British Columbia Death Registrations (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986 .

Record Description

The registration of deaths began in 1872. This collection contains death registrations, 1872-1986; First Nations death registrations, 1917-1956 (with delayed First Nations death registrations, 1916-1950); and overseas casualties, 1940-1945.

The death registrations are recorded on individual, printed forms. They consist of completed statements regarding deaths in British Columbia submitted to district registrars and registered by the registrar or director of Vital Statistics. Each death registration should include a supporting record called “Medical Certificate of Death,” which states the cause of death as determined by a physician or coroner, but this statement was not regularly included until 1896 and not with every registration until 1912.

Depending on the time period, the medical certificate may be a separate form or printed on the same form as the death registration. Death certificates contain information from the original registration records and are only available through the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency.

A stillbirth may have been registered as either a birth, death, or both. The First Nations death registrations, begun in 1917, had special forms created in 1943 but which were discontinued in 1956.

British Columbia became a province of Canada in July 1871, and registration of vital events began in 1872. The only persons excluded from the Births, Deaths, and Marriages Act of 1872 were Chinese and Aboriginals. This was changed by an amendment in 1897, stating the registration would apply to all races. However, the Act was amended in 1899 to once again exclude First Nations from provincial registration until another amendment was passed in 1916, which authorized registration of First Nations to begin again in 1917 with information submitted monthly.

From 1917 to 1956, the First Nations death registrations were recorded in separate volumes. After 1956, the registrations were recorded with the main series. Beginning in 1872, official government registration of deaths applied to the whole province of British Columbia except for the Chinese (until 1897) and First Nations (until 1917).

Early records are very incomplete, chiefly due to the fact that a majority of the population lived great distances from the registry offices and communication was difficult. The “Overseas Casualties, 1940-1945” series contains 3,423 deaths of British Columbians who died overseas during World War II.

Registration of deaths began in order to keep a written record of the population for use by the government.

Provincial vital registrations are considered a reliable source in family history research because they contain a record of an event usually registered very near the time the event occurred. The reliability, of course, depends on the accuracy of the informant.

Record Content

Records may contain the following facts:

  • Name, age, and gender of deceased
  • Date and place of death
  • Date and place of birth
  • Cause of death
  • Marital status
  • Parents' names
  • Name of spouse
  • Name of physician
  • Registration district name or number
  • Date and number of registration
  • Religious affiliation

How to Use the Records

To begin your search, it would be helpful if you knew the following information:

  • Name of ancestor
  • Approximate year and place of birth

Search the Collection

Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

Currently the browse images contain overseas casualties, often World War II deaths.

To search the collection image by image, select "Browse through images" on the initial collection page
⇒Select the appropriate  "Film Number (Digital Folder Number"
Search the collection by image comparing the information with what you already know about your ancestors to determine if the image relates to them. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination.

As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

Using the Information

When you have found the information that you are looking for, the following will aid you in your research:

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

  • Your ancestor might have lived in a different place at the time.
  • The clergyman may have recorded the birth, marriage, or death in a different district. In early years, clergymen traveled over a wide territory, often more than one district or county. Look for your ancestor's records in registers for nearby districts or counties.
  • Your ancestor may have used a nickname, or used a different surname, or the registrar spelled the name wrong.

For more information on where to look next, check the Canada Vital Records article.

General Information About These Records

FamilySearch indexers did not identify death certificate numbers. In order to track down the death certificates in the Family History Library microfilm collection, which are referenced in this online database, compare's British Columbia Death Index: 1872 to 1979 ($).

When independently indexed these records, they indexed certificate numbers (which FamilySearch omitted). Thus, it is necessary to refer to's subscription index, in addition to FamilySearch's index, in order to find death certificates in the Family History Library's microfilms.

Death registrations are the best source of death information in British Columbia beginning in 1872.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Websites

British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

Citations for individual image records are available for this collection. Browse through images in this collection and click on the "Show Citation" box. British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.</gallery>

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in Historical Record collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986." Index. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing Division of Vital Statistics, Victoria.