PEI Vital Records:
Births, Marriages, and Deaths

European settlement on Prince Edward Island (PEI) began in 1534. Any PEI vital records that far back (if they still exist) would be in parish church records – either Roman Catholic or Anglican, depending on which country France or England, respectively - was in control during a particular time period.

PEI Flag

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.



Privacy Considerations

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:

  • Births – 120 years after the date of the event

  • Marriages – 75 years after the date of the event

  • Deaths – 50 years after the date of the event. The cause of death, however, is never transferred; if anyone wants to know the cause of death, application must be made to the Vital Statistics Office, and specific requirements must be met before access to the information will be granted.

  • Divorces – 30 years after the date of the event


This means, then, that as of 2011, the following PEI vital records are available to the public:

  • births before 1891
  • marriages prior to 1936
  • deaths before 1961 (other than the cause of death), and
  • divorces prior to 1981.

Baby Sucking Fingers.
Wikimedia Commons

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.

Civil Registration

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.

Immaculate Conception Church
Palmer Road, PEI
Public Domain

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.

Province House, Charlottetown, PEI. Public Domain

Divorce

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?

A number of records can be accessed, both online and on microfiche or microfilm, or in card catalogues. For an extensive listing of what is available if you are able to visit the PARO, and of online databases, see the Public Archives and Records Office.

Records Available online or by inter-library loan

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:

  • Phase 1 of the Master Name Index (the index to pre-1886 church baptismal records); and
  • church records

The following locations have complete sets of the Master Name Index:

  • the Eptek National Exhibition Centre in Summerside, PEI;
  • the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, MA;
  • the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, Toronto, ON;
  • Montreal Central Library, Montreal, QC; and
  • the Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana.



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