Skip to main content

Chinese-Canadian Genealogy

Resources for Canadians of Chinese origin who wish to learn more about their personal connection to Chinese-Canadian history.

Civil Registration by Province and Territory

Civil registration refers to records of births, marriages and deaths collected by the government. In Canada, civil registration is a provincial jurisdiction.

The British Columbia civil registration system began in 1872, under legislation entitled An Act Respecting the Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in the Province of British Columbia (SBC 1872, c.26).

In British Columbia, records of birth, marriage and death become open to the public after a specific length of time has passed:

  • Currently, birth records become available 120 years after the birth. For example, in 2025, records for births prior up to 1904 will become available. Prior to 2003, the embargo period for birth records was 100 years. Therefore, birth records are currently available until 1903, with the next release due in 2025.

  • Marriage records become available 75 years after the marriage took place. As of 2016, marriage records up to 1940 are available.

  • Death records become available 20 years after the death. As of 2016, death records up to 1993 are available.

Initially, people of Chinese origin were excluded from the B.C. civil registration process. Section 22 of the original 1872 legislation stipulated that "nothing in this Act shall be construed to extend to, include, or apply to births, marriages, or deaths of Chinese, or Indians."

This changed between 1872 and 1897, although exactly when and why is unclear. In an 1888 consolidation of B.C. annual statutes, the Births, Marriages and Deaths Act no longer included any specific references to Chinese and Indians.

The Birth, Marriages and Deaths Act, as published in the 1897 B.C. statute consolidation, stated specifically that:

The provisions of this Act shall apply to every person resident within this Province, whether such residence be permanent or temporary, and shall apply to all races and nationalities, including all Indians and persons of Indian blood, Chinese and Japanese. (RSBC c.33, s.3)

The fact that the provision to exclude Chinese had apparently disappeared by 1888, only to be subsequently clarified in 1897, indicates possible bureaucratic confusion concerning the inclusion or exclusion of those of Chinese origin in the civil registration system.

In any case, the exclusion of Chinese people clearly ceased sometime prior to 1897. While there are many gaps in civil registration records - for both Chinese and non-Chinese - there is a good chance of locating records of Chinese births, marriages and deaths that occurred from 1897 on, and it may also be possible to find some prior to that date.

B.C. birth, marriage and death records provide a great deal of useful genealogical information about each individual registered. The personal details collected have changed since 1872 but usually include the following:

Birth Records

  • Date of birth
  • Name
  • Sex
  • Name and surname of father
  • Name and maiden name of mother
  • Rank or profession of father
  • Signature, description and residence of informant
  • When registered
  • Name of accoucheur

Marriage Records

  • His name
  • His age
  • His residence when married
  • His place of birth
  • His condition (bachelor, widower, etc.)
  • His rank or profession
  • Name of his parents
  • Her name
  • Her age
  • Her residence when married
  • Her place of birth
  • Date of marriage
  • Religious denomination of bridegroom
  • Religious denomination of bride
  • By whom married
  • By licence or banns

Death Records

  • Place of death
  • Name of deceased
  • Residence
  • Sex
  • Racial origin
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation
  • Length of residence
  • At place of death
  • In province
  • In Canada (if an immigrant)
  • Informant's name
  • Relationship to deceased
  • Place of burial, cremation or removal
  • Date of death
  • Cause of death


At the Vancouver Public Library

  • The Vancouver Public Library owns microfilm copies of all B.C. civil registration records that have been released to the public. These are housed in Fine Arts and History on Level 6.

  • An index is available via the Internet. For information see Online, below.

  • Full details on locating B.C. civil birth, marriage and death records on the microfilm reels are provided in VPL's Finding B.C. Civil Registration Records guide.

At the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency

  • Birth, marriage and death records that have not yet been released to the public are held by the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency.


The B.C. Archives provides free online access to historical B.C. civil registration information through its Genealogy (Births, Marriages and Deaths) web page.

  • Genealogy Search
    This database includes digitized images of many of the province's historical birth (1854-1903), marriage (1872-1940) and death (1872-1993) registrations. The database may also be used to search for baptisms (1836-1893) and colonial marriages (1859-1872). The release of the index and attached images is a collaborative project between the B.C. Archives, the Vital Statistics Agency and FamilySearch. There are currently 700,000 images; new digitized images will be loaded on a regular basis.

