James Johnstone has researched around 300 houses in
Vancouver. Here is a summary of his costs:
"Researching your home's history requires anywhere from
two to sometimes five days. Inputting, editing and printing all
this information takes at least another full day. Depending on
how old your home is, you can expect to pay anywhere from $500
to $2,000 plus. This price is based on the Vancouver Historical
Society's recommended rate of $25 per hour for home history
research services. Costs for copies of historical photos or maps
are extra." A typical cost is around $1,000.
West Vancouver Museum and Archives plans to offer research
for a fee. Details will be incorporated when available.
Few of us have the time or skills to match a professional
researcher in the extent of information gathered on a house.
However, a limited amount of time can go a long way an
afternoon or two at the Archives, a couple of evenings poking
around on the web, and some conversations if possible with
neighbours or former residents can result in a pretty good
Here are some notes to get you going, based on research by
ourselves and other contributors to the North Shore Heritage
Network. More detailed guides to house research published by the
North and West Vancouver Archives follow.
For all districts, start by checking if your
house is listed in the Heritage
Inventory if so, someone will have done at least some of the
work for you. There are copies of the published Heritage Inventories
for the City of North Vancouver, District of North Vancouver and West Vancouver
in the North and West Vancouver Archives. If your house is on the
register, the planning department of your municipal district should
have a file on your house.
For West Vancouver, see the Municipal Hall section of the research guide in Appendix
The City of North Vancouver (141 West 14th
Street) has a file on each
property listed on the CNV Heritage Inventory. These were prepared
for the 1994 inventory and vary in the amount and type of
information, depending on the documentation available. At a minimum,
a building permit, photos and some archival photos are available, as
well as the inventory worksheet. These files are currently
unavailable as they are being used for an update of the Heritage
Inventory, but should be available again in late 2005.
The District of North Vancouver similarly has
research on all houses on its inventory, with details from local
historian Roy Pallant. Copies of these are available at District
West Queens) or from Roy Pallant himself.
For contact details for all three districts,
A second place to start in North Vancouver is a list of building
permits in the Archives, which is cross-referenced by
architect, builder and owner.
The Archives in North and West Vancouver both have sets of
annual city directories of properties cross-referenced to
owners, covering Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver.
The North Vancouver Archives has the more comprehensive
collection, dating back further, but West Vancouver Archives has
a full set from the late 1930s. (West Vancouver Archives also
has tax assessment rolls dating to 1913.)
These directories date back to the early 1900s and further,
mostly in the original format, with some on microfilm. First,
look up the occupant under the address, then look up the name
for further detail on their occupation or status, sometimes
their employer. If you don't have time to go through every
directory, sample every few years. It's important to note that
these record the occupants, not the owners, of properties, so
frequent turnover may indicate that the property was rented. For
ownership, you have to look up the land titles in New
Westminster. There may also be discrepancies or time lag in the
records -- for example, one occupant of a house said she lived
there until 1937 or 1938, but the family only showed up at their
new address in the directory for 1940.
North Vancouver Archives also has fire insurance maps
from 1910, 1930, 1965. West Vancouver Archives has fire
insurance plans from 1930 and 1938.
of your house, neighbourhood or former residents may be available at
the North and West Vancouver Archives.
You can search the North Van Archives for photos through their
Go to the NVMA website, which works best with Internet Explorer:
http://www.dnv.org/nvma/ Go to the Collections section, select Archives Database,
then, for example, search for your road name under Keyword.
The BC Archives website carries details of birth, death
and marriage certificates, for which you can search online look for the Vital Events section, and then search on All
Vital Events Indexes. Use this to gather more detail on the
residents listed in the city directories.
Actual death certificates, which show details of birth,
parents and so on, are available at the Vancouver Public
The accurate dates of vital events determined using the BC
Archives website can lead to other useful information. The North
Vancouver City Library has back copies of local newspapers
such as The Express (1905-1912), North Shore Press
(1913- late 1940s) and North Shore News on microfiche.
Similarly, the West Van Archives has copies of Lions Gate
Times, West Van News and North Shore News on
If you look at the newspapers immediately following
a vital event (birth, marriage or death), announcements in the
newspapers can be very useful for finding the names of relatives
or club associations. Those associations can be useful for
finding early photographs of former residents or your property. If you are lucky,
you may also stumble across something, like an announcement of
the original building permit but it takes a lot of time
checking through each paper for limited results. There are no
indexes. You can make printouts.
The City of North Vancouver Council can provide blueprints
of house plans, with copies available for a fee. West
Vancouver's Municipal Hall has a variety of resources, such as
permits and plans (see following guide).
For details on the original and subsequent ownership title
to the house in other words records of the owners rather than
occupants you need to approach the BC Land Title & Survey
Authority in New Westminster.
The website is www.ltsa.ca,
but you cannot search for past titles online.
The authority suggests that anyone seeking a history of their
house's ownership and transfers write in with their request,
including the legal description (lot and plan number) of the
property, plus an open cheque for an amount "not exceeding
$100." They would then contact you if the cost were more.
With old houses, they say they are not able to give a clear
estimate of the cost, but indicate that it should not be more
than $100-200. The work would take six to eight weeks. A
professional researcher or land title search agent would be able
to conduct the research faster, but would be more expensive (see Title Search in the phone
The LTSA address is:
New Westminster Land Title Office
Suite 300, 88 6th Street,
New Westminster, BC
Water service records are available through local
councils, and will show when a property was hooked up.
Manufactured gas, a rather nasty brew of combustible gas
produced from heating coal, was supplied to North Vancouver when
the Second Narrows Bridge (now the railway bridge) was rebuilt
By this time, a distribution system had been built to deliver
this gas to homes on the North Shore and the system was expanded
through the 1930s and 40s until it served much of the Grand
Boulevard and Lonsdale areas.
