Series GR-2951 - Death registrations

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Death registrations

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  • textual record
  • microform

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  • 1872-1988 (Creation)
    British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency

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Physical description

385 microfilm reels : 16 mm ; negative

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Biographical history

The British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency (BCVSA) is responsible for determining and registering births, deaths and marriages and for issuing certificates related to these events. The agency also performs civil marriage ceremonies through private marriage commissioners, issues marriage licences, administers legal changes of name, files and searches for wills notices, performs genealogical tracing, and maintains a special purpose registry for registering cases of congenital anomalies and various handicapping conditions. In addition, the agency provides statistical and research services for various government programs, universities and special interest research groups. The registration of births, deaths and marriages in British Columbia was entrusted to the Registrar General of Titles under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act of 1872 (SBC 1872, c. 26). Until 1911 the Registrar reported to the Department of the Attorney General, except for the years 1899 to 1901 when the office was under the Department of the Provincial Secretary. In 1911 the Registrar General of Titles became the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages under the Provincial Board of Health, which reported to the Department of the Provincial Secretary. The Vital Statistics Branch was created within the Provincial Board of Health under the control of the Provincial Health Officer in 1933, and was renamed the Division of Vital Statistics in 1936. The Division of Vital Statistics became the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency in 1996. The Provincial Board of Health was removed from the Department of the Provincial Secretary to become the Department of Health and Welfare in 1946. It was subsequently renamed the Department of Health and Hospital Insurance (1959), the Department of Health (1973), and the Ministry of Health (1976). The Division of Vital Statistics remained part of this organization throughout these changes.

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Scope and content

The series consists of copies of British Columbia death registrations from the Vital Statistics Agency. The records are on microfilm and cover the period 1872 to 1988. There is a 20 year restriction of the release of death registrations from the Vital Statistics Agency. The records are death registrations, beginning in 1872, which consist of completed statements and related documents regarding deaths which have been submitted to District Registrars and then registered by the Registrar or Director of Vital Statistics in Victoria. The statements contain: the registration district name and/or number; the registration number; the name of the deceased; gender; date of death; age; profession (if known); date of birth; cause of death; name of physician; name and residence of informant; religious affiliation; and date of registration. Statements sometimes include the decedent's marital status and names and birth places of the decedent's parents. Each death registration should include a supporting record called "Medical Certificate of Death" which states the cause of death as determined by a physician or coroner. These records are created by physicians or coroners, submitted to District Registrars and registered by the Registrar or Director of Vital Statistics. The certificates contain personal particulars of deceased persons, statements concerning the time and cause of death, and the name and residence of the certifying physician or coroner. However, this document was not included on a regular basis until 1896, and not with every registration until 1912. From 1872 until 1911 the death registrations and medical certificates of death are on separate forms. Beginning in 1912 the two statements are included on one form and both parts are always completed. Some death registrations also include documents received under the Coroner's Act. This Act requires coroners to submit to the BCVSA particulars of the cause and time of death as determined by a coroner's inquest. These documents include "Certificate of Cause of Death as Determined by Coroner's Inquest" and "Warrant to Bury After a View". The only persons excluded from registration under the 1872 Act were Chinese and Indians. This was changed by an amendment in 1897 (SBC 1897, c. 33, s. 3) which stated that the Act would apply to all races including all Indians, Chinese and Japanese. However, the Act was amended in 1899 (SBC 1899, c. 8, s. 3) to once again exclude Indians from provincial registration. This continued until the Act was amended again in 1916 (SBC 1916, c. 73, s. 3.2) to authorize the registration of Indians, which began in 1917 with Indian Agents submitting registrations monthly. In 1943 this system was formalized with a special form for "Indian death registrations". From 1917 to 1956 Indian registrations were recorded in separate volumes with a separate numbering system. For 1917 to 1944 the registration numbers consist of a prefix (the volume number) followed by a sequentially assigned number. From 1945 to 1956 the numbers have a prefix (volume number 95) followed by a sequentially assigned number. Aboriginal registrations for 1917 to 1956 have been microfilmed on separate reels of film (B13359 to B13363 and B13374 to B13377), as have the delayed Aboriginal registrations in volume number 995 (B13378). From 1872 to 1945 the registration numbers consist of a six-digit sequential running number which periodically starts over again at number one. During these years delayed registrations were maintained as a separate series (volume number 900A) and microfilmed on a separate reel of film (B13358). Beginning with 1946 the registration and the "finding number" are the same. For each year, the registrations start at volume 001, registration 001. The registration numbers therefore begin with number 001001 through 001999 (volume 001, registrations 001 through 999), continue in volume 2 (002001 through 002999), and so on to the end of the year. Many volumes are physically separated into A and B sections. The A section of these volumes covers registration numbers 001 to 500 and the B section covers numbers 501 to 999. Registration numbers 000001 to 001000 do not exist, and neither do registrations ending in 000. Two numbers are stamped on most of the registration forms. In the upper right-hand corner is the official registration number as described above. At the centre top is a three-part hyphenated numerical code (for example, 05-09-026450). The first part of the code indicates the year of death; the second part is the code for British Columbia; and the third part consists of the six-digit "finding number". The first three digits of the "finding number" are the volume number; the last three digits are the last digits of the official registration number. Users should look for the last three digits of the official registration number within the correct volume. Users will note that from 1872 to 1931 records are also arranged by name of geographical region or registration district, and then alphabetically within the region or district. Beginning in 1932 records are no longer arranged alphabetically by name of person, and by 1 January 1933 the arrangement by place name has also been abandoned. The geographic/alphabetic arrangement cannot be depended upon, except as a secondary method of locating a record. The index may be accessed through the British Columbia Archives web site. The index is an enhanced copy of the index database maintained by the BCVSA. The microfiche index is derived from this enhanced index. Please note that the information on the computer and microfiche indexes is provided only for the purpose of locating registrations and should not be taken as authoritative. The final authority for all registration information is the registration document itself.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Microfilmed copies of the records are transferred to the archives annually from the Vital Statistics Agency once they have been released for public reference, twenty years after the date of death. The first transfer occurred on 2 January 1997 and comprised 292 reels of microfilm.


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There are no access restrictions.

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Associated materials

For registrations of overseas deaths of Canadian armed forces personnel from BC during World War II (1939-1945) see GR-3132.

Related materials


Further accruals of death registration records are expected.

General note

Archives code(s): B13077-B13363, B13374-B13378, B13574-B13644, B14142, B16571-B16584, B17109-B17124, B17301-B17307.

General note

Accession number(s): 89-0257; 90-0257; 91-3840; 92-9933; 92-9935; 92-9936

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