Newfoundland and Labrador Vital Records
Newfoundland, including the area of Labrador, became a province of Canada in 1949. Official registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in 1891.
Until 1948, most vital records were copies of church records. Clergy were required to register the baptisms, marriages, and burials they performed with the civil authorities. By 1948, official death certificates were being prepared by physicians and other medical personnel for the civil authorities.
Substitutes for vital records for the years before 1891 are at the Family History Library or at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Most official vital records of birth, marriage, and death for Newfoundland and Labrador from 1891 to the present must be requested on forms available from the Vital Statistics Division.
For additional information about vital records, including search strategies, see Canada Vital Records.
- 1 Availability
- 2 Recent Records
- 3 Older Records
- 4 Parish Records Collection
- 5 Newfoundland Births, Marriages and Deaths Records 1891-1923
- 6 Newspaper Reports of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
- 7 More Records
- 8 References
Some records of birth, marriage, and death after 1891 have been microfilmed. They are at the Family History Library and at the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador.
For indexes of Newfoundland vital records at FamilySearch RecordSearch, see Newfoundland Vital Statistics. Be sure to check the percentage of completion if the persons you expected to find were not displayed.
Always check the internet for indexes and images of records that may be available.
NGB Vital Statistics for Newfoundland Listed by District.
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Newfoundland Vital Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
Recent vital statistics for Newfoundland and Labrador are held in the Service Newfoundland, Vital Statistics Division. You need their application form for these events; this can be obtained by writing or on their website:
Vital Statistics Division
P.O. Box 8700
St. John’s, Newfoundland A1B 4J6
Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador
9 Bonaventure Avenue
P.O. Box 1800, Station C
St. John’s, Newfoundland A1C 5P9
Historical vital records and genealogical material are in the provincial archives. Their website does a stellar job in describing their collections, and permission has been granted to reproduce portions of it here.
The Family History Collection has, within it, four groups of records which contain baptisms, marriages and burials. They are:
- Registers of Vital Statistics (pre-1892-93) - No central registry so only records were created by the community. An index of communities linking to microfilm number is online.
- Parish Records (online index under development as of January 2013)
- Newfoundland Births, Marriages and Deaths - from the Vital Statistics Division
- All Newfoundland Births (1840-1915)
Some of these collections are available online. Check the section on Records of Births, Marriages and Deaths for more information.
Registers of Vital Statistics Pre-1892-93
One of the two most frequently used of these groups is the Registers of Vital Statistics Collection. It consists mainly of transcripts of the baptism and marriage records of various churches throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. The records are pre-1892/1893 and are contained in 124 bound ledgers as well as on 14 reels of microfilm.
Civil registration started in Newfoundland and Labrador in 1891. Beginning at that time, all clergy were required to register with the government every baptism, marriage and burial conducted within their jurisdiction. Prior to 1891, no such central registry existed, so the only record of baptism, marriage or burial was the one held by the church.
During the Commission of Government in the 1930s and 1940s, Sir John Charles Puddester was the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health and Welfare. In the early 1940s, Sir John was apparently disturbed by the fact that the original parish registers held by some churches were in a fragile condition and that the records of some other churches had already been lost through fire.
To prevent any further loss of records and so that the government could have some record of vital statistics prior to the start of the 1891 system of registration, he initiated a program to have churches transcribe these pre 1891 records. The Department of Public Health and Welfare offered ten cents a name as compensation for those clergy who arranged for the transcription of the baptism and marriage records of their parishes. Burial records were not requested, although a few churches did submit a number of these records.
These volumes which came to be referred to as the DPHW (Department of Public Health and Welfare) volumes of the “Black Books” are now known as the registers of vital statistics.
The collection is not complete as many clergy and churches did not respond to the request of the Department of Public Health and Welfare to transcribe their records. The collection is predominately Protestant as only 6 of the 124 volumes are Roman Catholic. The remainder of the volumes are the records of the Church of England, Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed Episcopal Churches.
