Originally printed in 'The Journal of the Victoria Genealogical Society, v.21, #4,
CONVICT DEATHS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA, 1875-1916
by Hugh Armstrong
The Sessional Papers of the Parliament of Canada provide a wide
range of unusual genealogical records that are hidden among all the
government reports that every department is required to produce
yearly. While modern reports do not often contain personal names,
older ones, particularly pre World War One, may be a genealogical
Military records may include promotions, routine postings or
medal lists. Civil service lists were published regularly giving
postings, usually including a date of birth, and results from civil
service exams. Petitions for a multitude of reasons may have from
one to hundreds of names.
The Penitentiary or Justice Departments produce a yearly report
that up to the 1916 Sessional Papers contained many names of the
convicts in penitentiaries and asylums run by the Government of
Canada. Lists of convicts received, pardoned, paroled or died were
among the lists included. The amount of information available on
each convict varied considerably.
In an effort to add a few more names to the BCCFA and OCFA I
went through the Penitentiary reports and extracted names of
convicts that died in the B.C and Kingston Penitentiaries to 1915.
There are 38 names for B.C. and 536 for Kingston. Additionally there
were 3 'no names given' for B.C. and several years in the 1850s and
1860s that the Kingston report only issued statistics (another 200
dead). To supplement the data death registrations, coroner reports,
censuses and newspapers were consulted.
It is sad to see that such a poor job was done documenting the
Indian and Chinese convicts. A minimum effort was made to record
their names and until 1904 none of their deaths were registered.