Family History Research Guide

Those who are interested in exploring their family history may find the following Resources and Frequently Asked Questions useful.

This information is also available in a printable brochure [PDF - 664 KB].

Resources for Family History Research

City Directories

1860-1999

City directories can be a good resource for genealogists. They list names and addresses of residents of the City and environs, and often include information about an individual's occupation. Some directories pertain only to the city, while others include Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia.

View City Directories List [PDF - 338 KB].

*The street numbering system for Victoria was changed in 1907.
*Street names often changed.
*BC-related directories for the years 1860-1955 can also be found online through the Vancouver Public Library.

Death and Marriage Notices

1901-1939

Obituary and marriage notices from the Victoria Daily Times are available for 1901-1939. The marriage and death notice indexes are available in the Archives reference room and online through the Archives' Vital Statistics Search page.

Ross Bay Cemetery Records

1872-1987

The information in these records includes name, place of birth, place of death, date of death, and plot location. Ross Bay Cemetery records are available online through the Archives' Vital Statistics Search page.

Canadian Census

1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, and 1921

Copies of the 1881 and 1891 federal census data, Victoria section, complied by the Public History Group at the University of Victoria, are available at the Archives. 1881 was the first year a census was compiled for British Columbia, because British Columbia joined confederation during the previous census year (1871). 

Census records can be useful as they show name, marital status, birthplace, religion, age, sex, occupation, relationships within a household, etc. Information about these records can be found through Library and Archives Canada.

Voters Lists

1908-1996

These records  mainly cover the period from 1908 to 1996, although a few earlier ones also exist. These records provide names and addresses. By law, only records older than 20 years are available, and records that are available can be viewed but not copied.

Newspaper Clipping

These extensive clipping files can be useful for information on prominent residents, ethnic groups, sports etc.

*View Clipping Files Subject Heading List [PDF - 155 KB].

Photographs

The City of Victoria Archives has an extensive photograph collection from a variety of sources. You can browse through the photograph subject headings both online and in person. Please note that the photographs themselves are not yet available online.

*View Photographs Subject Heading List [PDF - 142 KB].

Community Records

Community records - also called Private Records (PRs) - consist of documents created by a business, organization, or family.  These records include correspondence, journals, ledgers, photographs, and property files. Community records also include Private Documents (PDs), which generally consist of small accumulations of miscellaneous material such as business cards, pamphlets, and postcards. Descriptions of Private Records and Documents are available online through the Archives' Community Records page.

Descriptions of many of the Private Records (but not the Private Documents) held by the Archives can also be accessed online through MemoryBC, British Columbia's Archival Information Network. Although the descriptions on MemoryBC are not as detailed as those available on the Archives' web site or at the Archives, MemoryBC contains descriptions of records held by archives throughout British Columbia, and can therefore provide a more comprehensive search in some cases.

Reference Library

The Archives has a modest collection of publications dealing mainly with Victoria local history. Although these items cannot be signed out of the Archives, visitors are welcome to consult them in the reference room any time during open hours. An index is available online through the Archives' Reference Library page.

Frequently Asked Questions about Family History Research

Q. When did my ancestors arrive in Victoria?

A. A search through city directories gives an idea as to when a person arrived in Victoria. Passenger lists (see below) and the census records are also useful. Federal immigration records are available through Library and Archives Canada.

Q. Where can I find passenger lists?

A. In the early days, passenger lists were published in the daily newspaper. Historical newspapers are available on microfilm at the Greater Victoria Public Library and online (British Colonist only).

Q. What if my ancestor is not buried at Ross Bay Cemetery?

A. In 1927, Royal Oak Burial Park became the main cemetery for the Greater Victoria area. In 1932, Hatley Memorial Gardens opened to serve the Western Communities. There are also numerous small church graveyards in Greater Victoria.

Q. How can I get a death notice outside of the years 1901-1939?

A. After establishing a date of death (check BC Archives' genealogy search page online), you can search can search for death notices in historical newspapers available on microfilm at the Greater Victoria Public Library and online (British Colonist only).

 

Image above: Lee Sha Kun family, City of Victoria Archives image M08114