There are errors in these volumes as there would be in any transcription project of this magnitude. Some of the original entries in church registers may not have been clearly legible. Such entries would be copied as they were interpreted by the particular transcriber.
Some volumes contain births for years much earlier than the time frame noted for the baptisms. Often, in the very early years of some parishes, clergy only visited some places once every few months especially during the winter season when travel was often difficult. For this reason, children were sometimes not baptized until months after their birth. There are also records of entire families being baptized at the same time when clergy would visit a particular area for the first time.
The information contained in some of these volumes may not necessarily be complete. As an example, the Roman Catholic Harbour Grace baptisms and marriages were transcribed in Volume 42 and Volume 42A. Maiden names are not given for the women, but they were listed in the original church registers. Some churches ended their transcriptions with the 1891 records while others transcribed to 1892 or 1893. All years may not necessarily be complete and some churches did not copy their earliest registers.
The finding aid for the Registers of Vital Statistics Collection is arranged alphabetically by place name. Some places may be noted under more than one parish for the same religious denomination. The clergy of early parishes in Newfoundland and Labrador often were responsible for large geographical areas which included numerous communities. The boundaries of some of these parishes changed considerably through the years. As more clergy became available to serve the people, parishes were subdivided to include fewer places.
Sometimes a place is noted under a parish name which is a considerable distance from the actual place. The reason for this is that visiting clergy sometimes performed baptisms and marriages and took the record of the same back to their own parishes. As well, people may have visited or worked seasonally in other areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. If the marriage took place there, for example, the record would have been recorded there and not in their home parish.
All information in the finding aid for the Registers of Vital Statistics Collection has been entered in a database at the Provincial Archives. A search can be performed on the basis of Place, Parish or Religious Denomination.
Because there are errors and omissions in the Registers of Vital Statistics, it would be advisable to consult the Parish Records Collection when the records for the same parish and the same time frame are available.
Parish Records Collection
The Parish Records Collection consists of photocopies and/or microfilm copies of original church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as records of confirmations, minute books and other records of parish life. (As of January 2013, an online index was being developed.)
There are approximately 200 parishes within Newfoundland and Labrador which are represented in this collection, including several religious denominations: Anglican, Congregational, United Church, Moravian, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Salvation Army faiths. For the purposes of this collection, the term Parish refers to a district having its own church (or churches) and clergy. Thus, parish is used not only for the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches but also for United Church pastoral charges and congregations, Moravian missions and Salvation Army corps.
In the 1970s, the increased interest in genealogy was such that the Provincial Archives began to make available records of interest to genealogists. This led to the copying of parish registers to make them available to researchers. This was the start of the Parish Records Collection.
Although this is an extensive collection, it is by no means complete. The Provincial Archives is not a registry of such records. It is through the good will of parishes that copies of their records are made available for genealogical research. Each parish determines the time frame of the records which it will release for copying. As the growth in the number of family history researchers continues, many parishes are inundated with requests for access to their records. Unfortunately, most parishes do not have the staff resources to make these records available at the parish level. Thus, the program of the Archives of copying parish records works well for both parishes and for researchers. Parish staff are able to direct researchers to the copies which are available at the Provincial Archives and researchers reap the benefit of having a large collection of parish records accessible in one repository.
Many parish records in this collection were photocopied a number of years ago when the quality of copier prints was far below today’s standard. Some of these poor quality copies have been replaced with better ones and there are plans to have others recopied. The acquisition of new parish records continues with most now being microfilmed instead of photocopied as the latter is very labour intensive. No original parish registers are held in this collection. Each original register, as well as a copy of it, is returned to the parish. Some parishes prefer to use the copies provided by the Provincial Archives in cases where the original records are in a fragile or deteriorating condition.