A second option for searching for historical B.C. civil registration records is FamilySearch. Like the Vital Events Search database (above), this site provides access to digitized images of many of the province's historical birth, marriage and death registrations. Currently, it contains more digitized images than the B.C. Archives website, and in some ways it has a more flexible search interface. The search results often contain more information as well, depending on the type of record, and can include things like names of parents, places of birth, etc.

To see the full original record for registrations not available digitally online, you must bring the registration and reel number to the Library (see At the Vancouver Public Library above).

Alternatively, in most cases, it is possible to purchase a digital copy of the full original record over the Internet. However, this is much more expensive than locating it yourself on a microfilm at the Library.

For suggestions on how to search databases for Chinese names, see our Search Tips page.

Civil registration in Alberta began around 1870. Alberta civil registration records are available to the public without restriction as follows:

  • Births - after 100 years
  • Marriages - after 75 years
  • Deaths - after 50 years


At the Vancouver Public Library

The Vancouver Public Library owns two printed indexes to Alberta birth, marriage and death records held by the Provincial Archives of Alberta:

Alberta, formerly the Northwest Territories: Index to Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1870 to 1905 (1995)
Alberta Genealogical Society. Edmonton Branch
Ref. 929.37123 A33a

Alberta, formerly a part of the North-West Territories: an Index to Birth, Marriage and Death Registrations prior to 1900 (1999)
Documentary Heritage Society of Alberta
Ref. 929.37123 A33b

The indexes include the names of parents and spouses, gender, event date, age, and place. They also note the archival box, file and registration number of the record. This information can be used to apply for a transcript. Very few Chinese names appear in the indexes, a reflection of the fact that in 1905 and earlier, very few Chinese resided in Alberta. The vast majority of Chinese in Canada lived in British Columbia.

At the Provincial Archives of Alberta

The Provincial Archives has birth, marriage and death records dating back to the 1870s. Some incomplete registers and indexes dating from 1898-1983 are also held by the Archives. Transcripts will be supplied at a small cost. For more information, see the Provincial Archives of Alberta website. To apply for a record created before 1905, refer to the two printed indexes noted above.

At Service Alberta Vital Statistics Office

Records not available at the Provincial Archives are held by the Service Alberta Vital Statistics Office. Copies of certificates may be released subject to eligibility requirements and there is a charge for each item requested.

Saskatchewan civil registration records date mainly from 1895 onwards. Access to birth records prior to 100 years ago and death records prior to 70 years ago is unrestricted. All other records are restricted.


Saskatchewan civil registration records are held by the provincial Vital Statistics Office.

Because of the restrictions on access to Saskatchewan vital event records, the likelihood of finding a Chinese record is very remote, due to the fact that the Chinese population in Saskatchewan was very small at the beginning of the 20th century. An electronic Genealogy Index Searches database is available for searching unrestricted Saskatchewan birth and death records. An application to purchase a certificate can be filled out online

Copies of restricted records may be released, subject to specific eligibility requirements.

Civil registration in Manitoba began in 1882.

Unrestricted access to Manitoba birth, marriage and death records is available is follows:

  • Births - more than 100 years ago
  • Marriages - more than 80 years ago
  • Deaths - more than 70 years ago

It may be possible to obtain access to later records, subject to eligibility requirements.


Manitoba civil registration records are held by the provincial Vital Statistics Agency.

A searchable online index offers free Genealogical Searches for Unrestricted Records. Search results can automatically be pasted into an application form, which can then be mailed to the Vital Statistics Agency, together with an application fee.

To apply for a restricted record, use the application form on the Vital Statistics Agency web page. The form can be printed, completed and mailed, together with an application fee.

Civil registration in Ontario began in 1869. As in other provinces, access to records is restricted for a defined period of time after the event. In Ontario, the restrictions are as follows:

  • Births - 97 years
  • Marriages - 82 years
  • Deaths - 72 years

It may be possible to obtain access to later records, subject to eligibility requirements (see Office of the Registrar-General.)


Civil registration records are available in two formats:

  1. Online Digitized Images - Ancestry Library Edition currently hosts over 7 million digitized images online; new digitized images will be loaded on a regular basis. The FamilySearch civil registrations databases collectively contain over 6 million index entries and digitized images.
  2. Microfilm - The Vancouver Public Library has the microfilms of overseas deaths (1939-1947). These are on Level 6 at the Central Library. All other microfilms can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

As the table below indicates, indexes and digital images of most historical Ontario birth, marriage and death records are available in Ancestry Library Edition and Family Search. However, the most recently released records are available only on microfilm from the Archives of Ontario through interlibrary loan.

