Deaths, Cemeteries and Wills

Deaths and Burials

The death or burial record generally provides:

  • date of death or burial;
  • name of the deceased, occupation and place of residence;
  • name of spouse or names of parents;
  • age at time of death and cause of death; and
  • names of witnesses.

Deaths are recorded in parish registers or in civil registers.

As civil registration (birth, marriage and death records) is not a federal jurisdiction, Library and Archives Canada does not hold the civil registers and does not issue certificates. .

Records relating to accidental deaths that involved water, land or air transport can be found in our Canadian Transport Commission fonds (RG 46) for 1904 to 1976. Records can be searched using the Archives Search database.

Keywords: surname and "killed," "death," "died," "murdered" or "fatal".

Record Group: 46

For railway accidents, also see Record Group 30.

Accidental and criminal deaths in the western provinces were usually reported in the records of the North West Mounted Police (RG 18). Records can be searched using the Archives Search database.

Keywords: surname and "killed," "death" or "fatal"

Record Group: 18

Information about annual political and parliamentary events was published in The Dominion Annual Register and Review. For the years 1878-1886, lists of suicides and accidental deaths are also included. The pages from the 1886 edition are available online on Bill Martin's Genealogy Pages website.

Accidental deaths are usually reported in newspapers, consult our Newspaper Collection.

Many Provincial and Territorial Archives hold records relating to deaths, coroners' reports, etc. Some archives offer on their Web site databases relating to these topics.

Funeral Homes

If you can identify the funeral home responsible for an individual's burial, you might wish to contact them to inquire about their records.

Some funeral homes have Web sites on which they list recent funerals. Consult the Canadian Funerals Online website for references to funeral services.

Some funeral homes have deposited their older records in provincial or other local archives. Consult CAIN. Select Title Keyword and enter "funeral home."

Use AVITUS to find other Web sites that provide online indexes to various types of death records.

Cemeteries

In cemeteries across the country, tombstones and headstones serve as an historical record of the people buried there. Dates of birth and death are usually inscribed on the stones, providing descendants with crucial links to their ancestors. Although sometimes only the year is indicated, that is still a vital clue to further research. Additional details are sometimes included, such as birthplace, military service or relationships to other family members.

Cemeteries are maintained by churches, private companies, municipalities or families. Churches and privately owned cemeteries usually maintain burial registers, which often contain more detailed information than the tombstones.

Genealogists will not find a tombstone for every ancestor. Some people were too poor to afford a stone for their family member's grave. In other cases, the inscriptions on the stones have been eroded through time, the stones are missing or the cemetery no longer exists.

Many Genealogical Societies and genealogists in Canada have undertaken projects to copy the information from tombstones in cemeteries. The tombstone inscriptions are transcribed and compiled in indexed publications.

Library and Archives Canada holds many copies of cemetery indexes. Many of these publications are available through inter-institutional loan.

Search for cemetery publications in AMICUS using subject terms such as:

  • cemetery Brantford;
  • cemeteries Calgary;
  • pierres tombales St-Hermas;
  • cimetière Mont-Royal; and
  • Beechwood cemetery.

Library and Archives Canada also holds some archived copies of Quebec and Ontario cemetery recordings (MG 8 G54 and MG 9 D7), some of which were produced by the Ontario Genealogical Society and microfilmed by the Archives of Ontario. Our copies of those microfilm reels are only available for onsite consultation.

For Nova Scotia, Library and Archives Canada holds some cemetery recordings for Horton Township, Kings County, 1767-1973 (MG 9 B7, microfilm reel H-1806).

Indexes can also be found in the collections of some Provincial Archives. For example, many of the published indexes for Ontario cemeteries have been deposited at the Archives of Ontario and microfilmed, making them available through inter-institutional loan from that institution.

Search for other cemetery records in CAIN. Enter keywords such as a place name and the words "cemetery" or "cemeteries."  Use AVITUS to find other Web sites about cemeteries.

Wills

An estate file contains the documents used by the court to disperse the deceased person's estate, whether he/she died with or without a will. The contents can include applications, the original will, affidavits, an inventory of the assets and valuations.

The will usually mentions members of the family, gives an indication of the deceased person's material wealth and of the ultimate division of the estate.

Wills and estate records are a provincial and territorial responsibility.

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