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Genealogy & Family History

Genealogy is all about research, keywords, and knowing where to look! It’s also about note-taking and organization.

Hints & Tips

  • Have conversations with family members, and write down all the stories–even the ones that aren’t strictly official. Templates for ancestral charts and research logs exist through (see below)
  • Remember to note your sources or where the information came from, even if provided through a family oral interview.
  • Try different spellings of names, eg. Pollock and Pollok, and anglicized names such as Bhana for Barney.
  • Marriage records will give you the parents’ names on both sides
  • Death records will often give you the last address lived at and for how long, professional details, and marriage names.
  • Obituaries are usually published within a week of death, and can provide a lot of information but should be fact-checked as these are usually submitted by family members to the local paper. Death notices are submitted by undertaker or funeral home and usually only provide information about the service.
  • Other resources include: Directories, Fire Insurance maps, Newspapers and more.
  • Online databases have different ways of searching so be sure to check out the help guides that each offers.

Getting Started


  • Ancestry Library Edition – (In-house use only at PRPL). Ancestry provides genealogical and historical research capabilities. With more than 5 billion names in over 4,600 databases, includes census, military, court, land, and probate records; vital and church records; directories; and passenger lists. This resource is available on our public computers during opening hours.
  • Ancestry Free Index Collections
  • FindMyPast Free Collections
  • FamilySearch Collections (click twice on Last Updated)
  • Points to the Past – Searchable primary source material: maps, photos, newspapers, manuscripts, pamphlets, portraits, sermons, poems, and more. For research, teaching and learning.

Magazines & Newspapers

  • BC Historical Newspapers (UBC)online variety of historical regional newspapers from around the province.
  • British Columbia Historical Newspapers (ProQuest)– Search nearly 5 million digitized pages of news, ads, images and more that showcase B.C.’s heritage, accessing 125+ years of news archives of The Province (1894-2010), The Times Colonist (1884-2010), and The Vancouver Sun (1912-2010). This online access is made possible through a collaboration of academic, public, and school libraries across B.C.

Government Resources

  • Ancestors Search: Library and Archives Canada collection of databases, including: birth, marriages, death; census; immigration; land titles; military. Review the “Instructions to Enumerators” which will give context to how the data was collected and for what reason.
  • BC Archives: Vital Events Registration Records – Electronic index to BC’s historical birth, death and marriage registration records. Birth records are available 120 years after date of birth, marriage records 75 years after date of marriage, and death records 20 years after date of death. Many of the records now have the image file linked at the index level.
  • BC City Directories (Vancouver Public Library) – Covering the period 1860-1955, this is an excellent resource for anyone researching their ancestors, the history of a home or business, or just wanting a sense of what British Columbia communities were like in the early years.
  • Canadiana – Search the digital collections of libraries, archives and museums from across Canada, as well as access 60 million pages of Canadian digital documentary heritage.
  • First Peoples’ Map of BC – Presented by the First Peoples’ Cultural Council, this map illustrates the languages of the first peoples of west coast of BC.
  • Genealogy and Family History (Library and Archives Canada)- A gateway to Canada’s genealogical resources offering genealogical content, advice, services and research tools. Several databases included with different search approaches.
  • Indigenous Heritage (Library and Archives Canada)- provides access to published and archival heritage material that represents First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation experiences and contributions to Canada. This includes text, photographs, maps, and audio-visual material. Databases include Indigenous Genealogy, Residential Schools, virtual exhibitions and more.

Genealogy Groups & Other Resources

  • BC Cemetery Finding Aid – Offers a province-wide search by name, but is not a complete set of records.
  • BC Genealogical Society – The main genealogy society for the Vancouver area. Website has links to their catalogue and other sites for genealogy.
  • Canada Gen Web
  • Canadian Historical Association Booklets – Digitized and free-to-download PDF version of booklets written by members of the Canadian Historical Association between 1953 and 2015. Of especial interest is the collection devoted to Immigration and Ethnicity.
  • Cyndi’s List – A comprehensive categorized and cross-referenced index to genealogical resources on the internet. A good starting point for genealogy research by topic. Compiled by someone who has worked as a librarian, and knows how to cite sources.
  • Facebook for Canadian Genealogy – “Here you will find a list of Canadian genealogy and historical pages and groups on Facebook, in English and French,that may help with our research. The list also includes archival centres and museums that offer genealogical and historical resources. I encourage you to share this list with others, but please credit me, Gail Dever. Suggestions for additions to this list or broken links should be sent to:”
  • FamilySearch – The new super-site for the genealogy services from the LDS (Mormon) church. Massive digitization projects are underway as their extensive microfilm collection is digitized.
  • Family Tree Kids – from Family Tree Magazine (UK) “Working on a school project about your family history? … You’ve come to the right place! Family Tree Kids is a site where you learn how to become a “family detective” and dig up clues about your ancestry. Our games and activities are created just for kids—none of that boring grownup stuff—so you can have fun tracing your roots!”
  • Find A Grave – database of memorials. Can be searched by cemetery.
  • Historical Atlas of Canada – Though still being developed, this site enables users to explore the data and themes presented through interactive mapping. Map Tours help users navigate a number of these themes easily and effectively.
  • Historical Photograph Collections (VPL) – Ever-growing digital collection of historical photographs, hosted and maintained by the Vancouver Public Library.
  • The Nauticapedia – nautical heritage site with information on Canada’s Pacific nautical history and heritage and other topics of general maritime interest curated by local author John MacFarlane. Includes biographies.
  • Root’s Web – A forum for people to help each other and share genealogical research. It includes many user contributed records and databases as well as messageboards. Supported by
  • Second World War: Researching the Canadian Fallen – Resources – A list of resources for those researching ancestors and relatives who served during World War Two, from genealogist Ken McKinlay.

Historical Atlases / Place Names

  • British Columbia Geographical Name Information Service (BCGNIS) – to find the name of a current or historic location in BC, such as an early post office.
  • Historical Atlas of Canada – Though still being developed, this site enables users to explore the data and themes presented through interactive mapping. Map Tours help users navigate a number of these themes easily and effectively.
  • In Search of Your Canadian Past: The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project – A searchable database of the property owners’ names which appear on the township maps in the county atlases (forty-three atlases in total). Township maps, portraits and properties have been scanned, with links from the property owners’ names in the database.
  • Maps, Charts and Architectural Plans Collection – From Library and Archives Canada, this search guide provides access to approximately 40,000 item-level descriptions from the “old map card catalogue.” About 4,000 items from the catalogue, now in the public domain, have been digitized and may be consulted online.