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AfriGeneas Canada Research Forum

British Columbia Vital Records Indices Online

For those of us with roots in British Columbia, you'll be happy to know that the British Columbia Archives has a free, online, searchable index of births (1872-1903), marriages (1872-1929) and deaths (1872-1984) on their website.

SEARCH OPTIONS - The search engine DOES allow wildcard searches, so be sure to take advantage of that because not only were surnames often spelled a variety of ways, the person transcribing the original document may not be able to read the correct name if the original document (or microfilm) is in poor condition. You can search by surname, given name, city and/or year, with variables that are explained on the website.

IMAGES - They have chosen to sell you digital copies of the images for $20 each, which, in my humble opinion, is highway robbery, since you can always order the microfilm from your local Mormon FHC.

INFORMATION - It may vary by year, but the marriage records contain far more information than the death records or birth records. NONE of the records asked for race or origin, so if you have an ancestor with a common name, it may be harder to differentiate one record from another.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? - in California in the 1850s, though blacks were free, they had essentially no rights. California's oppressive legislation of the 1850s excluded blacks from state schools, barred them from giving evidence against whites in court, and there were attempts to require blacks to be registered and to prevent any more blacks from immigrating to the state. So, in 1858, a group of 600-800 free blacks sailed aboard the steamship COMMODORE from California to Victoria, British Columbia where they setup farms and developed local businesses. In fact, the colony's first police force was the all-black "African Rifles," appointed by Vancouver Island's black Governor, James Douglas. Within weeks, however these black policemen were replaced by whites because of threats of violence and racist protests.

That said, there may be descendants of these eary black British Columbians still living in the West.

Good luck in your research.

- Lisa B. Lee, PLCGS
Oakland, CA

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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