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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 ($).
British Columbia Brief History
British Columbia was first claimed by both the Spanish and the British. The Hudson’s Bay Company assumed control of what was known then as New Caledonia in 1821. Vancouver Island became a British colony in 1851. By 1858, the year of the gold strikes that led to the Fraser River Gold Rush, New Caledonia had become the Colony of British Columbia. In 1866 the Colony of Vancouver Island had merged with the Colony of British Columbia. British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871 and Civil Registration started in 1872.
Vital Events Registrations and Indexes
The British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency is responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths in British Columbia. These registrations began in 1872 after British Columbia became a province of Canada, but do include some events which took place prior to 1872 but were registered at a later date.
The Vital Events Index contains index information to birth, marriage and death registrations, not the actual registrations. The Vital Events Index allows anyone to search for index information on birth registrations (120 or more years old), marriage registrations (75 or more years old), and death registrations (20 or more years old). These indexes are available on microfiche or online in searchable databases, such as on the Royal BC Museum or the BC Archives websites. At the time of writing this course (January 2013) the BC Archives website listed births as available on their index from 1872-1903; baptisms from 1836-1888; marriages from 1859-1936; and deaths from 1872-1991. Adoption information is maintained separately.
Once you have located the record on the index then you can take the next step which is to locate the actual registration to get the information you are looking for. Remember this index is just that, an index; the rest of the information you want is on the registration record.
The index will provide you with the registration number and the appropriate microfilm reel number for both the British Columbia Archives and for the Genealogical Society of Utah (FamilySearch). You can then research the registration at the most convenient location that houses the microfilm.
This will then provide you with a photocopy of the registration. If you need a Certified Copy or a Genealogical Certificate then you will need to contact the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency.
The BC Vital Statistics Agency releases for public viewing records that meet the criteria set by the Vital Statics Act. As of January 2013:
- Birth registrations, 1854-1903 (next update January 2025), are listed in the Birth Registration Index. In June of 2004, the Vital Statistics Act extended future release dates of birth records from 100 to 120 years after the date of birth, thus there will be no further releases until 2025.
- Marriage registrations are released after 75 years of the date of marriage. Records from 1872 to 1936 are listed in the Marriage Registration Index.
- Death registrations are released after 20 years of the date of death; however, as of March 2011 the online indexes do not include deaths with an age designation of 0 or 1 and a date of 1911 or later. Deaths occurring after 1910 for those under age one year, the 0 age designation will also include those for whom the age was unknown. Records from 1872 to 1991 are listed in the Death Registration Index.
These indexes are based on data supplied by the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency. The data have been extracted from historical indexes and early computer tapes that have undergone major coding changes and conversions over time. As a result, inconsistencies or incomplete data may be found in some instances.
Things to take note of:
- Amended registrations will have both the original and amended registration in the index.
- Some British Columbia events missing from the index were never registered.
- There are some events which took place outside British Columbia included in the index.
- “Unknown” is used when a surname or given name is missing.
- Marriage records after 1933 and deaths after 1988 have been digitized ―not microfilmed. This will enable the registration documents to be attached to the index database eventually. There will be no future releases on microfilm.
Certified Copies of Registrations
The British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency provides a genealogical service which can search for records and under certain conditions, can provide information from registrations which cannot yet be released to the general public. The agency can produce a genealogical certificate or a certified photocopy of the original registration. All requests for certified copies of registrations or genealogical certificates must be sent to the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency. Contact the Agency for the application form.
Costs (as of January 2013) are listed to give you an idea of the price range for a certified copy of the registrations and genealogical certificates. For updates to the fee schedule, check the BC Vital Statistics Agency website.
Certified Copy of Registrations Costs
- Certificate of Birth, Death, or Marriage $27
- Certified Photocopy of Birth, Death, or Marriage $50
- Search of Records - each 3 year period $27
- Changes to Registration $27
(corrections, not including certificate)
Genealogical Certificates Costs
- Genealogy Extract and/or extended search $50
- Commemorative (birth/marriage) Certificates $50
- Special Events (birth/marriage) Certificates $50
There are other services available regarding the Marriage Act (for example, Marriage License $100), Name Act and Will Act. You should contact the Vital Statistics Agency for further details.
The Genealogical Resources for British Columbians booklet prepared by British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency, Ministry of Health (2010 Revision) is available in PDF format.
British Columbia Registration of Birth
British Columbia Marriage License and Registration of Marriage
British Columbia Registration of Death
British Columbia Certificate of Death for Genealogical Purposes
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 email@example.com
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.