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To search historical birth, marriage and death indexes for British Columbia, go directly to the Vital Events Indexes page.
Table of Contents
An important source of information for those involved in genealogical research is the British Columbia Archives. Its holdings include government records, maps, newspapers, as well as personal, family, and other non-governmental records. Researchers who familiarize themselves with the BC Archives' holdings and how they are catalogued will find their search for genealogical information more rewarding. Following is an outline of some of the resources available.
There are many items accessible through the Reference Room that deserve mention due to their value as genealogical resources. Following is an outline of some of the resources available on-site. Resources listed with blue hyper-links have additional material about them available on-line through the BC Archives web site.
Through the BC Archives Reference Room you can access an extensive library of published works dealing with British Columbia history, politics, government, natural science, and ethnography. The library's holdings are indexed in a standard card catalogue, listed alphabetically by subject, author, and title. Searches can also be done on-line using an index accessible through the Library page at the BC Archives web site on the Internet, though this on-line library index only includes items catalogued since 1985/86. Researchers may search by subject, author, title, or all three simultaneously.
Handbooks on Genealogical Research
Several handbooks can be found under the subject heading, "genealogy". Readers may wish to also consult the "Books" section of this guide for a selection of valuable genealogy handbooks.
Family histories are best searched for under the name of a specific family.
City and Provincial Business Directories
These directories list businesses, individuals, and individuals' occupations.
Consult the Archives binder indexing British Columbia telephone directories to determine in which directory a specific community is listed.
Crockford's Clerical Dictionary (Anglican)
Archives holds 1868, 1896, 1910-14, 1916-18, 1920-22, 1923-27, 1929-36, 1941, 1947-50, and 1953-68. This source and the Clergy List listed below provide information on members of the Anglican clergy.
Clergy List (Anglican)
Archives holds 1882 and 1911-16.
British Navy List
Archives holds 1806-1975. This source contains name, rank, and date of birth for naval officers.
British and Canadian Army/Militia List
Archives holds 1789-1936. This source contains name, rank, and date of birth for army and militia officers.
Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), Battalion Lists
This source contains information on officers and enlisted men of the CEF. In addition to name and rank, additional information such as name and address of next of kin, country of birth, and former corps, may be given.
Mercantile Navy Lists and Maritime Directory
Archives holds 1857-1957 with gaps.
Voter Lists (by Provincial Electoral District)
Archives holds 1874 onwards with gaps. In addition to names, this source provides information on occupations of individuals, and street or community of residence. Researchers must know the proper electoral district in order to refer to the Voter Lists. These can sometimes be gained from the city directories. Researchers should be aware that due to an amendment of the Elections Act, lists less than 25 years old are no longer open to the public.
British Columbia Gazette: NW 320.05 B862 + year (for index)
Archives has 1863-1980. This publication includes notices of government appointments and licenses issued, etc.
1881 Census, Vancouver Island
(Index): Ref. NW 317.1 C215 1881
1891 Census, Victoria (Index): Ref. NW 317.1 C215 1891
A census attempts to record information about every individual in a given area and is therefore of immense value to genealogists. British Columbia Census returns for 1881, 1891, and 1901 are all available on microfilm at the BC Archives.
Canadian Who's Who: Ref. NW920 C212 + year
Archives holds 1910, 1917, 1936-1939, and 1948-90.
An Index to Biographical Dictionaries of British Columbians
This record is a good place to start when looking for individuals in biographical dictionaries.
Annual Report of the Public Schools (Department of Education), 1872+
This source includes the names of teachers and statistical information about schools. Consult the British Columbia Sessional Papers D-24 to D-26 (1872-1982).
Annual Report of the Department of Mines, 1874+
This source includes the names of individuals killed or injured in the mining industry. Consult the British Columbia Sessional Papers 1872-1982 (D-24 to D-26).
Researchers seeking historical records, manuscripts, and government records can consult the card catalogues which index these unpublished documents. Generally, the main entries in the catalogues are based on the name of the organization or individual that produced the record, though there are cross references by subject and location. Two card catalogues exist, the first indexing entries made before 1975, and the second indexing entries made from 1975 onward. The post-1975 catalogue and finding aids are accessible through the Textual Records page on the BC Archives web site. Full-text searches of both the catalogue and the finding aids are possible. The post-1975 catalogue and finding aids to non-government records are in the process of being converted to electronic format, however not all records are converted.
