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 Deaths .

Collection Time Period

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

Record Description

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. Note that these registration or medical certificate forms are not death certificates but registrations of deaths. 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 Indian 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 Indians. 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 Indians from provincial registration until another amendment was passed in 1916, which authorized registration of Indians to begin again in 1917 with information submitted monthly.

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

Record Content

Key genealogical facts that may be found in the death registrations are:

  • Name, age, sex, and residence of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • Profession (if known)
  • Date of birth
  • Cause of death
  • Name of physician
  • Name and residence of informant
  • Religious affiliation
  • Registration district name or number
  • Date and number of registration
  • Marital status and parents’ names and birthplaces are included in later registrations.

How to Use the Records

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

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.

Why the Record Was Created

Registration of deaths began in 1872 in order to keep a written record of the population for use by the government.

Record Reliability

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.

Known Issues with This Collection

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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.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

Death registrations, 1872-1989.   Death Registrations. Division of Vital Statistics. [Victoria, British Columbia]. FHL microfilm, 430 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article How to Create Source Citations for FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

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.

Citation Example for Records Found in This Collection

"British Columbia Death Registrations, 1872-1986"   database, FamilySearch ( accessed 22 February 2012)  Margaret Taylor,  22 November 1915; citing Death Records, FHL microfilm 1,358,011; Division of Vital Statistics, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.