NL GenWeb, frequently asked questions

What is the difference between Parish Records & Vital Statistics?
By Bonnie Hickey

In the 1940's, the Department of Public Health and Welfare (DPHW) asked the various churches in Newfoundland and Labrador to copy and submit their pre 1891 records of baptisms and marriages. Not all churches complied with the request, and the majority that did were of the Protestant faiths. Burial records were not requested by the DPHW, but some of the churches transcribed and submitted them anyhow. These pre 1891 transcribed records were then compiled into volumes of Vital Statistics.

If you contact the Vital Statistics Division of the government of Newfoundland or the Provincial Archives (PANL) and request the birth record of your ancestor who was born before 1891, what you will receive (if you are lucky enough to receive anything) is a true copy of a 1940ish copy of a parish record. If you request a pre 1891 burial record, your chances of receiving anything are very slim because few of the churches submitted burial/death records to the government.

If you contacted the Department of Health or the PANL and did not receive the info you were looking for, it does not mean that the information is not available. Remember, some of the churches did not submit their pre 1891 baptisms and marriages to the government. That means that the information may still be available, but not through the government, only through church parish records.