Until recent years, the local church was quite commonly the centre of social as well as religious life in Prince Edward Island communities. As such, church records can be one of the most useful sources of marriage and baptismal information, family members names, and other vital statistics prior to 1906. Records that have not been lost or destroyed by fire or flood have been preserved on microfilm and can be found among the Public Archives and Records Office holdings. Baptismal records for the period between 1886 and 1906 and post-1906 official birth, marriage and death records are kept at the Prince Edward Island Vital Statistics office in Montague, Prince Edward Island.
The provincial Archives and Public Records office has catalogued an alphabetical listing of Island baptisms performed prior to 1886. Pre-1906 death and burial records prior to 1906 have also been alphabetized and the Master Name Index records marriage returns from the clergy for the 18321923 period. In accordance with the wishes of individual Churches, access to some records may be restricted. All Catholic Church records after 1900, for instance, are sealed.
Cemeteries are a unique source of information for genealogists. With at least one and often three or more churches in every Island community, there are cemeteries scattered across the province. Church cemeteries are easily accessible sources of birth and death dates, places of origin, spouses names, predeceased children and, in some cases, poetic eulogies. Families were often buried together so that once it is confirmed that an ancestor has been buried, for example, in Indian River Cemetery, researchers will be better equipped to further seek out church records or community documents. Tombstones have been made with many different materials, varying from a soft slate to impervious granite. So, in an effort to preserve this resource so vulnerable to the elements, inscriptions have been copied from gravestones in cemeteries of all denominations from one end of the Island to another. These transcripts are available through the Prince Edward Island Genealogical Society.
Along with primary sources such as censuses, community directories, deeds, and court records, an exploration of church records and cemetery tombstones are an essential step in retracing Island family roots. These churches and graves hold special significance in that they may represent the only tangible vestiges of ones ancestors presence in an Island community.