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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Archival Centres  by Ryan Taylor. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Provincial Archives (cont.)

British Columbia

British Columbia Archives
Royal BC Museum
675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
Telephone: (250) 387-1952

(Please see their website for directions and guidelines on enquiries and information.)

The British Columbia Archives (BC Archives) was founded in 1908 and has always been one of the most developed and sophisticated of provincial archives in the country.

The searching capabilities for the finding-aid databases are very helpful. You can search by keyword in the text, or they have their own searching mechanism to help you. There are also alphabetical lists of all the resource guides which are useful for browsing. The searching includes some of the published material in the library, and also unpublished monographic materials (such as theses); however, not everything is included in the online database.

Even a brief browse through the finding aids turned up an interesting collection which would otherwise have remained unknown. The Alexander Begg collection (on microfilms AO1267 and AO1268) includes questionnaires filled out by settlers in the North West territories in 1884-1894, an obvious genealogical source.

Other features at the website are guides for researching genealogy, wills, probate records (in British Columbia, these are separate from wills), aboriginal peoples, divorce records, coroners records 1859-1967 (restricted access), orienting researchers using cartographic materials. All these guides are very helpful. There are also 50,000 photographs from their collection scanned and online.

In the reference room, the staff help users to understand how to locate and retrieve material, but the website does not mention any consultative role. There is a great deal of self-serve microfilm materials, including newspapers (all British Columbia except for modern Vancouver and Victoria, which are considered to be sufficiently available elsewhere) and vertical files of clippings (a welcome and unusual feature). Much of the material is offsite and may require up to one week for retrieval. If you are making a special visit to the archives, be sure to contact them in advance to ensure the materials you wish to view are available.

There are vital records available online (a collaborative project of the BC Archives, the BC Vital Statistics Agency and FamilySearch). Searchable indexes to, and images of, births, marriages, deaths, colonial marriages and baptisms (although the images are not available for all events) became available in September 2012. On the other hand, you can also submit a written request but the remote enquiry fee will apply to each registration. However, the archives will not conduct broad-based research or answer general questions.

Queries are accepted by mail, fax and email; there is a thirty-minute limit for searching. There is a private researchers list on the website. One difference from other provincial websites is that there are few links even to related government departments.

The British Columbia archives website contains a great deal of information and will be much used by any genealogist working in the province.

Handbooks for researching in British Columbia will have more information about the archives including: Finding your ancestors in British Columbia, by David M. Jackson assisted by Jean White (revised 2004); Genealogical resources for British Columbians (2004); and Genealogical sources in British Columbia, by Barbara Monasch (1996).


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses
offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

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  • This page was last modified on 30 September 2014, at 20:06.
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