Many entries in the post-1975 card catalogue, and the on-line catalogue, include references to a finding aid. Finding aids provide a detailed description of the contents of a particular historical record, manuscript, or government record. This allows researchers to narrow their search to particular parts of large record series. Researchers may also wish to consult the guides to government records. These binders, located on top of the card catalogues, organize the records by ministry or agency.
The following records are particularly useful to those involved in genealogical research.
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
Marriage Registrations GR-2962 (events over 75 years old)
Death Registrations GR-2951 (events over 20 years old)
Birth Registrations GR-2965 (events over 120 years old)
An index is accessible on-line through the Vital Events Indexes page on the BC Archives web site that provides basic data (names, date, place) for historical marriage, death, and birth events and provides researchers with the index information necessary to view a copy of the original on microfilm. The microfilm collection is available at the BC Archives, and at several other locations, including public libraries and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) through the Church's local Family History Centers. Individuals may view the microfilm at the BC Archives or order rolls through the LDS Family History Centers. The microfiche indexes are also available at additional locations in British Columbia and other jurisdictions.
Birth registrations are available 100 years following the date of birth, marriage registrations are available 75 years after the date of marriage, and death registrations are available 20 years after the date of death. Release of these records is consistent with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. As each year passes, additional records will be released on microfilm.
Crown Land Grant Records, 1851-1930
Crown Land Grants, 1851-1874 GR-3139
Crown Land Grants, 1869-1930 GR-3097
Crown Land Grant Indexes, 1869-1930 GR-3096
Crown Land Auctioneers' Agreements, 1899-1914 GR-3140
Crown grants were routinely issued by the Province of British Columbia to convey surface, subsurface, and other rights. Additional information about Crown grants is available through the main Crown Land Registry web site.
The BC Archives has acquired a microfilm copy of the above Crown land grant records. The records were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are also available through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) local Family History Centers.
Please Note: BC Archives provides self-serve microfilm access only to these records. BC Archives staff cannot respond to telephone calls or written inquiries for access to these records.
Automated access to an electronic index of the 1869-1930 Crown land grants is available through the Crown Grant Search hyperlink on the Registry Department page on the Crown Land Registry web site. This automated index can be used to access information about the microfilmed grants at the BC Archives. It can also be used to link to pay-for-view digital images of the Crown land grants and related sketches through the Crown Land Registry's Gator system. This index was created by volunteers from the West Coast Family Histories Society.
Colonial Secretary, Pre-Confederation Marriage Records (1859-1872): GR-3044
Copies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia pre-confederation marriage records submitted to the Colonial Secretary by clergy, 1859-1872.
British Columbia Attorney General (Coroner's Records 1859-1970)
Information contained in these records is often of a sensitive nature, and may include autopsy reports, photographs, jury findings and police reports. Please see the information sheet (PDF) on the use of this source. Researchers should note that access to these records is subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
British Columbia Attorney General (Wills, 1861-1981)
Please see the information sheet (PDF) on the use of this source.
Canada Census Office, Manitoba and Red River, 1832-1847, 1849, 1856, 1870: GR-2017
This is a self-serve microfilm item (reel B00396). For a list of enumeration districts consult the finding aid.
Canada Census Office, British Columbia, 1881, 1891, 1901: GR-0469, GR-0288, GR-2927
These are self-serve microfilm items. Consult the finding aid for reel numbers. Information sheets are available for the 1881 (PDF), 1891 (PDF), and 1901 (PDF) census returns. Some indexes are also available, though there is no index to the 1901 census.
Canada, Department of Interior; Dominion Lands Branch, 1885-1930: GR-0436
This source includes applications to homestead in the railway belt and Peace River Block. Consult the finding aid and box file list for correct box number.
Canada, Department of the Interior; Immigration Branch: GR-1547
This source includes records relating to Asiatic and oriental immigration and child emigration programs. There is no nominal index. Consult the finding aid.
Colonial Correspondence: GR-1372
This source is composed of letters to and from the colonial governments of BC and Vancouver Island, 1849-1871. Consult the index and then the finding aid to determine microfilm reel number.
British Columbia Surveyor of Taxes (Assessment Rolls), 1876-1948 (incomplete): GR-1999
The information given concerns owners of property, not necessarily residents. Consult the finding aid to determine taxation district before referring to the microfilm reel list.
