Community Papers

B.C. historical records available online — for free

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People worldwide now have easier research access to images of the original historical records of births, marriages and deaths in British Columbia.

A partnership between the BC Archives and the Vital Statistics Agency, as well as an in-kind donation by FamilySearch International, has resulted in original records being scanned, indexed and now available from anywhere in the world for printing — free of charge — through the Royal BC Museum/BC Archives website.

Since 1997, the Vital Statistics Agency has provided the BC Archives with annually updated indexes to publicly releasable vital event information.

The BC Archives is allowed to release personal information about deaths that occurred at least 20 years ago, marriages that took place at least 75 years ago and births registered at least 120 years ago.

In the past, the photographed images of actual documents were only available on microfilm at the BC Archives reading room, at a FamilySearch International centre or through a number of libraries across the province.

“This free access to digital images of historical vital event records is long overdue,” said Kathryn Bridge, manager of centralized access at the Royal BC Museum.

“The upload of more than 700,000 scanned and indexed documents in the first few months of test operation is unique in Canada. No other province has made this much rich data available online.”

Provincial registration of births, marriages and deaths began the year after British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871.

The registration records contain information that can be used to trace a family tree, determine medical history, reveal the history of a community or patterns of illness over time.

Birth registrations include name, date and place of birth, parents’ names and the mother’s maiden name.

Marriage registrations include the name, age, birth place and marital status of the bride and groom, the date and place of the ceremony, names of the couple’s parents, names of witnesses and the person who performed the ceremony.

Death registrations include the name and birth date of the deceased person and date, place and cause of death.

Phase 1 of the data upload is substantially complete. Phase 2, now underway, will add more images and indexed information, including pre-1872 records and deaths that occurred overseas during the Second World War between 1939 and 1945.

More than 200,000 images of death records from 1985 to 1991 and approximately 19,000 images of marriage records from 1933 to 1936 will also be added.

Phase 2 is scheduled for completion by the end of the year and will bring the number of scanned records to the one-million mark.

Each year, more vital-event images will be scanned and uploaded as they become available through annual scheduled releases by the Vital Statistics Agency.

To access the images of historical birth, marriage and death records, go online to http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy/BasicSearch.

 

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