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This is the "Wills and Probate" page of the "Chinese-Canadian Genealogy" guide.
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Wills and Probate Print Page
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Wills and Probate

A will is a legally enforceable declaration by means of which a person directs the disposal of his or her property after death. Probate is the legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person. Probate occurs with or without a will, and is documented in probate files. In Canada, the administration of wills and estates is a provincial responsibility.

Currently, this site provides information about British Columbia wills and probate case files. For information about estate records for other provinces and the territories, see the Wills section of the Deaths, Cemeteries and Wills page from Library and Archives Canada.

Copies of wills probated in British Columbia between 1861 and 1981 are available for public consultation. When looking for wills, keep in mind that not all wills are subject to probate. It is also possible that the person you are researching did not leave a will. In this case, you may still be able to locate a relevant B.C. probate case file.

FINDING THE RECORDS

At the Vancouver Public Library

VPL has indexes to B.C. wills covering the period 1861-1981:

Victoria Probate Index and Wills Index, 1861-1981, 12 vol.
British Columbia Supreme Court
Ref. Microfilm 929.3711 V64

The B.C. will indexes are on six microfilm reels in Fine Arts and History on Level 6. Note that the microfilms also index probate files for the Victoria Probate Registry only. Wills, by contrast, are indexed for the whole province. (For more information on probate files, including those created and maintained in registries outside Victoria, see Probate Case Files - British Columbia).

The volume numbers and range of years covered by each microfilm index reel are as follows:

Microfilm number Volumes Years
B1990 Volume 1-4 1861-1948
B11790 Volume 5-6 1948-1962
B11791 Volume 6-7 1955-1968
B11792 Volume 7-8 1962-1975
B11793 Volume 9-11 1973-1980
B11794 Volume 11-12 1978-1981
 

Each volume of the indexes is in rough alphabetical order, according to first two or three letters of each person's last name. For example, all names beginning with Wo are grouped together. Except for the first two letters, the names are not otherwise in order, so you must carefully review all names in each group when looking for an individual. The following transcript shows how a portion of names beginning with Wo appear in the index listing for the period 1955-1962:

Wong Hop Quong
Wood Alice Mary
Woodbridge Jane Alice
Wolfe Sara Margaret
Woods Emma
Wood Wilhelmina
Wong Chung Ark (Hop Lee)
 

The transcription below corresponds to a full entry in the B.C. wills index:

Surname
 
Christian
Name
Papers
 
Books
 
Wills
 
Remarks
 
    No. A or P Vol. Fol. Vol. Fol.  
Yen Chu Tait 145/60 P 100 166 194 619 93876
 

The Original Will Number is found in the Remarks column. This is all the information required to find a copy of the actual will. To view the will, you need to visit or contact the B.C. Archives in Victoria. Cloverdale Branch of the Surrey Public Library also has a complete set of B.C. wills from 1861-1981 on microfilm.

Note: Numbers appearing in the Papers and Books columns in the will indexes indicate that a will was probated in the Victoria Supreme Court Registry. For more information on these documents, as well as probates administered by courts in other B.C. locations, see Probate Case Files - British Columbia.

For more information on locating B.C. wills, see the B.C. Archives' Guide to Probated Wills (PDF).

B.C. probate case files and related records are available to the public. Probate case files document the settling of estates of persons who died with or without a will. Probate case files were usually created and maintained by the court registry nearest to the residence of the deceased person or his or her executor. The oldest B.C. probate case files date back to 1861.

FINDING THE RECORDS

Finding probate case files is a two-step process:

  1. Determine the probate case file number.
  2. Refer to the probate case file number in order to find the corresponding probate case file.
1. Determine the Probate Case File Number

At the Vancouver Public Library

The Victoria Probate Index and Wills Index, 1861-1981 provides probate case file numbers for the Victoria registry court ONLY. (It also provides will numbers for the whole province). The indexes are on microfilm and can be consulted in Fine Arts and History on Level 6 at the VPL Central Branch. The volumes and range of years covered by each film are as follows:

Microfilm number Volumes Years
B1990 Volume 1-4 1861-1948
B11790 Volume 5-6 1948-1962
B11791 Volume 6-7 1955-1968
B11792 Volume 7-8 1962-1975
B11793 Volume 9-11 1973-1980
B11794 Volume 11-12 1978-1981

Each volume is arranged in rough alphabetical order, according to the first two or three letters of the each person's last name. For example, all names beginning with To are grouped together. Names are not otherwise arranged in order, so you must carefully review all names in a group in order to find an individual. The following is a transcript of a portion of the To surname listing for the period 1978-1980:

Tory Olga Drucilla
Tooley Cyril James
Townsend Francis James
Toy Fong
Townley Margaret

Below is a transcript of a full entry from the Victoria Probate Index and Wills Index, 1861-1981:

Surname
 
Christian
Name
Papers
 
Books
 
Wills
 
Remarks
 
    No. A or P Vol. Fol. Vol. Fol.  
 
Yen Chu Tait 145/60 P 100 166 194 619 93876

The number in the PAPERS column is the Victoria probate case file number. If there is no entry in the PAPERS column, the will was not probated in the Victoria registry.

Note: The number in the Remarks column is the original will number. See Wills - British Columbia for information about obtaining wills.