In recent years, the Provincial Archives has cooperated with the United Church of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Conference Archives in copying Methodist/United Church records. The Conference Archives has been responsible for borrowing the original registers of its many pastoral charges throughout the province. The Provincial Archives has then arranged for the photocopying or microfilming of these records. Copies of most of these records are available at both the Provincial Archives and the Conference Archives.
All information in the Parish Records finding aid has also been entered in a database at the Provincial Archives. A search can be performed on the basis of Religious Denomination, Community, Parish, Records or Box Number.
The finding aids for both the Registers of Vital Statistics Collection and the Parish Records Collection are available for consultation in the Research Room of the Provincial Archives and online.
Newfoundland Births, Marriages and Deaths Records 1891-1923
A third group of records which constitute the Family History Collection are the Newfoundland Births, Marriages and Deaths from the Vital Statistics Division (1892 onward). This is a microfilm collection of the baptism records registered with the Registrar, Ken Mullaly.
These records cover the period from the start of the civil registration system in 1891 to 1923. There are 13 reels of baptism records. Each reel, which covers approximately two years, is indexed by surname. There is one reel of marriage records, circa 1920-1926, and one reel of burial records, 1920-1922. They cover the entire province. There are restrictions as to who can request these records as outlined in the FAQ section. Telephone or email is the preferred form of contact.
All Newfoundland Births 1840-1915
The fourth set of records in the Family History Collection is not as well known or as well used as the other groups. It is the All Newfoundland Births Collection.
This collection of baptism/birth records was acquired from the Vital Statistics Division of the Newfoundland Department of Health.
These records contain:
- Many sworn affidavits of persons attesting to the age of relatives, friends or acquaintances.
- Delayed registrations of birth, (if a birth was not registered within one year from the date of the birth, an application had to be completed and supported by written evidence of birth).
- Photocopies of actual baptism/birth certificates.
- Extracts, by clergy from parish registers of baptisms.
- Lists which include more than one family member. (Sometimes copied from a Family Bible.)
Some records may duplicate baptisms already available in the Collection of Vital Statistics Registers or the Parish Records Collection. Some are records of baptism/birth which may not be found elsewhere. This is especially true of church records which have been destroyed by fire and which predated the start of civil registration in 1891. This collection contains a number of marriage records, as well as one death record. They are noted in the indexes.
There are 34 boxes of bound records for the years 1840 to 1915 inclusive. Each box contains a finding aid for the volume(s) in that particular box. The finding aid lists, alphabetically, the surnames of all records contained in that box. The year of each record is noted. Each volume of records is arranged alphabetically. There is also a master index or finding aid which lists, alphabetically, the surnames of all records contained in the entire collection of 34 boxes of the All Newfoundland Births. The year of each record is noted as is the box in which it is contained. The information in this finding aid is also available on a database at the Provincial Archives and is accessible by Name or Box number.
Newspaper Reports of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Included also in the Family History Collection, is the Gertrude Crosbie Collection. Mrs. Crosbie’s compilation of births, marriages and deaths from 19th century newspapers bridges some of the missing gaps in church records.
Another similar collection at the Provincial Archives is the extracts of births, marriages and deaths from newspapers in the Conception Bay area of Harbour Grace and Carbonear, circa 1850-1900. These were compiled a number of years ago in response to the frustrations of researchers at the loss by fire of various parish records in that area. These newspaper extracts will not entirely fill the gaps left by these losses but they will help many fill in the missing pieces of their genealogical research. A third similar type of collection is the Daily News Deaths—a listing of deaths from the year-end editions of the Daily News from 1913 to 1963.
Although baptism, marriage and burial records constitute a key source for genealogical information, you are not limited to these alone at the Provincial Archives. There are many other invaluable sources throughout all their major collections.
- Murphy, Sharon L. "Newfoundland and Labrador Birth, Marriage, and Death Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Newfoundland_and_Labrador_Birth,_Marriage,_and_Death_Records_%28National_Institute%29.