British Columbia

The first permanent European settlement in British Columbia was associated with the fur trade in the early nineteenth century.

In 1849, Vancouver Island became a British colony, and four years later, in 1853, it numbered 450 inhabitants. The mainland at that time belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company.

The discovery of gold in the Fraser Valley, in 1858, led to an upsurge in the population. The colony of British Columbia was established after the Hudson's Bay Company ceded its lands to the Crown.

In 1866, the colonies on Vancouver Island and in British Columbia merged.

In 1871, British Columbia became a Canadian province. In the late-nineteenth century, Chinese immigrants arrived to work as labourers on the railway, which was completed in 1885.

Researchers interested in ancestors who lived in British Columbia use the main types of genealogical sources. A guide provides more information about the genealogical resources available in the British Columbia Archives.

Civil Registration (Birth, Death, and Marriage Records)

In British Columbia, records date from 1872, although those for the earlier years are not complete. There are also some baptismal records as early as 1849. Requests should be directed to the:

British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
PO Box 9657, Stn. Prov. Govt.
Victoria, BC
V8W 9P3

Microfilm copies of original birth registration documents (1872-1903), marriage registration documents (1872-1928) and death registration documents (1872-1983) are available for onsite consultation at the British Columbia Archives and through FamilySearch.

Nominal indexes to the above records are available online on the British Columbia Archives Web site.

Criminal Records

Genealogical Societies

Land Records

Library and Archives Canada holds the Letters Patent issued by the Lands Patent Branch of the Department of the Interior. The records refer to grants issued in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the railway belt of British Columbia, 1870-1930. Those records can be searched in the following database:

The land system in the western provinces was arranged by sections, townships and ranges. Detailed information is provided on the online help of the above database.

The British Columbia Archives holds applications for:

The Land Title and Services Authority holds the Crown grants and some related records.

Provincial Websites

Many libraries hold reference books, local histories, family histories and other books on genealogy. Library and Archives Canada allows you to browse lists of Canadian library Web sites and catalogues by province (Archived).


Wills and probate files up to 1981 are in the custody of the British Columbia Archives. Later records are held by the:

Court Registry

Ministry of the Attorney General
850 Burdett, Room 205
Victoria, BC
V8W 1B4 

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