Format Records and dates Indexes Full images
(Ancestry Library Edition)
Births - 1869-1913 Yes Yes
Marriages - 1801-1928 Yes Some
Deaths - 1869-1938 Yes Yes
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes Yes
Births - 1869-1912 Yes Some
Marriages - 1800-1927 Yes Some
Deaths - 1869-1937 Yes Yes
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes Yes
(Level 6, Central Library)
Births - 1869-1914 Yes No
Marriages - 1873-1929 Yes No
Deaths - 1869-1939 Yes No
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes† Yes
Marriages - July 1869 - 1873 Yes No


  • Full images of original Ontario civil registration records that are not available through Ancestry Library Edition may be obtained from the Archives of Ontario through interlibrary loan. For more information, see the Using the Interlibrary Loan Service section on the Records on Microfilm tab.
  • The ALE Ontario marriage database is a composite of indexes created by ALE and by the Genealogical Research Library. As a result, it contains some duplicate records. The database also contains records derived from the pre-1869 County Marriage Registers of Ontario. See the Pre-1869 Marriage Records tab for more information.
  • Omitted marriage images are associated with entries indexed by the Genealogical Research Library. There is usually a duplicate ALE entry with an original image. Pre-1869 entries with omitted images are usually derived from the County Marriage Registers of Ontario. See previous note for more information. 
  • Each year, a new annual release of Ontario birth, marriage and death indexes adds an additional year of coverage. Starting with 1916 births, 1931 marriages, and 1941 deaths, records will be digitized and available online.
  • Marriages from July 1869 to 1873 are not covered by the microfilmed Ontario civil registration indexes, although they are included in Ancestry Library Edition. Printed indexes of Ontario marriage records for this period are available in the Vancouver Public Library collection:

At the Archives of Ontario

Document images not available in Ancestry Library Edition have been microfilmed by the Archives of Ontario and may be obtained through interlibrary loan. This service is free and up to three microfilms can be borrowed at one time. To order a microfilm, you first need to determine the registration number using Ancestry Library Edition or the VPL microfilm indexes (see above). Once you have determined the registration number, you can identify the number of the microfilm that you need to borrow by referring to the pathfinders on the Archives of Ontario Vital Statistics page. Vancouver Public Library cardholders can use this interlibrary loan form to place requests directly online.

At the Office of the Registrar-General

Access to birth records after 1909, marriage records after 1924, and death records after 1934 is restricted. The records are held by the Ontario Office of the Registrar General. Copies may be obtained, subject to eligibility and approval requirements.

Civil registration in Quebec began very late, in 1926, and only applied to births when it was first introduced. Marriages were added in 1960, but the Roman Catholic church continued to be the only source of death records. Full civil registration in Quebec began only in 1994.

Prior to civil registration in Quebec, all registration was done by the Roman Catholic church. Each parish sent a copy of its baptism, marriage and death records to the prothonotarial district at the local Palais de Justice. In effect, these records were civil records.

Pre-1900 records are available to the public. Access to post-1900 records (both prothonotarial and civil) records is restricted.


At the Archives nationales du Quebec

All pre-1900 prothonotarial district records of births, marriages and deaths are held at 9 regional branches of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Quebec. Contact the Archives for more information.

At the Directeur de l'etat civil

All post-1900 birth, marriage and death records are held by the Directeur de l'etat civil in Quebec City and Montreal. Access to these records is subject to eligibility and approval requirements.


The FamilySearch website includes searchable indexes and digitized images to many Quebec births, baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Civil registration of births and deaths in New Brunswick began in 1888. Marriages records were maintained by counties from the early 1800s on. Access to New Brunswick civil registration records is unrestricted as follows:

  • Births - after 95 years
  • Marriages after 50 years
  • Deaths after 50 years


At the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick owns microfilm copies of all unrestricted New Brunswick birth, marriage and death records. An online index is available. Microfilms may be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

At Service New Brunswick Vital Statistics

Service New Brunswick Vital Statistics holds restricted birth, marriage and death records.


Civil registration of births and deaths in Nova Scotia began in 1864 and continued until 1877. It resumed on October 1, 1908. Marriages in Nova Scotia have been registered since 1864, and some earlier ones are available as well.


