
- Your ancestor's death is more recent than his birth or marriage. It is usually best to work from recent events backward, from the known to the unknown.
- The death record usually tells you where your ancestor last lived. Then you can look for other records for that place.
- The death record may lead you to other documents created in connection with the death, such as the burial and probate of your ancestor. Those records may give new family information.
- Death records may contain birth, marriage, and burial information as well as death information.
- Death records exist for many persons born before birth and marriage records began. Death records may contain birth and marriage information not available anywhere else.
Tip 2. What information can I find in vital records? This table tells you the genealogical information contained in birth, marriage, and death records.
Tip 3. How do I find the year and place where a vital event took place? To find a vital record, you will need the approximate year and place the event happened. You may need to search other records first to find clues about this, such as:
- Family Bibles.
- Local histories.
- Newspaper notices.
- Cemetery records.
- Probate records.
- Land and property records.
- Immigration records, especially border crossings.
- For other ideas on locating your ancestor, see How To Locate Your Ancestor.
- If you are not sure you found your ancestor, see How to Recognize Your Ancestor.
Tip 4. Why can't I find a vital record?
Some possible reasons are:
- Your ancestor might have lived in a different place when he was born, married, or died.
- Your ancestor may have used a nickname or a different surname, or the registrar spelled the name wrong. See Name Variations.
- Your ancestor might have lived at a slightly different time.
- Not every birth, marriage, or death was registered.
For other possibilities, see How To Recognize Your Ancestor and How to Locate Your Ancestor.
Tip 5. What should I search next?
First look for vital records of other family members, such as a spouse, brothers or sisters, parents and children. Then search for family information in records such as:
- Church records.
- Cemetery records.
- Birth, marriage, and death notices in newspapers.
- Local histories.
- Immigration records, especially border crossings.
- Family letters and Bibles.
- Military records.
- Lineage society records, such as United Empire Loyalists.
Where to Find It
For additional information on vital record sources in Alberta, see:
- Provincial Archives of Alberta.
- Government of Alberta Information Page: Genealogical Searches.
- Browse Categories on this screen has links to some vital records and indexes that are available on the Internet.
- In the window to the left, click on Family History Library Catalog.
Family History Centers and the Family History Library
The Family History Library has a few Alberta vital records in books. It has other kinds of records from the province. To find descriptions of those records, see What to Do Next, and click on Family History Library Catalog. Select from the list of titles to see descriptions of the records with the film or book call numbers. Use that information to obtain the records at a family history center or at the Family History Library.
Family History Centers
Family History Centers can borrow microfilms of records from the Family History Library. A small fee is charged to have a microfilm sent to a center. You may request photocopies of records from the Family History Library for a fee. Staff at your Family History Center can help you request this service. See Family History Centers for the address and telephone number of the center nearest you.
Family History Library
See Family History Library Services and Resources for information about contacting or visiting the Library.
Provincial Archives of Alberta
Records of births, marriages, and deaths from 1898 to 1905 are at: Provincial Archives of Alberta 12845-102 Ave Edmonton AB T5N 0M6 That office also has some delayed birth registrations for the years from 1870 to 1890.
Province Vital Records Offices
To obtain original certificates for births, marriages, and deaths from January 1906 to the present, write to: Alberta Municipal Affairs, Alberta Registries Vital Statistics Box 2023 Edmonton AB T5J 4W7 Residents of Alberta cannot use the above address. They are required to apply through a Registry Agent to obtain copies of birth, marriage, and death records after 1906. Non-residents of Alberta may also apply through a Registry Agent.
Genealogical and Historical Societies
For addresses of many Alberta historical societies, libraries, and archives that may have vital records collections, see CyndisList on the Internet. See also:
- Mary K. Meyer, Meyer's Directory of Genealogical Societies in the USA and Canada.
- Mary Bray Wheeler, Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada.
Genealogical Search Services Many genealogical search services will search records for a fee. To find a genealogical search service, check:
- CyndisList, "Professional Researchers, Volunteers & Other Research Services." This lists many companies and individuals who do research, and mentions publications about how to hire a professional genealogist. Browse Categories on this screen has links to lists of individuals who offer genealogical services. Select Services and Tools, and select Genealogy Service Providers. The services include looking up information for others (in sources available to the researcher) or giving research suggestions. Researchers may charge a fee for their services.
- Advertisements in major genealogical journals. To order a list of researchers accredited by the Family History Library, click on Order Family History Resources on this screen, and select Publications. Scroll down the list until you find Accredited Genealogists. Decide how much you want searched before contacting a search service. For more information, see Hiring a Professional Genealogist.