Manufactured-gas was replaced with the natural gas (98%
methane) that we used today in the late 1950s with completion of
the Westcoast Energy pipeline, which brings natural gas to the
Lower Mainland from wells and production facilities in
Northeastern British Columbia.
When the Second Narrows Iron Workers Memorial Bridge was
finally completed in 1960, two 10" pipelines under the
bridge deck were used to bring natural gas to the North Shore
and with the introduction of this clean fuel the gas
distribution grid on the North Shore was greatly expanded.
You can find out more about the history and location of gas
service on your property by contacting Terasen Gas at the
customer service number listed below. Whether you are
planting a shrub or excavating for a new foundation, every
homeowner should know the location of the buried utilities on
their own property. You can find the location of your gas
service and other utilities from BC One Call at the number
North Vancouver historian
Roy Pallant is an experienced and knowledgeable local historian, and
president of the North Vancouver Historical Society. This meets at the
and Archives at
on the second Wednesday of each month, and also publishes a monthly
newsletter. He previously researched all houses on the DNV Heritage
information on municipal heritage programs, please contact:
, Planning Technician at the City of
, at 604-990-4236
Kathleen Larsen, Planning Assistant at the District of North Vancouver, at
, Community Planner at the District of West Vancouver, on 604-925-7055
New Westminster Library publishes a useful guide to
historical research. Although specific to that district, it
gives a useful summary of the process.
With thanks to Francis Mansbridge, John Stuart, Lois Enns,
Carol Howie and Mike Davies for their help in producing this
Vancouver House Research
The following are genealogical resources
held in the North Vancouver Archives.
Building Permits are issued both for main
residences and also for any significant additions to or major
alterations of a building.Permit
indexes for both the City and District of North Vancouver
include the legal description.
of North Vancouver Building Permit Index
lists in table form by address information taken from all
building permits issued by the City of North Vancouver
from 1911 to 1947.It
is also cross-referenced by architect, builder and owner.Includes value of work done.
District of North Vancouver Building Permit Index list in table
form by address information taken from all building permits
issued by the District of North Vancouver from 1922 to 1949.
Plumbing and Drainage Specifications for
the City of North Vancouver 1908-1929.Includes name,
address and date or permit.
Directories.Directories for North Vancouver for both North Vancouver
and the Lower Mainland include listings by both name and address
from 1917 to 1996.As
there is a time lag occasioned by the gathering and publication
of the material, entries for houses built in 1946 (for example)
may not appear until 1947. The listing by address also includes
such information as employment and marital status. 1917-1924 are
on microfilm. The rest are in hard copy.
We also have directories for Moodyville/North
Vancouver for most years from 1871-1916.These list only by name, not address.
Lists for the City of
years are missing.Includes
name and address of voter.Restrictions
apply to the use of these.
many school records, including school annuals, class lists and
We have an extensive photograph collection which includes
information on many houses and their residents.
extensive employee records for Burrard Dry Dock during and for a
few years after World War II.Access to these is generally restricted to the employee
and his or her immediate family.
Published materials containing
general information on DWV
A Place of Excellence by Bruce Ramsay
Building the West edited by Donald Luxton (2003)
Place Names of West Vancouver by Peter Hall (2004)
Heritage Policy Recommendations, prepared for DWV by
Foundation Group Designs (1988)
Destinations Time Walk web exhibit with heritage walks at www.wvma.net
District web site at www.westvancouver.ca
Published materials for
properties of note in DWV
Heritage Inventory prepared for DWV by
Foundation Group Designs (1988)
The West Vancouver Survey of Significant Architecture 1945
1975, Prepared for DWV by F.G. Architectural & Planning
DWV Public Art Inventory compiled by Jayne Shrimpton (2001)
Municipal Hall (780 17th St, Mon-Fri 8:30 to
Requires photo ID and written permission of owner
Permits: History cards on individual properties; filed by
Clerks: Documents and agreements (e.g. easements,
right-of-way, party-to-party agreements) filed by number
indicated on Title Search documents; Council minutes Building: House plans; Legal surveys (not registered at
Planning: Files on primary, secondary and support properties
on the DWV Heritage Inventory
Engineering: Water cards (utility hook-up dates); Legal
plans (registered with Land Titles); Ortho (satellite) photos
West Vancouver Museum & Archives (650 17th
St, Weds-Fri 12:30 to 3 pm/Hours subject to change)
Historical and aerial photograph collections; map collection
Clipping files on areas in West Vancouver
Microfiche of Lions Gate Times, West Van News and North
Shore News (1926-1993)
"Criss-cross" BC Directories (1920, 1921, 1935,
Fire insurance plans and legend (1930, 1938)
Tax Assessment Rolls (1913 to 1930 currently available)
West Vancouver Memorial Library (1950 Marine Drive,
Historical photograph collection
Clipping files on areas in West Vancouver
Books on West Vancouver, heritage, architecture, people, etc.
Discover and interview previous owners/occupants
Talk to your neighbours and long-time residents
Go to local history presentations that are of interest
Look for newspapers in pocket doors, wall lining, dates
written under wallpaper if doing work photograph and document!
Look for plaques or other mementos in attic and basement rafters
Research the style of house, the building materials, its
Related Topics to Research
Research the history of your area, to provide general
background you may often serendipitously find references to
your house or previous owners
Study significant businesses and past residents
The above guide was prepared by Lois Enns, former Archivist at West Vancouver Museum and Archives,
for a workshop on researching house history during North Shore
Heritage Weekend, September 2004.
Copyright 2012 North Shore Heritage
Preservation Society. BC Society