British Columbia Department of Lands (Pre-emption Records to 1970): GR-0112 and others
This source contains information on name, date, and description of the land. Consult "Government Records Relating to Crown Lands in British Columbia" in Binder 15 on top of the card catalogues, as well as the nominal card index.
British Columbia Attorney General (Court Records); Various Government Record Collections
These sources include records of civil and criminal proceedings (1849-1970s). Consult the "Court Records Guide" in Binder 7B for additional information.
British Columbia Attorney General (Probate Case Files 1861-1981; incomplete); Various Government Record Collections
These sources provide information on the probate of an estate. Please see the information sheet on the use of this source.
British Columbia Provincial Police, 1858-1950; Various Government Record Collections
These sources include personnel records, Superintendent's correspondence, and license applications. Consult Binder 12 for additional information. Researchers should note that access to these records is subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
British Columbia. Canadian Confederation Centennial Committee 1967: GR-1489
This source is composed of applications for pioneer medallions that include genealogical information. Consult the finding aid for additional information.
British Columbia. Centennial 1971 Committee: GR-1490
This source is composed of applications for pioneer medallions that
include genealogical information. Consult the finding aid for additional
Church Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials
Consult the catalogues under church name, place name, or subject headings (e.g. "Registers of Births," "Religious Records"). Also consult the Churches section of the Genealogical Resources for British Columbians for records held by British Columbia churches.
Genealogical information can often be gleaned from such family papers as diaries, correspondence, etc. Consult the catalogues under the family name.
The BC Archives holds a few family trees that can be found through the manuscript and library catalogues under the family name.
"Colonial Settlers on the Mainland of British Columbia" (typescript): MS-0700
Alexander Begg Collection: MS-0467
This collection includes three volumes of questionnaires distributed to settlers in the North West Territory in 1884-85.
Hudson's Bay Company Archives: MS-2053
This finding aid allows researchers to determine which portions of the records they wish to order through inter-library loan. See the Provincial Archives of Manitoba entry in the Genealogical Resources for British Columbians for information regarding the Hudson's Bay Company Archives.
The BC Archives has a large collection of newspapers on microfilm, though major twentieth-century Vancouver papers are not held. These can be accessed at university and public libraries. A listing of holdings of British Columbia newspapers on microfilm is available on-line that lists newspapers alphabetically by community, and provides a reference number to the self-serve microfilm collection. Indexes to the content of newspapers held by the BC Archives are not available electronically.
Researchers may also wish to consult the clipping file index. This microfiche index of selected newspaper articles (1858-1983) can be searched by subject, name, or place. Each entry contains the title of the article, the name of the newspaper, the date, the page number, and indicates if the article is also included in the vertical file collection. The vertical file is a collection of over 88,000 files on various subjects that provides easy access to newspaper articles on a given topic. The index to the vertical files is contained in four large black volumes in the reference room. The vertical files have been microfilmed as D-19 and are available on a self-serve basis.
For general information about our collections of sound recordings (which include numerous oral history interviews), please consult the Sound Recordings page on the BC Archives web site. These holdings are not yet described or indexed on-line. However, on-site researchers may make use of a card catalogue that indexes all sound recordings, as well as finding aids that provide further details about some collections.
Researchers interested in archival film and video should consult the Moving Images page on the BC Archives web site. The Moving Images Index provides on-line access to descriptions of these materials through the search page. This index is searchable by title, creator/author name, date, places shown and subject, as well as other parameters. Full-text searching is also available.
These images are available in the Photo Reference Room. The General Reference File indexes photographs by subject heading or by the name of the individual shown in the image. Individual collections are also available. Many of the visual images in the collection are accessible through the Visual Records page on the BC Archives web site. Over 100,000 text descriptions are available on-line for searching, with more than 50,000 on-line images available for viewing.
Card catalogues in the map reference area list the cartographic records by author, title, subject, chronologically, and/or by National Topographic Series number, depending upon the catalogue. Finding aids are also available that make locating a map easier if it happens to be part of a series. Researchers may wish to use the index map at the back of the finding aid to locate certain types of maps. Work in progress will provide access to cartographic images and related finding aids through the BC Archives web site.
This guide is now available on-line at http://www.vs.gov.bc.ca/forms/genealogy2000.pdf (PDF).
An abbreviated version of this page is available as the Genealogical Research Resources (PDF), or as a handout from the information desk in the Reference Room.
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