Online

B.C. probate case file numbers associated with some court registries are online, but in some cases, only cover a limited range of dates. For example, Vancouver probate file numbers are only available online from 1893-1949.

To find a probate case file number online (if available), search the Textual Records index on the B.C. Archives website for probate case file numbers as shown here:

Researchers are also encouraged to browse online listings of B.C. probate case file numbers. Chinese names have been noted in probate case file number listings produced by the registries listed below. Connect directly to each list of names by using the links below. The GR reference for each entry indicates the B.C. Archives' record group number. Some listings include only one or two Chinese individuals; others comprise significant numbers.

Alberni

B.C. Supreme Court - 1939-1950 (GR-2231)

Ashcroft

B.C. County Court - 1875-1942 (GR-1959)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1907-1946 (GR-2952)

Cariboo

Government Agent - 1860-1918 (GR-0216)

Chilliwack

B.C. County Court - 1908-1970 (GR-2205)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1916-1981 (GR-2204)

Courtenay

B.C. Supreme Court - 1949-1986 (GR-2994)

Cranbrook

B.C. County Court - 1905-1949 (GR-1618)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1950-1985 (GR-2995)

Cumberland

B.C. County Court - 1901-1917 (GR-1638)
B.C. County Court - 1916-1948 (GR-1457)

Dawson Creek

B.C. Supreme Court - 1950-1984 (GR-3225)

Duncan

B.C. Supreme Court - 1937-1949 (GR-2209)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1950-1982 (GR-2997)

Fernie

B.C. County Court - 1905-1938 (GR-1458)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1940-1984 (GR-2998)

Fort St. John

B.C. County Court - 1905-1938 (GR-1458)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1963-1990 (GR-2999)

Golden

B.C. Supreme Court - 1916-1984 (GR-2221)

Grand Forks

B.C. Supreme Court - 1904-1944 (GR-2793)
B.C. County Court - 1926-1973 (GR-3222)

Hazelton

B.C. County & Supreme Courts - ca.1912 (GR-2867)

Kamloops

B.C. Supreme Court - 1881-1946 (GR-1562)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1946-1984 (GR-3001)

Kelowna

B.C. County Court - 1923-1936 (GR-2212)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1923-1981 (GR-2226)

Lillooet

B.C. Supreme Court - 1943-1993 (GR-3017)

Merritt

B.C. Supreme Court - 1911-1989 (GR-3004)

Nanaimo

B.C. Supreme Court - 1881-1948 (GR-2213)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1908-1941 (GR-2276)
B.C. Official Administrator - 1920-1964 (GR-3002)

Nelson

B.C. County Court - 1891-1950 (GR-2229)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1895-1989 (GR-2214)

New Westminster

B.C. Supreme Court - 1881-1943 (GR-1422)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1943-1949 (GR-2215)

Penticton

B.C. Supreme Court - 1944-1948 (GR-1428)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1950-1981 (GR-3007)

Port Alberni

B.C. Supreme Court - 1950-1977 (GR-3008)

Pouce Coupe

B.C. County Court - 1931-1953 (GR-2233)

Prince George

B.C. County Court - 1914-1949 (GR-2492)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1921, 1927-1948 (GR-2236)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1965-1983 (GR-3009)

Prince Rupert

B.C. Supreme Court - 1910-1944 (GR-1483)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1944-1985 (GR-3010)

Princeton

B.C. County Court - 1912-1953 (GR-2240)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1926-1950 (GR-2506)

Quesnel

B.C. Supreme Court - 1914-1948 (GR-2242)
B.C. County Court - 1916-1948 (GR-2245)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1949-1978 (GR-3012)

Revelstoke

B.C. County Court - 1890-1949 (GR-2219)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1902-1952 (GR-2249)

Rossland

B.C. County Court - 1840-1976 (GR-2415)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1919-1942 (GR-1429)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1934-1950 (GR-2254)

Salmon Arm

B.C. Supreme Court - 1931-1979 (GR-3013)

Smithers

B.C. County Court - 1921-1947 (GR-1466)

Terrace

B.C. Supreme Court - 1955-1983 (GR-3015)

Vancouver

B.C. Supreme Court - 1893-1941 (GR-1415)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1941 - 1947 (GR-2202)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1947-1949 (GR-2203)

Vernon

B.C. County Court - 1892-1963 (GR-1472)
B.C. Supreme Court - 1901-1942 (GR-1578)

Williams Lake

B.C. County Court - 1927-1947 (GR-2462)
B.C. Supreme Court -1928-1947 (GR-2257)

At the B.C. Archives

If the probate case file number cannot be determined at VPL (Victoria only) or by using the B.C. Archives online listings, it may be possible to obtain it directly from the B.C. Archives. First, you will need to find the name of the court registry in which the person's will was probated. This can be determined using the B.C Wills Index (available at VPL), which covers the period from 1861-1981 (see Wills - British Columbia). If you find the name of the court registry, contact the B.C. Archives for more information about locating probate case file numbers associated with the registry.

2. Finding the Probate Case File


Once you have determined the probate case file number (above), you can locate the probate case file to which it corresponds. Probate case files are held by the B.C. Archives in Victoria. They are not available through interlibrary loan. Copies can be ordered through the B.C. Archives website.

For more information on locating B.C. probate case files, see the B.C. Archives' Guide to Probate Case Files (PDF).

      

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