Originally, back in the 1500s, PEI was part of the French colony of Acadia, and was known as Ile St-Jean. It was subject to several raids or invasions, by the British and the New England colonies, over the next 200 years. Ultimately, under the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which ended the Seven-Year War, Britain was granted control of the island.
As with most other jurisdictions, Prince Edward Island has privacy legislation in place which governs when a vital record will be transferred to the Public Archives and Records Office. Those restrictions are as follows:
This means, then, that as of 2011, the following PEI vital records are available to the public:
Curiously, however, baptismal records are not subject to any restrictions. All baptismal records were transferred from the PEI Vital Records Office to the Public Archives and Records Office (PARO) in 2008, when the legislation allowing the transfer of the records to the PARO was passed. Perhaps the reasoning behind it was that not everyone is baptized, or christened, shortly after birth, and therefore it is not really possible to tell a person’s approximate age or year of birth from their baptismal record.
Prince Edward Island began recording births as of 1840, although registering births with the government did not become mandatory until 1906. The National Archives therefore has very little, in terms of births registered prior to 1891 under the civil registration system.
There also was a system of optional marriage licenses and marriage bonds in place, dating from the late 1700s.
Death registrations became mandatory in 1906.
Civil registration of marriages began in 1886.
As of these dates (1886 for marriages, and 1906 for births and deaths), the information that was recorded for each category was standardized, and what you can expect to find in each record is much more predictable than what is in the parish registers.
Prior to 1906 for births and deaths (with the exception of some births registered between 1840 and 1906), and prior to 1886 for marriages, the main source of documentation for PEI vital records is the parish church registers.
As there was no requirement to keep specific details with respect to each event, the contents of the records vary widely. Also, the registers were subject to the usual perils of time, fire, flood, mould, and other elements which tend to result in the deterioration or destruction of the records.
For general information about divorce records in Canada, see my page Divorce Records in Canada.
Prince Edward Island has had a Court of Divorce since 1835.
The PEI Public Archives and Records Office holds records from 1835 to 1980.
More recent records, as well as finding aids for the complete series, are located at Sir Louis Henry Davies Law Courts.
What records are available?
Ancestry has the "Acadia, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1670-1946" in its collection, which includes any French records from the era that the province was part of Acadia.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has a number of PEI vital records microfilmed, which can be ordered through the local Family History Centre, worldwide. These include the following:
The following locations have complete sets of the Master Name Index:
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