Historical Vital Statistics

The Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics database is fully searchable and includes links to digitized pages from the registers. Note, however, that these early records date from a time when there were no Chinese in the province.

Historical Vital Statistics holdings of civil registration records are as follows:

  • Births - 1864-1877, 1908-1913 / (delayed registrations: 1830-1913)
  • Marriages - Bonds: 1763-1864 / Registrations: 1864-1938
  • Deaths - 1864-1877, 1908-1963 / City of Halifax: 1890-1908

Access to these records is unrestricted.

Modern Vital Statistics

Access Nova Scotia Vital Statistics holds the following civil registration records:

  • Births - January 1, 1912-present
  • Marriages - 1937-present
  • Deaths - 1962-present

These records may be released, subject to eligibility requirements.


The FamilySearch website includes searchable indexes to Nova Scotia births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths.

Civil registration in Prince Edward Island began in 1906.


At Prince Edward Island Office of Vital Statistics

Civil records of birth, marriage and death records are kept by the provincial Public Archives and Records Office. Details are provided on their Genealogy at the Public Archives page.


The FamilySearch website includes searchable indexes and digitized images to many Prince Edward Island baptisms, marriages and deaths.

Civil registration in Newfoundland and Labrador began in 1891.


Government of Newfoundland - Vital Statistics Division

The Vital Statistics Division has birth, marriage and death records from 1892 to present.

Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador

The Provincial Archives of Newfoundland has microfilm copies of the following records:

  • Births - 1891-1899
  • Marriages - 1891-1922
  • Deaths - 1891-1949


The FamilySearch website includes searchable indexes and digitized images to many Newfoundland and Labrador baptisms, marriages and deaths.

The Northwest Territories' Vital Statistics office in Inuvik has birth, marriage, and death certificates starting in 1925. Due to the remoteness of many of the communities, many of the early records are not complete. There are restrictions on access. Contact the Vital Statistics office for information.

1925-March 31, 1999

Nunavut was part of the Northwest Territories up until April 1, 1999. Civil registration records from 1925 to March 31, 1999 for events that occurred in the present Nunavut Territory are held by the Northwest Territories' Northwest Territories' Vital Statistics office in Inuvik.

After April 1, 1999

Births, marriages, and deaths that occurred on or after April 1, 1999 are registered with Nunavut's Department of Health and Social Services - Vital Statistics.

Incomplete civil birth, marriage and death records are available from 1898. Contact Yukon Vital Statistics for more information.

Birth Marriage and Death Newspaper Announcements

There are four types of announcements that may appear in newspapers and which sometimes include useful information for genealogists:

  • Birth announcements
  • Marriage announcements
  • Death notices
  • Obituaries

The difference between death notices and obituaries is that death notices are usually provide basic information, the main purpose of whichis to inform people of the location and time of funeral services. Obituaries are lengthier and may be written by a family member or newspaper staff.


Whether or not you will be able to find newspaper birth, marriage, death notices and obituaries depends on the amount of detail you have regarding the date and place of a person's birth, marriage or death. The more information you have the easier it will be to locate newspaper announcements. However, unlike other types of records, they are not required by law, so there may not be any notices relating to your ancestor or family member.

If you know the exact date of the birth, marriage or death, you can begin by identifying newspapers that were published in the area and at the time. Search through newspapers for a period covering several days after the birth, marriage or death occurred. For resources that may be helpful when trying to identify newspapers, see Newspapers - Mainstream.


If you don't find a birth, marriage or death notice or obituary, or you don't know the exact date on which the event occurred, you may be able to find a reference using online resources.


Marriage Notices Index, 1901-1939 (City of Victoria Archives)
This index to marriage notices contains over 17,000 entries that appeared mainly in the Victoria Daily Times newspaper from 1901-1939. While the bulk of the entries are from the Victoria Daily Times from 1901-1939, there are also over 1,000 entries from various sources from 1835-1900 and almost 100 entries from 1940-1953. The alphabetical index is searchable by both groom's and bride's names.

Death Notices Index, 1901-1939 (City of Victoria Archives)
This index to obituaries contains almost 30,000 entries that appeared mainly in the Victoria Daily Times newspaper from 1901-1939. A small number of entries cover dates other than 1901-1939, with roughly 50 entries from the years 1831-1900 and 50 entries from 1940-1950. Includes death notices, obituaries and funeral notices.

Current and Recent


Indexes and Collections