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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in December 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Canadian Ancestors by Doris Bourrie, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
British Columbia Provincial Records
Originally known as New Caledonia, British Columbia was first travelled by representatives of the Northwest Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company, occupied in fur trading. Two main areas were established; Fort Victoria, on Vancouver Island and New Westminster on the mainland. These two colonies united in 1866. The Hudson’s Bay Company was instrumental in encouraging early settlers, and in 1858 when gold was discovered in the Cariboo more pioneers arrived.
In 1871 British Columbia joined the Confederation of Canada, largely due to the promise that a nation-wide railroad would be constructed to join this area with eastern Canada. Many workers from Asia arrived to help with the construction of this long-awaited railroad.
British Columbia Archives
655 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
Telephone: (250) 387-1952
British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871. Previously the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia were united in 1866. The first federal census for British Columbia was taken in 1881, and census returns open to researchers at this time include the 1881, 1891 and 1901 census returns. Specialized census records for British Columbia include the 1877 Indian Reserve Commission (IRC) census taken to determine land requirements for Indian people assigned to Indian reserves. Also taken in 1877 was a nominal census of Native people taken by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) for church purposes.
Civil registration began in British Columbia in 1872. The details collected over the years varied, depending on the type of form used at the time. The British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency has released some early records to the public, and it is anticipated that another year’s records will be released annually for public research.
At the present time, those records available for public research include:
- Birth Registrations 1872-1903
- Marriage Registrations 1872-1934
- Death Registrations 1872-1989
Indexes to these registrations are available on the Provincial website. The actual registrations are available at the provincial archives, through the Family History Library (LDS Church), and at some larger libraries in the Province. Certified copies of any registration must be requested from the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency.
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
818 Fort Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 1H8
British Columbia Archives holds a group of marriage records prior to 1872. These records were submitted by clergy to the British Columbia Colonial Secretary, and cover the period 1859-1872. There is an alphabetical index by surname, as well as an alphabetical index by place of marriage for this collection.
Coroner’s Records are available, with some restrictions applying. Coroner Inquest files are available for 1859-1967, while Coroner Inquiry files are available for 1859-1970. Consult the Archives website for instructions regarding special access regulations.
There are six lands title offices in British Columbia. To access information regarding a specific piece of property, the legal description of that property is necessary. The Provincial Archives holds copies of applications for homesteads and applications to pre-empt or purchase Crown Lands.
The Provincial Archives has a Finding Aid to Applications to homestead in the railway belt and Peace River block (1885-1930), as well as a Finding Aid to land settlement records for the railway belt and Peace River block (1885-1949).
Wills and Estate Records
The Provincial Archives holds wills probated between 1861 and 1981. Records for later years are being added on a regular basis, and indexes to these wills are available at the Archives. The Provincial Archives website provides instructions for accessing these records. There is a Central Will Index.
The Vital Statistics Agency is responsible for adoption procedures. In 1996 a new Adoption Act was passed in British Columbia, which allows an adopted person 19 years or older to obtain a copy of their birth registration and adoption order, provided it occurred in British Columbia. This act also allows birth parents to obtain a birth registration and adoption order, provided the adopted person has attained the age of 19 years.
Naturalization and Citizenship Records
The Archives holds some Canada Immigration Branch records, GR-1547, which concern Asian immigration and Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. There is a register of Chinese immigration at the Port of New Westminster 1887-1908, as well as a register of Chinese immigration and residents 1885-1903.
This site provides information on the Society, and includes a Hot List of links to various sites for British Columbia and Canadian sources. Two helpful links are to the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency, and to the BCCFA (British Columbia Cemetery Finding Aid), a searchable database providing an index by name to cemetery transcriptions.
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