Image Credit: Correspondence from Norman W. Thompson to Frederick James Tregillus, 1917-1918. BCA MS-0426.

Textual Records

Collection Information

Textual records held by the BC Archives include the official records of both the colonial and provincial governments as well as private papers produced by individuals, businesses and organizations. Our aim in acquiring them is to document all aspects of the political, economic, social and cultural history of the province.

Search the textual records index online, or consult the reference guides and FAQs for more detailed information about resources that might be useful to you.

Colonial Government Records

Among the earliest records at the BC Archives are the records of the colonial government. The Colony of Vancouver Island was established in 1849 and the mainland Colony of British Columbia was established in 1858. The two colonies joined together in 1866 to form the united colony of British Columbia. In 1871 the colony joined confederation and became a province of Canada.

Some colonial record accessions can be searched in the textual records search. More comprehensive descriptions, however, of the records of the colonial governments, including the correspondence files and letter books of the Legislative Council, the Governors and the Colonial Secretary’s office are to be found in the fonds descriptions. In addition, the individual accessions that make up the colonial fonds are described in the “old” government records and manuscripts catalogue in the BC Archives Reference Room.

Government Records

The 60,000 boxes of government textual records held by the BC Archives include records that were received, deposited, or held in any ministry, agency, board, commission, Crown corporation, institution, committee or council reporting or responsible to the government of British Columbia. The majority of these records are covered by the BC Document Disposal Act (RSBC 1996, c.99) which governs the disposition of government records in British Columbia.

We also have some municipal records and copies of Canadian, British and American records that relate to British Columbia.

Some records may be restricted for general research as access to all government records is covered by the BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and other legislation. Court records are also governed by court rules. See "Access Restrictions" on our Plan a Visit page (under Retrievals) for more information.

Non-government Records

Our 20,000 boxes of non-government textual records include records created, accumulated and used by individual persons, families or corporate bodies.

We have ships' logs, Hudson’s Bay Company account books and journals, letters and diaries of gold-seekers, pioneers, missionaries and school teachers, medical case books, literary manuscripts, the papers of natural historians and the personal and family papers of notable settlers and residents of the province. We also have papers and records of many British Columbia clubs and organizations, educational organizations, businesses and industries.

Access to non-government or private records may be subject to donor restrictions and the condition of the records. See Access Restrictions for more information.