British Columbia

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This page contains resources primarily for British Columbia, Canada.

British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871.

Archives Association of BC

Want to start an archive and don’t know where to begin? A good resource for wannabe archivists regardless of location.

Automated Genealogy – Marriages in BC

Ever thought: I wish there was someone to help me read this totally illegible record? There is. In this incredible source, volunteers transcribe census records for the Canada censuses 1851, 1901, 1911, 1921, and the Prairie census 1906. Specific to BC, there is a growing list of BC marriages ~1890-1930.

Barkerville Historic Town Collections

If you’re researching the 1860s, the Cariboo, the gold rush, or Williams Creek, this might be a gold mine (haha) of information for you.

The British Colonist 1858-1970 – University of Victoria

A tremendous free resource of the history of BC with an excellent search engine.

BC Assessment – Property IDs

It’s useful to be able to figure out the property ID. This lookup tool allows you to enter an address and get the property ID, along with the eye-popping Vancouver real estate assessments..!

BC City Directories – 1860-1955, Vancouver Public Library

Looking for a particular family member? You might find them listed in the city directory.

City of Vancouver Archives

A great site of historical records for the City of Vancouver. I liked the maps going back to the 1700s, the fire insurance maps that detailed each building, and the private pioneer family records.

City of Vancouver Goad’s Fire Map, 1912

Want to know exactly what the city looked like in 1912? Amazing interactive free resource, inviting you to explore, view, edit,  and print maps of Vancouver.

Digitized Okanagan History

Absolutely amazing resource for central BC. I learned about this site when the Kelowna and District Genealogical Society posted on Facebook that their massive data gathering project had been completed and uploaded online. Look for the KDGS logo, go past the “People and History” page, to find over a dozen searchable online books filled with names, family histories, grave sites and much more.

Divorces in BC before 1968 – BC Archives

For divorces in BC, if you know both names of the parties to the divorce, plus the approximate date, you can apply for a copy of the divorce order here.

Divorces in BC before 1968 – Canada Gazettes at the Vancouver Public Library

Although I try to provide online information, this process seemed worth doing if you are near the city of Vancouver’s Central Library and don’t know all the particulars of the divorce. (If you do know the names of both parties and the date, see above for Divorce Orders before 1968.)

If I’m reading this correctly, you can first try looking for a divorce in the annual index of the Canada Gazette, Part 1, e.g., 1962 Index, 1963 Index, etc. After you’ve located a likely file, you can request the right gazette.

I plan to do a little digging when I visit Vancouver (~summer, 2018), so stay tuned for an update.

Divorces in BC (and the rest of Canada) after 1968

It gets more complicated to acquire a copy of a divorce order after 1967. You must have the consent of one of the divorcing parties, fill out an application, and pay a fee.

History of Metropolitan Vancouver

Chuck “Mr. Vancouver” Davis, who passed away in 2010, spent much of his life collecting odd facts about the city of Vancouver. His compendium reads like part history, part gossip, which is perfect for genealogists! The site is still maintained, but if you’re a real Vancouverite, the book is a solid addition to your library.

Chuck Davis

Davis, C. (2011). The Chuck Davis history of metropolitan Vancouver. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd. If you’ve ever wondered what was happening in Vancouver on a given historical date 1757-2011, chances are that Chuck Davis, aka “Mr. Vancouver” has it recorded in this comprehensive book, a compendium of his website at www.vancouverhistory.ca. See below.

Hospitals, Mental

I always thought that hospital records were completely private. Such is not the case. The 1921 Canada census surveyed everyone in June, 1921, and that included patients at so-called mental hospitals. Be aware, too, that these hospitals didn’t exclusively care for mental health issues – I found one hospital that had a tuberculosis wing. Before you start reading the census documents, here’s some helpful background information from BC Archives.

Essondale Provincial Mental Hospital

Located in Coquitlam, BC, Essondale (now Riverview) opened in 1904. For more on the history of Essondale, see Abandoned History and Essondale Blogspot.

If you have Ancestry, here’s a link to the 1921 census file. Here are the particulars: 1921 Canada Census; District 16 Fraser Valley; Subdistrict 22 Chilliwack; Name: Essondale – Provincial Mental Hospital. 

BC Mental Hospital, aka Woodlands

Located in New Westminster, BC, Woodlands opened in 1878. For more on the history of Woodlands, see Michael de Courcy and Inclusion BC.

If you have Ancestry, here’s a link to the 1921 census file. Here are the particulars: 1921 Canada Census; District 20 New Westminster; Subdistrict 72 Burnaby; Name: BC Mental Hospital. 

MemoryBC

A list of 190+ archives in BC. There are some odd ones, like the BC Golf Museum and the BC Teachers Federation museum. Definitely a hidden gem.

Mountainview Cemetery Search

Located at 5455 Fraser, Mountainview Cemetery is the only cemetery located in Vancouver, BC. Opened in 1886, it contains 92K graves and 145K interred remains.

Newspapers from Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta)

When I was at the SK genealogical conference in April, 2018, I attended a lecture about using digitized newspapers for genealogical research. While this UofA collection naturally focuses on Alberta, there is one for BC:

  1. The Outcrop, Windermere / Golden, 1900-1907 available online; good for details of miners in the N.E. Kootenay region

Royal BC Museum Genealogy Search

One of my favourite sites for vital statistics (records of birth, marriage, and death). You’ll find that Ancestry.com has links to this site, but if you want the actual record, you’ll have to do some digging. Here are some tips for finding that elusive record:

  • Try the full name first, then start subtracting letters. For example, if you are looking for Elizabeth Mary Jane Smithe, try the whole name, then Elizabeth Smithe, Mary Smithe, Jane Smithe, or even just Smithe. You might have to get creative with searches: try Smithe, Smith, Smit, or Smi* (Boolean search).
  • There are date limits. From the site: “Search our indexes to births (1854-1903), marriages (1872-1940), deaths (1872-1995), colonial marriages (1859-1872) and baptisms (1836-1888).”

Vancouver Building Permits – Heritage Vancouver 

There are over 51,000 building permits available on this site. If your ancestors owned a house that was built or altered before 1929, you might be able to find the permit details here. I found two of my relatives here – and a mystery. Of course.

HINT: Use the Keyword Search if your ancestor had a unique name. Use the Address Search if you have a full or partial address. I used both, and the address search worked best for me.

Vancouver Sun / Province Obituaries

Dating from ~2001, obituaries published in BC are available at this link. It’s much more comprehensive for later years, but you might luck out and get one closer to 2002. Note that you’ll need to update the “Date range” to “all time” and “The Province” to “All BC obituaries”.