Victoria, BC – People worldwide will 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.
“Open, free access to public records of an historic nature will help researchers and writers tell the story of British Columbia and assist citizens interested in genealogy or local history,” said Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Bill Bennett. “Congratulations to the partnership responsible for making this data available digitally online.”
“Easy access to government services and data is central to our Open Government policy. Having these records online benefits our citizens and people around the world; anyone who has roots in this province can now explore their B.C. heritage.” said Minister of Citizens’ Services and Open Government Ben Stewart.
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, 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 as well as the date, place and cause of death.
Phase 1 of this data upload is substantially complete. Phase 2, now underway, will add more images and indexed information, including pre-1872 records, 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 records 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 to http://search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy/BasicSearch
About the BC Archives
The BC Archives is the oldest archival institution in Canada west of the Great Lakes. In 2003 it joined the Royal BC Museum. The BC Archives acquires, preserves and makes accessible the documentary heritage of British Columbia for its citizens and researchers around the world. Its archivists are stewards of our province’s personal, corporate and social memory.