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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in April 2013. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Vital Statistic Records - Part 1  by Sharon L. Murphy. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Nova Scotia (cont.)

Vital Statistics Office

Civil registrations of birth and deaths began in Nova Scotia in 1864, ceased in 1876, and began again on 1 January 1909 until the present day. As well, some delayed registrations of births were filed after 1908 for individuals born in the province between 1876 and 1908. Birth records filed prior to 1912 are at NSARM and those filed after 1912 are in the Vital Statistics office. Marriage records filed at Vital Statistics begin at 1937 with earlier records available at NSARM. Death records held at the Vital Statistics Office begin in 1962.

But please note that birth certificates of deceased persons born less than 100 years ago or married less than 75 years ago cannot be issued for genealogy.

Death certificates can be released if the death occurred more than 20 years ago and the deceased would be 75 years of age or more. The Vital Statistics Department will search (for a fee) for a record if you provide the identifying information. The standard search covers three years but additional years will be searched for an additional fee.

Notes from the Vital Statistics Office, Deputy Registrar General:

  • Genealogy information is available from Vital Statistics in the form of certificates only. Please submit proof of your identification (i.e. copy of driver’s license or birth or baptism certificate) with your initial request.
  • A search of records cannot be conducted without full and specific information.
  • A three-year search includes the year before the year of and the year after the date given. If the record is not found, the fee is $17.13. Additional three year blocks may be searched for $11.45.

In order to obtain a certificate you can attend in person at their office or by mail and since 1997, applications can be dropped off at any Nova Scotia Registry of Motor Vehicle office to be processed through government mail. Online service is now in place on their website.

Payment for your certificates can be made by cheque or money order payable to the Minister of Finances, Visa, Mastercard or American Express. Payment in person at their counter service can be made by cash, cheque, money order, debit, Visa, Mastercard or American Express. All certificate prices include a three year search; a three year search may be requested without a certificate (confirmation of event only) for $5.72. Please check for possible changes in fees, by phone or on their website.

Release of all long form certificates are subject to restrictions as set out in the Vital Statistics Act. Certificates are issued in accordance with information on file and cannot be returned for refund.

Vital Statistics Office, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Vital Statistics Office, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
300 Horseshoe Lake Drive
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3S 0B7
Mailing Address:
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 157
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 2M9
Telephone: 902-424-4381

Church Records

Church records are especially valuable for establishing birth, marriage and burial dates for the time period before civil registration. Often they are the only record available for this time period. Nova Scotia Archives and Record Management has microfilmed a large collection of these records and placed them in a single collection, the “Parish Register Microfilm Collection”. This collection contains the records of 512 distinct parishes, congregations, missions and faith communities. The earliest record dates from 1679 but most of the records fall between 1780 and 1920.

NSARM website identifies a few things to be aware of:

  • The microfilms of this collection do not circulate on inter-institutional loan. You must attend NSARM to view them.
  • The original record books were returned to the individual communities after filming and either remain there or were subsequently sent to the archives of the denomination.
  • The records have not been (nor will they be) digitized. Nor are they available online.
  • Most records cannot be photocopied or reproduced without written permission from the church in question. However, “limited photocopying (i.e. individual entries) is permitted from 18th and 19th century Anglican Church registers, and from Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax registers prior to 1901”.

Now, although digital images of the actual records are not available online, there is a searchable database of what records are available. Note that this is not a database of individual names in the registers. However, this database will allow you to do some planning before you go to the archives so you can make the best use of your time while you are there. It will allow you to know if the microfilm of the register of the particular congregation for the particular time period you seek is there. It will allow you to search by church name, denomination, community or other parameters of your choice. It will identify the records held, the beginning and ending dates that are covered by each record and note the availability of other related records such as minute books, parishioner lists, etc. Any restrictions on access to the particular record are also noted.

It is important to remember that the churches were not obliged to send their registers for microfilming. This was an offer by NSARM to offer protection of the records against fire, loss and other destruction as well as making the microfilms available for personal research at NSARM. Many of the registers in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax were sent but very few of those for the diocese of Antigonish or Yarmouth were sent for microfilming.

If the registers you are looking for are not available on microfilm at NSARM, it may be worthwhile checking with the archives of the denomination in which you are interested.

Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI Archives
6017 Quinpool Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 5J6
Telephone: 902-420-0717 ext. 231

Records dating from 1758 to 1995; predominant dates are from the 19th and 20th centuries. Restricted to diocesan and parish records.

United Church Records

The United Church of Canada Archives holds the local church records of the United Church and its uniting denominations (Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian (1925 union); and Evangelical United Brethren―joined in 1968). The records of the churches which did not join at union but remained part of the continuing Presbyterian Church in Canada after 1925 are held at:

Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives and Records Office
50 Wynford Drive
Toronto, Ontario M3C 1J7
Telephone: (416) 441-1111

Maritime Conference Archives, United Church of Canada
21 Wright Street
Sackville, New Brunswick E4L 4P8
Telephone: 506-536-1334 ext. 7

Nova Scotia Genealogical Network Association
Here you can find links to all the member societies and many local resources, including the Genealogical Institute of the Maritimes for certified researchers.

Nova Scotia Historical Newspapers (online)
Many historical newspapers have been digitized and are now online . Although they are currently searchable by date only, newspapers are a source of vital information and may be worth the time to search.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Vital Statistic Records - Part 1 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.