If they lived in an urban area, such as the present-day city of St. John's, you likely will be able to find theirrecords without much difficulty.
However, if they lived in a more remote area, where there were no roads and travel was difficult, vital records may be more difficult, if not impossible, to find. This was the case for both the island of Newfoundland, and on the mainland of Labrador, both of which are included in all discussions on this page.
Privacy Legislation and Newfoundland's Vital Records
Under this province's privacy legislation, the birth, marriage, and death records are not available to the public until the following time periods have elapsed:
Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1891. At that time, all clergymen were required to register all Newfoundland vital records with the government. Prior to this time, any records which were kept were (and still are) located in the churches.
If a birth was not registered within one year of its occurrence, a late-filed registration could be made. However, it had to be accompanied by the necessary paperwork, such as affidavits sworn by family members, friends, or acquaintances with respect to when the individual was born.
Newfoundland vital records are somewhat sparse. As previously noted, Newfoundland is located on an island in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Canada, while Labrador is on the mainland, but along the Atlantic coast. Both are quite isolated areas.
Men of the cloth from different denominations would be assigned circuits, but travel was very difficult in these remote areas. Even today, many areas have no roads, and can only be reached by boat or float plane.
Some villages were visited every six months, with the clergyman travelling on the boats that brought supplies to the area. Marriages and christenings were performed during the short period that the visiting clergyman was there.
Other villages saw the clergyman whenever he could make it to their area, with the assistance of fishing boats, etc.
Most Newfoundland vital records start in the 1800s, with some as early as the 1820s, and some as late as 1949.
The majority of Newfoundland vital records are parish records, recorded in registers which the clergyman carried with him from place to place.
A number of these books were destroyed by fires; at least two of them were "reconstructed" by the clergyman, most likely with the assistance of the families involved.
The Archives do not have the parish records in their possession. Those records belong to the church where they were created. It is up to the particular church to determine the number of years of records it will make available for genealogicalpurposes.
A number of 'finding aids' have been compiled to assist with finding individuals christened, married, or buriedin Newfoundland and Labrador, both in the cities and in the various remote outposts and villages.
A number of religious groups were at work in the area. Those for which there currently are Parish Records Finding Aids are the following:
There are also two appendices to the Finding Aids, which could prove very useful in searching for Newfoundland vital records:
For general information about divorce records in Canada, see my page Canadian Divorce Records.
As previously noted, Newfoundland was a British colony until 1949, when it joined Canadian confederation.
All divorces prior to 1968 were handled by private Act of Parliament.
Divorce records are located in the different offices of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division)
The civil records listed above (births: 1891 - 1899; marriages: 1891 - 1922; and deaths: 1891 - 1949) are availableon microfilm. They can be searched at the Archives, and are also available to be ordered through your local FamilyHistory Centre of the Latter Day Saints.
Community Indexes are available for the civil registers. The index lists each town or village, and indicates whereits records are located, either in the registers, or on the microfilm.
The drawback, of course, is that you have to know where your ancestor was born, married or buried, as the case may be, before you can find them using the index, as it takes you to a particular village.
The Parish Records Finding Aids currently are not available online, and can only be searched at the Rooms. However, an online version is being developed.
The Rooms Provincial Archives are located at the following address:
Telephone: (709) 757-8000
The Rooms do not provide copies of documents. That service is available from the Vital Statistics Division. Their contact details are as follows:
Vital Statistics Division
The Rooms do provide a searching service, for those unable to travel to their location. They will search an 11-yeartime period for an individual record dated prior to 1892 for a fee, which will either produce a copy of the record or an indication that the search did not bear any fruit.
If a certified copy of the record is required, an additional fee is payable.
As of 2011, the fees were $22.60 for a search, and an additional $22.60 for a certified copy.
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