Family History Research Guide
Are you interested in learning more about your family history? The following resources and FAQs will help you get started.
Resources for Family History Research
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. The Archives has a large collection of directories, most of which are accessible on microfilm.
During your research, keep in mind that the street numbering system for Victoria was changed in 1907. In addition to this, street names were often changed.
The Vancouver Public Library has digitized a large number of BC-related directories. Access BC City Directories 1860-1955 online.
Death and Marriage Notices
Death and marriage notices from the Victoria Daily Times are available on microfilm for 1901-1939. Indexes to these collections are available in the Archives reading room and through the Archives’ website. Search the Death Notices Index and the Marriage Notices Index.
Ross Bay Cemetery Records
The information in these burial records includes name, place of birth, place of death, date of death, and plot location. Search the Ross Bay Cemetery Records Index.
Birth, Death, and Marriage Records
Birth, death, and marriage registrations are held by BC Archives. Search the BC Archives genealogy database.
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.
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.
These extensive clipping files can be useful for information on prominent residents, ethnic groups, sports etc. The list of clipping files is searchable through the Archives' Online Search.
The City of Victoria Archives has an extensive photograph collection from a variety of sources. A number of these images have been scanned and are searchable via the Archives' Online Search. Please note that these images represent only part of what the Archives has. The scanning of records is ongoing and more will be added to the site over time.
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.
Descriptions of the community records in the Archives' collection can be accessed through the Archives' Online Search. The Online Search also has thousands of scanned photographs from private sources.
Another great resource is MemoryBC, British Columbia's Archival Information Network. MemoryBC contains descriptions of records held by archives throughout British Columbia, and can therefore provide a more comprehensive search in some cases.
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. The reference library catalogue is searchable through the Archives' Online Search.
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: Group in front of the Empress Hotel for Coronation Day celebrations, Bill Rochfort, right, 1911 [CVA M09354]Go to Top