Civil registration of vital statistics began in Nova Scotia in 1763 with the introduction of procedures for obtaining a marriage licence; the procedure was optional and the surviving records are incomplete. Formalized registration of births, deaths and marriages began in 1864 and continued to 1877, at which time record-keeping lapsed for births and deaths, but continued for marriages. Compliance was not universal during this period and there are gaps in the surviving records. Since 1 October 1908, birth, death and marriage registrations have been collected and maintained continuously.
A 'delayed' registration procedure was also available at the Vital Statistics Office for many years after 1908, to accommodate individuals born in the province before 1908 who wanted their births officially recorded, or who required proof-of-birth in later life when applying for passports, pensions and similar evidence records. The surviving registrations include individuals born in Nova Scotia as early as 1836, but by their very nature (optional, voluntary registration) the records are incomplete.
Responsibility for collecting and maintaining active records lies with Vital Statistics, a branch of Service Nova Scotia.
Responsibility for preserving and providing access to inactive records lies with the Nova Scotia Archives. Read archival information about the Deputy Registrar General's Office (now called Vital Statistics) and its responsibilities.
A new records-retention schedule developed by Vital Statistics in 2004 for the management of birth, marriage and death registrations has shortened their active life and accelerated their transfer to the Nova Scotia Archives for permanent archival preservation and public access.
According to the new schedule, records become inactive and are transferred annually to the Archives as follows:
- Births: 100 years after the end of the year in which the birth was registered
- Marriages: 75 years after the end of the year in which the marriage was registered
- Deaths: 50 years after the end of the year in which the death was registered
All records managed by Vital Statistics are indexed electronically during their active life; these indexes are shared with the Nova Scotia Archives at the time of transfer. Because of overlap and interfiling in the manual storage systems maintained by Vital Statistics in the first half of the 20th century, not all paper records created in a particular year will necessarily be transferred to the Nova Scotia Archives with the main body of records for that year.
Upon arrival at the Nova Scotia Archives the paper records are digitized, then microfilmed to archival-quality standards to ensure their security and long-term preservation. The digital images are migrated into the master database system, where they are matched and integrated with the name indexes.The information (images plus linked names) is then uploaded to the public database.
Full information and one million digitized birth, marriage and death records are available online at novascotiagenealogy.com.