New Brunswick Vital Records:
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
To understand New Brunswick vital records, a brief history of the province is helpful.
The area today known as New Brunswick is part of the Canadian Maritime provinces. European explorers began moving through the area in the late 1500s, and French colonists in the 1600s named the area which is now New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Acadia.
For the next 150 years, there was conflict between the British and the French, both of whom claimed ownership of the territory. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the conflict, and granted most lands claimed by the French to the British.
Gathering for the
United Empire Loyalist Centennial Parade,
1883, Saint John, New Brunswick.
After the American Revolutionary War, a large number of United Empire Loyalists – the number varies between 14,000 and as many as 60,000 individuals – responded to Britain’s offer of free land, and moved from the United States to New Brunswick in the late 1700s.
Settlers also came from the British Isles in the early 1800s, and later in the 1800s, from all parts of Europe. In an effort to govern an increasing population, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were divided into two separate provinces.
Civil Registration Records
Civil registration of New Brunswick vital records (births, marriages and deaths) began in January of 1888. Prior to that time, there was a statutory requirement to record marriages (but not births and deaths). It also was possible to obtain marriage bonds as early as 1810.
Civil registration included provisions for delayed registration of births, as some individuals required official government documentation of birth for other purposes, such as passports for travel.
These registrations would require some form of evidence of when the birth occurred, which could be in the form of affidavits of family members, church christening records (many of which also listed date of birth), census documentation, and so on.
As a result, there are delayed birth registrations on file for many individuals as far back as 1801, although coverage is by no means complete.
The Vital Statistics Office holds records for New Brunswick vital records (births, deaths, and marriages, but not divorces) for the following time periods, following which they are transferred to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick:
|Time Period of|
| Records Available
||up to 1916
||up to 1961
||up to 1961
Interestingly, according to an Archives employee, divorce records, and divorce files themselves, are not subject to privacy legislation in New Brunswick.
Therefore, the entire court file, including all exhibits filed as evidence and any allegations made by one party about the other, is available for public inspection, once the file has been transferred to the Archives.
As a practical matter, the divorce files are kept at the courthouse for two years after the divorce has been finalized, presumably because there may be residual issues to be dealt with during this time period.
With respect to the other New Brunswick vital records (births, marriages, and deaths), there are restrictions on access to the records during the above time periods, when they are housed by the Vital Statistics Office. If you meet their criteria for gaining access, the Vital Statistics Office will provide you with a copy of the requested document(s), at the following rates (as of 2011):
| || Short Form||Long Form ||Expedited ||Courier Fees
||Canada - $20
US - $35
||Canada - $25
US - $60
|| Canada - $25
US - $60
Copies of New Brunswick vital records dating from earlier than this time period can be obtained from the Provincial Archives for $8 per record.
All prices quoted are in Canadian currency.
County Marriage Records
Laws regulating marriage, first passed in 1791, allowed only the following individuals to conduct marriages:
- Church of England clergy, in all cases;
- Justices of the Peace, if no Church of England clergy was available;
- Church of Scotland clergy, if both bride and groom were Church of Scotland members;
- Roman Catholic clergy, if both parties were Catholic; and
- Quaker officials, if both parties were Quaker.
Couples from other denominations would have to use one of the first two means if they wanted their marriage to be legally recognized.
With respect to marriages (but not births and deaths), when a Justice of the Peace performed a marriage ceremony, he was required to record it in a book, and to send a certificate of marriage to the county’s Clerk of the Peace, who would enter the certificate in the records of the county’s Court of General Sessions of the Peace.
Clergymen were not required to register marriages with the Clerk of the Peace prior to 1812, although they did record them in church registers.
In 1812, a new Act seeking to improve marriage registration was passed. In addition to requiring all clergymen performing marriages (except for Quakers), as well as the Justices of the Peace, to send certificates of marriage to the county Clerk of the Peace, it set out detailed requirements with respect to the contents of the marriage certificates and the format of the County Marriage Register.
Those requirements did not undergo any substantial change from 1812 to 1888, when civil registration began.
Also, the Act imposed a fine of 20 pounds for not registering a marriage.
Parish Church Records
For New Brunswick birth and death records prior to 1888, the only real source of information, other than archived newspapers, is the parish church records, although there do appear to have been a few births recorded in the County registers from 1800 on.
Some of the church records are at the Provincial Archives. If so, they are on microfilm, and have been indexed. The index is included in the online database referred to above.
New Brunswick vital records that are not in the Provincial Archives may be in the churches themselves, in the headquarters for that church group, in other forms of archives, or lost to the usual ‘natural disasters’ of fire, flood, etc.
Picturesque Church in Rural New Brunswick. Wikimedia Commons
There are various other efforts underway to make the available New Brunswick vital records accessible online. See this page for a number of links to records in various counties of New Brunswick, mostly prior to the commencement of civil registration in 1888.
One database which is currently online at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick site is Daniel F. Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics, a work which compiles New Brunswick and area newspaper accounts of births, deaths, marriages, and moves outside the province from 1794 to 1896.
Where can I find the Records?
You can order copies of more recent certificates (i.e., those held by the Vital Statistics Office) online, by mail, or in person from the Vital Records Office, for the fees outlined above, provided you meet the criteria for access.
Their mailing address and physical location are as follows:
New Brunswick Department of Health and Wellness
Vital Statistics Office
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1 Canada
Suite 203, 435 King Street, Fredericton, NB
Phone: (506) 453-2385
Fax: (506) 444-4139
The New Brunswick Provincial Archives building is located on the campus of the University of New Brunswick. The address is:
Richard Bennett Hatfield Archives Complex
Bonar Law - Bennett Building
23 Dineen Drive
The mailing address is:
PO Box 6000
Fredericton, NB CANADA
The Provincial Archives also has an online, searchable database with various indices to records of interest to genealogists in it. The following relate to births, deaths, and marriages:
- Index to New Brunswick Marriages, 1847-1959
- Index to Marriage Bonds, 1810-1932
- Index to Death Certificates, 1920-1959
- Index to County Death Registers, 1885-1921
- Provincial Returns of Deaths, 1815-1919
- Index to Death Registration of Soldiers, 1941-1947
- Index to Saint John Burial Permits, 1889-1919
- Index to Late Registration of Births, 1810-1914
- Index to County Birth Registers, 1800-1913
- Index to Provincial Registration of Births, 1898-1914
- Index to Late Registrations: County Series, 1869-1901
After finding the appropriate New Brunswick vital records online in the index, if you are unable to go to the Archives Search Room or use the interlibrary loan service, you can request copies of the birth, marriage, or death registrations which you want by mail, giving the full reference information from the database, and enclosing a fee of $8 per document.
New Brunswick first passed a law governing divorce in 1791.
New Brunswick divorce records from about 1791 to approximately 1989 (as of 2011) are located at the New Brunswick Provincial Archives. A partial index by name, beginning in the 1850s, is available.
More recent divorce records can be found at the Justice and Attorney General Department of New Brunswick.
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