Searching for Birth, Marriage and Death Records in the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia
The search for birth, marriage and death records can be a laborious and time consuming process, especially if you do not live near to the place where the event was originally recorded. This step-by-step guide should therefore help you to locate records of births, marriages and deaths that occurred in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, both in the recent and more distant past.
Older Birth, Marriage & Death Records
Civil registration in Nova Scotia began in 1864 and ran until 1876. There was then a lapse until civil registration began again on October, 1 1908.
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM) holds birth records for the 1864 to 1877 period. It is also the repository for pre-1931 marriage records, including marriage bonds, some of which date back to 1763. In addition, the death records held by NSARM cover the periods from 1864 to 1876 and from October, 1 1908 to 1956.
Birth records covering the 1864 to 1877 period can be consulted and copied at NSARM. The contact details of the archives are:
- Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management
- 6016 University Avenue
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
- B3H 1W4
- Telephone: (902) 424-6060
The opening hours of the archives can be viewed on this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/using/hours.asp
If you are unable to visit NSARM in person, you may request a copy of a particular birth record by post. Refer to the section below entitled ‘Requesting Copies of Birth, Marriage & Death Records from NSARM’ for a step-by-step guide.
Marriage bonds dating from 1763 to 1864 are available for consultation at NSARM and bonds from the 1763 to 1849 period are contained in the Marriage Bonds Database which is available online (see below). It should be noted that marriage bonds were not compulsory and were only a statement of intention to marry, so the existence of a marriage bond is no guarantee that the marriage actually went ahead.
If you wish search the Nova Scotia Marriage Bonds Database 1763-1864, follow this procedure:
- Visit http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/databases/bonds/
- In the ‘enter a search’ box, fill in the groom’s name, the bride’s name or the date of the marriage bond.
- From the drop-down box headed ‘select a search field,’ select which field of the database you wish to search. If you select ‘search (s),’ all fields will be searched.
- Click on the ‘search’ button
- A list of search results will then appear on screen with the date of the marriage bond and the names of the future bride and groom. Scroll down the list until you find the marriage you are looking for and then check the ‘view’ box on the right hand side.
- You will then be able to view the complete record of the marriage bond. The amount of information on each of the marriage partners varies from bond to bond, but the following information may be included:
- Full names of bride and groom
- Current marital status of bride and groom (i.e. before their marriage)
- Current places of residence of the bride and groom (i.e. before their marriage)
- Occupation of the groom (and also possibly the occupation of the bride)
Marriage records from 1864 onwards are arranged by county of Nova Scotia, so it is important to know the county in which the marriage you are searching for took place. Earlier records, dating from 1864 to around 1912, can be consulted in person at NSARM. Later records from around 1912 to 1930 are currently being microfilmed, so it is not possible to consult them in person. It is, however, possible to request a copy of a particular registration from this period. See the section below entitled ‘Requesting Copies of Birth, Marriage & Death Records from NSARM’ for details on how to do this.
A list of the counties of Nova Scotia and the exact years for which records are available for public consultation at NSARM is given at the foot of this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/vitalstats/marriage.asp
Death registrations date from 1864 to 1877 and then from October, 1 1908 onwards. The 1864 to 1877 records can either be consulted in person at NSARM or copies can be requested from the Archives. Death registrations covering the period from October, 1 1908 to 1955 are not yet available for direct public consultation but copies of these documents can be requested from NSARM. The section entitled ‘Requesting Copies of Birth, Marriage & Death Records from NSARM’ explains how to do this.
In addition, two death registers can be consulted online. They contain the records of 17,890 deaths in the city of Halifax between 1890 and 1908. Anyone can search these databases through the Internet free of charge by following these steps:
- Go to: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/vitalstats/death/halifax/
- Fill in the online search form with at least one detail. Use the drop-down boxes after the ‘surname’ and ‘given name’ boxes to select whether you wish to search for exact matches to the name(s) you have typed in or for matches beginning or ending with the letter(s) or part of the name you have typed in.
- Click on the ‘search’ button at the bottom of the form.
- A list of results will appear on screen with the name of each deceased person and the year and month of their death.
- On the right hand side of the screen you will see a column headed ‘view.’ Scroll down the list and check the box in the ‘view’ column for each record you wish to view.
- Once you have checked ‘view,’ the deceased person’s name, date of death and age will appear on screen, together with a digital image of the page of the register in which their death is recorded.
- If you wish to view the digital image more closely, you will need to download software called Viewpoint Media Player. If you don’t already have this software installed on your computer, a ‘download’ button will automatically appear on your screen when you click on the digital image. You can then download Viewpoint Media Player by clicking on this button and then selecting ‘run.’ You will then need to read and agree to the license agreement before the download is complete.
- If you then click on the page from the register and navigate using the arrow keys that appear on screen, you will be able to read the entries more clearly and search for the full information on death that you are researching. Some or all of the following information on the deceased person will be recorded:
- Full name
- Age at death
- Marital status
- Place of birth
- Occupation (or the occupation of the head of the family)
- Date of death
- Cause of death
- Last residence
- Attending physician
- Place of burial
- Other remarks
Requesting Copies of Birth, Marriage & Death Records from NSARM
If you are unable to visit NSARM in person, you can apply for a copy of a particular birth, marriage or death record by following these steps:
- Download the order form from: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/vitalstats/vitalstats.pdf
- Print and fill in the order form
- Consult the schedule of fees at the foot of this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/vitalstats/order.asp
- Enclose a check or money order for the correct fee, denominated in Canadian Dollars and made payable to ‘Public Archives of Nova Scotia’
- Send the completed order form and check or money order to:
Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management
6016 University Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia CANADA
- It should take around ten working days for your order to be processed.
If you have a large amount of research to carry out, you can engage the services of a professional genealogical researcher. A list of certified researchers can be consulted on this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsarm/using/hiring.asp
More Recent Birth, Marriage & Death Certificates
Nova Scotia Vital Statistics is the repository for birth records dating from October, 1 1908 to the present day; marriage certificates from 1931 onwards; and death certificates from 1956 onwards.
In order to reduce the risk of identity theft, only certain people are eligible to request a certified copy of a birth certificate issued in Nova Scotia. Consult the information sheet on this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/pdf/vstat/BirthCertAnnounce.pdf in order to determine whether you are eligible.
It is also necessary to decide whether you require a birth, marriage or death certificate in either long or short format. Details of the information included on each type of birth certificate, together with the relevant prices, are available on this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/vstat/certificates/birth.asp For details of the long and short format marriage certificates, go to: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/vstat/certificates/marriage.asp and information on the different types of death certificates can be found on this webpage: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/vstat/certificates/death.asp
It is possible to request a birth, marriage or death certificate online and securely pay the required fee with your credit card. In order to do this, follow these steps:
- Go to: http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/vstat/ and click on either ‘Birth Certificate Request,’ ‘Marriage Certificate Request’ or ‘Request Death Certificate,’ as appropriate
- Fill in the first page of the electronic application form
- Click on ‘continue’ at the bottom of the page
- The remainder of the electronic application form will appear. Fill in the rest of the form and click on ‘continue’
- You will then be asked to verify the information you have given and confirm that it is correct
- Enter your credit card details so that the required fee can be debited. Visa, MasterCard and American Express credit cards may be used.
- You will then receive a confirmation of your request and your payment details. It is a good idea to print the confirmation for your own records.
- Your request should be processed within ten working days.
With the online and offline resources available, it should not be long before you locate the information you are seeking, whether it was recorded quite recently or many years ago.