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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 ($).
- 1 British Columbia (cont.)
- 2 Locations Holding the Microfilm Collection
- 3 British Columbia Archives
- 4 Coroner’s Records
British Columbia (cont.)
Locations Holding the Microfilm Collection
A copy of the microfilm collection of births registrations from 1872 (120 years old), marriage registrations from 1872 (75 years old) and death registrations 1872 (20 years old) is held by each of the following organizations. Each year the microfilm is updated.
British Columbia Archives
675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
818 Fort Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 1H8
FamilySearch and FamilySearch Centers
Some records are digitized and available on the FamilySearch website. A Place-name search for British Columbia in the FamilySearch online Catalog will bring these up under Vital Records.
Also, you can locate the FamilySearch Center nearest you and order microfilmed to the center.
Okanagan Regional Library - Kelowna Branch
1380 Ellis Street
Kelowna, British Columbia V1Y 2A2
Simon Fraser University Library
W.A.C. Bennett Library
8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6
British Columbia Archives
Marriage Records 1859-1872 - British Columbia Colonial Secretary
This group of records is certified copies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia pre-confederation marriage records submitted to the colonial secretary by clergy, 1859-1872. It also includes a letter from Rev. John B. Good. Microfilm #B09707.
The records are bound into eight volumes in two accessions. The volumes contain certified copies of marriage certificates or returns of marriages submitted by clergy of various denominations. To find an individual marriage record, find the name and volume number on the index which is found at the beginning of the microfilm reel #B09707.
The index consists of two separate sorts, one alphabetically by the surnames of individuals and the second alphabetically by the place of marriage. For each marriage the index contains the surnames and given names of individuals; the record and volume number of the marriage; the date of the marriage (format is year/month/day); the marriage place (name of community and/or church); and the district. Once you have found the name and volume number advance the reel to the correct volume and record within the volume. The finding aid for these records should be consulted regarding the description of the information contained within each volume.
The index is also searchable in the old Genealogy Index database.
Although the Coroner’s Records are not a usual place to look, they can hold the answer to many questions regarding the passing of one’s ancestors.
The next few pages are from the Coroner’s Records Research Guide: British Columbia Archives. We are thankful to the British Columbia Archives staff for providing researchers with a straightforward explanation of these records and easy to follow instructions.
The British Columbia Archives has legal custody of coroner’s inquests from 1859 to 1867 and coroner’s inquiries from 1859 to 1970. Inquests are investigations in which a coroner’s jury was called and the files tend to be larger, often containing witness statements, transcripts and autopsy reports. Inquiries took place when a coroner worked alone and the record is often a single form containing basic information.
The release of certain types of information from inquest/inquiry files, especially those dating from 1908 to 1970, is regulated by various statutes such as the Young Offender’s Act. Access to these files must be arranged through the British Columbia Archives Information and Privacy Section (IPS) for exceptions to routine release under the provincial Freedom of Information Act (FOI). Files which are reviewed by IPS may be mailed to you, along with an invoice for the copying and mailing. If you are unable to purchase a copy of the file, but can arrange to visit the Archives at a later date to view the file, please indicate this to an Access Archivist after you have located the file numbers of the inquests or inquiries you are seeking.
Coroner’s Inquests/Inquiries, Freedom of Information (FOI) Act
To obtain access to coroner’s inquests/inquiries currently restricted under the FOI Act, complete a Photocopy Requisition form showing the call number (GR ####) of the record, the box/file number or microfilm reel number, the inquest or inquiry number, the name of the individual and the year or full date if available. The inquest or inquiry number is usually found in the first column of the index or register. Give the completed form to an Access archivist who will locate the record on microfilm or hardcopy, copy it if necessary and forward it to an IPS staff member for review.
Looking for a Coroner’s Inquest/Inquiry
From 1859 to 1871
- Locate the finding aid (microfilm reel list) for GR-1328 on the bookcase in the Reference Room or consult the finding aid online. The inquests for the Colony of Vancouver Island are listed first chronologically, followed by those for the Colony of British Columbia and the last by the United Colony of British Columbia
- If you find the name you are looking for, use the self-serve microfilm reel B02446 to view the file. The inquests are located on the film in the order given in the finding aid.
- If you did not find the inquest in GR-1328, check the card index to Colonial Correspondence (GR-1372) located in the Reference Room. Try a variety of headings such as the name of the individual, “inquests”, “deaths”, etc. Once you have obtained a file number from the top left corner of the index card, use the finding aid GR-1372 stored next to the index or online to identify the self-serve microfilm reel on which this file is located. Retrieve the self-serve microfilm to view the file.
