Probate case files and other probate records for persons who died with or without a will are available at the British Columbia Archives. For specific dates of probate records held by the BC Archives, refer to the Court Registry sections below. Probate files were usually created and maintained by the court registry nearest the residence of the deceased person or the executor of the will. Follow the instructions below to retrieve a probate file:
1. Follow the instructions 1 to 6 on the Wills Research Guide. The number in the PAPERS column is the file number of the Victoria probate case file.
2. If the number is between 1 and 5307 or 1/1918 and 410/1941 the probate case file is part of government record GR-1304.
A. Locate the finding aid (microfilm reel list/box list) for GR-1304 on the bookcase in the Reference Room.
B. Use the finding aid to determine which microfilm reel or box of GR-1304 you need to retrieve.
C. Case files up to the end of 1925 are available on self-serve microfilm reels in the Reference Room. If you need help with using the microfilm readers or printers, speak to Access Services staff.
D. Case files from 1926 to 410/1941 are hardcopy only and need to be retrieved by filling out a call slip with GR-1304 and the box number/s you require.
3. If the number is between 411/1941 and 66/1950 the probate case file is part of government record GR-2083.
A. Locate the finding aid (box list) for GR-2083 on the bookcase in the Reference Room.
B. Use the finding aid to determine which box of GR-2083 you need to retrieve.
C. To retrieve a case file, fill out a call slip with GR-2083 and the box number/s you require.
4. If the number is between 67/1950 and 1606/1981 the probate case file is part of government record GR-3016.
A. Locate the finding aid (box list) for GR-3016 on the bookcase in the Reference Room.
B. Use the finding aid to determine which box of GR-3016 you need to retrieve.
C. To retrieve a case file, fill out a call slip with GR-3016 and the box number/s you require. These case files are stored off-site and can take up to 24 hours to retrieve.
1. When any of the central will indexes (GR-1417) show "Vancouver" as the probate registry, you will need to search the Vancouver Supreme Court Probate Registry Indexes:
A. GR-1416, 1893-1946 = Reel B02531
B. GR-2112, 1947-1951 = Reel B02531
C. GR-2988, volumes 1 to 13, 1952-1984 = Reels B11786 - B11788; B09710
D. See the finding aid to GR-2988 for a further breakdown by year and reel number. Finding aids are found on the bookshelves opposite the card catalogues.
E. If you need help with using the microfilm readers or printers, speak to Access Services staff.
2. INSTRUCTIONS FOR 1893-1951 INDEXES
A. Orient the film so you are viewing the bottom of each page where there will be a "title strip" listing the volume number and date range covered by the volume.
B. Locate the first letter of the person's family name you wish to search.
C. Check all the names on each page within that grouping, as the names are not alphabetized beyond the first letters of the family name.
D. The number beside the name you are checking is the number of the probate file.
E. A probate file is not always registered in the indexes within a few months after the death of the individual. You may need to search for several years after the person's death.
3. INSTRUCTIONS FOR 1952-1984 INDEXES
Family names in this index are recorded by the first letter + the first vowel (soundex index) of the name. Except for this difference, follow the instructions for the 1893-1951 indexes.
4. LOCATING VANCOUVER PROBATE ESTATE FILES, 1893-1984
Finding aids (microfilm reel lists/box lists) for all probate files can be found on the finding aids bookshelves in the Reference Room or on our Internet (World Wide Web) site (see below):
A. file numbers between 1 and 28,115, probates between 1893-1941, see finding aid GR-1415; 263 microfilm reels, 16mm.
B. file numbers between 28,116 and 38,615, probates between 1941-1947, see finding aid GR-2202; microfilming in progress, see finding aid for reel numbers.
C. file numbers between 38,600 and 42,999, probates between 1947-1949, see Attorney General Guide to Estates Binder 7A, Probate Case Files, Vancouver, G89-246; originals off-site
D. file numbers between 43,000 and 93,199, probates between 1949-1966, see finding aid GR-2989; 376 microfilm reels, 16mm.
E. file numbers between 93,200 and 170,449, probates between 1966-1984, see finding aid GR-2991; originals off-site, 327.6 m.
Use the self-serve microfilm where available or fill out a call slip with the GR or G-accession number and box number.
1. Consult the Attorney General Guide to Estates Binder 7A, entitled Probate Case Files, or the Court Records Guide Binder 7B in the Reference Room. These binders provide the most up-to-date descriptions of probate files.
2. Consult the online database under Textual Records: Government Records: Search the Catalogue AND/OR Search Finding Aids. NOTE: Not all probate files are indexed by name.
A. Use as your search terms: "probate [registry name]". For example, "probate New Westminster".
B. If an index is listed for the registry you must search the index first. After displaying the full-text finding aid find the appropriate year, then choose the matching microfilm or microfiche number and search for the last name by year to get to the probate file number. Then enter the search term : probate [registry name] again, display the finding aid, and find the probate file number. Use the appropriate microfilm where available or fill out a call slip with the GR accession number, the box number and file number.
C. If no index is listed display the full-text finding aid to the probate files themselves, conduct a search of it for the name of the person you are looking for. If the family name is not a common one, use that as your search term.
D. Names may be spelled differently or initials used, so be creative in your searching.
E. You can specify a family name in your initial search (step 2 above), but this will limit your search to only those finding aids or catalogue records containing that name. This type of search is recommended only for textual records finding aids; do not include the textual records catalogue in your search.
Early probate records can often be found in the Victoria registry, even though the individual lived and died elsewhere in the province. In the absence of a local registry, the records would be filed with Victoria OR the registry in the nearest community e.g. for probate files from Chilliwack you might need to search New Westminster, Vancouver and/or Victoria.
If you have not been successful in locating either a probate file or a will, you may wish to try and find other types of estate records. These include Letters Probate, Letters of Administration, Letters of Administration with Will Attached, and Probate Cause Books. The Attorney General Guide to Estates Binder 7A provides definitions and descriptions of other types of estate records.
You can make copies of probate case files on our self-serve microfilm reader-printers in the Reference Room during full service hours. Note: Certified copies of any probate record can only be made by BC Archives staff. Copies of original probate records on paper, where available, as well as on microfilm may also be requested by completing a Photocopy Requisition form or by writing, faxing or e-mailing Access Services. Pre-payment on our invoice is required prior to copy orders being filled. For copying and certifcation costs, see Price List.
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