- If you still haven’t found the name, you may wish to try using the index to miscellaneous correspondence inwards to the British Columbia Colonial Secretary, 1858-1863. Fill out a call slip for C/AB/30.1K1/1 and when you receive the volume, check under the heading “deaths”. Use the name of the author of the letter to locate the letter within the Colonial Correspondence Index (step 3 above). You may also wish to try headings such as “suicides,” “drownings,” “murders,” etc.
- A few colonial inquests are also found in GR-0431, Box 1 (Melsler, Pin, Casse, Mitchell, Purdie, Roebottom, and Ormondy). There is one 1862 inquest on microfilm reel B02372 of GR-1327 (Hugh Stewart). Inquests held before Peter O’Reilly and W.G. Cox, Cariboo East, in 1864 and 1866 are in GR-2946.
From 1872 to 1937
- Retrieve self serve microfilm reel B07895 (GR-0432, vol. 5-10, 1879-1937). This contains six volumes of indexes by family name arranged in alphabetical groupings within years. For example, all 1886 inquests for individuals whose last name begins with “A” will be listed together. The indexes do not always record the cause of death (see step 5). Because these indexes were compiled from the registers for the years 1879-1937, always cross-check with the register in the event you do not locate a name (see step 5). The registers begin in 1874, but indexing by name was only done from 1879.
- Check the full title at the bottom of the form to ensure that you are in the correct date range and then scan the alpha-group for the years which you are interested in. Japanese, Chinese and east Indian names are indexed separately for the years 1923-1937 at the end of Volume 10.
- The number beside the name is the number of the inquest or inquisition. Inquests are normally assigned a sequential number for each calendar year, for example, 125/06. Inquiries before 1919 generally consist of a three or four digit number without the year or a three-part number ending in the last two digits of the year (2300-7-17). In 1918-1919, inquiries began to be numbered with the file prefix C49-1, C81-4 and C159.
Inquest files which pre-date the Young Offenders Act (1908) can be viewed on microfilm or in hardcopy if the latter has been preserved. Inquest files dating from 1908 require review by IPS staff. Inquiry files are intermingled with the correspondence of the attorney General and require review by IPS staff.
The following accessions (record held in an archive) contain inquests/inquiries from 1872-1937:
- Attorney General correspondence, 1872-1937 (hardcopy): GR-0429
- Attorney General, sample inquests, 1865-1937 (hardcopy): GR-0431
- Attorney General, inquests, 1872-1937 (microfilm): GR-1327
- Attorney General, inquiries, 1902-1937 (microfilm): GR-1323
- Attorney General correspondence, 1872-1937 (hardcopy): GR-0429
Other related records can be found by conducting an online search of the textual records catalogue using the keyword “coroner*” (include the *) on the BC Archives website. To locate the inquest file, retrieve the appropriate finding aid from the bookcase in the Reference Room or view it online. If the file is on microfilm and pre-dates 1908, it may be available in the Reference Room on self-serve microfilm. If no film is located in the cabinet, or the hardcopy inquest post-dates the 1908 Young Offenders Act, ask an Access archivist for assistance or submit a Photocopy Requisition form (see FOI Instructions in this guide).
Hardcopy (original) inquests in GR-0429 and GR-0431, that pre-date 1908, are requested by completing a call slip and submitting it to the Retrieval counter.
- 5. If you do not know the name of the individual or did not locate a name in the name indexes, but do know the year, use the registers located on self-serve microfilm B07894 (GR-0432, vol. 1-4, 1874-1937). These are a chronological listing of all inquests/inquiries in the province from 1874 to 1937. The registers also record the cause of death. Volumes 3 and 4 of the registers list the inquiries and inquests separately; see finding aid in Reference Room or online for details.
From 1938 to 1970
- Help yourself to the self-serve microfiche indexes (GR-1513 to GR-1519) stored in the fiche cabinet in the Reference Room. There are seven indexes; choose one of the following based on the date range:
- Bf00033 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1938 to 1944
- Bf00034 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1945 to 1949
- Bf00035 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1950 to 1953
- Bf00036 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1954 to 1958
- Bf00037 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1959 to 1963
- Bf00038 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1964 to 1966
- Bf00039 Indexes, inquests and inquiries, 1967 to 1970
The accessions covered by these indexes are:
- Attorney General, inquest, 1938-1967 (microfilm): GR-1502
- Attorney General, inquiries for Vancouver, 1938-1965 (microfilm): GR-1503
- Attorney General, inquiries for BC except Vancouver, 1938-1965, and for BC, 1966-1970 (microfilm): GR-1504
- Attorney General inquiries for BC, 1955-1965 (microfilm): GR-1726 (USE GR-1504 finding aid)
- 2. Place the appropriate sheet of the microfiche set (based on the first letter of the family name) in a microfiche reader. These indexes are arranged in alphabetic grouping by year. Once you have found a name, see FOI Instructions in this guide for access procedures.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.