Ontario Civil Registration

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Online Records[edit | edit source]

Births[edit | edit source]

Marriages[edit | edit source]

For a limited period of time prior to 1858, clergymen of faiths other than Anglican and Roman Catholic were asked to record marriage information in district marriage registers. Not all clergymen complied.
From 1858 to 1869, the province required the counties to keep marriage registers. Clergymen of all faiths were supposed to record information from their parish registers in county marriage books.

Deaths[edit | edit source]

Divorces[edit | edit source]

"This database includes the names of the spouses, places of residence at the time of the marriage and divorce, other marriages (if noted), and dates of marriage and divorce (the date when the act became law) for divorce acts from this period. The original records may include additional information such as other places of residence, occupations, additional court action taken, and number of children (and occasionally their names or genders), if any. The very restrictive grounds for the cost of a divorce made them quite rare; the records are, however, worth obtaining when they apply".[1]

Background and History of Ontario Vital Records[edit | edit source]

  • Civil governments create records of births, marriages, and deaths. Records containing this information are commonly called civil registration, vital statistics, or vital records, because they refer to critical events in a person's life.
  • The practice of recording civil vital statistics developed slowly in Ontario. Except for some marriages reported by justices of the peace, nearly all of the vital records created before 1 July 1869 came from church records.
  • These are very important documents for genealogical research, although the births, marriages, and deaths of many people have never been recorded by civil authorities. Before 1869, only marriages were recorded by civil authorities. Births and deaths in Ontario were not recorded until 1869.
  • Although they were designated by 1800, Ontario counties did not always have their own governments. Early Ontario was divided into a varying number of districts, and each district included several counties. Most government records were organized on the basis of those districts. For further information, see Ontario, Canada, Boundary Changes and Maps.
  • Only a few marriages were reported to district authorities between 1801 and 1831. Many more marriages were recorded in district marriage registers between 1831 and 1857. By 1858, the counties had become functioning governments in southern Ontario, and marriage registers were kept by counties.
  • Civil authorities requested local clergy to turn in copies of their marriage records to local governments. Copies of these copies were then made and forwarded to district or county authorities. Those copies were then copied into register books. Therefore, the register books are a copy of a copy of a copy of the original church records. Mistakes could have been made at any step in the process.

Contents of Records[edit | edit source]

Births: Birth registrations include:

  • the year of birth,
  • name, gender
  • father's name
  • mother's maiden name
  • father's rank or occupation
  • signature and residence of informant (usually a relative)
  • accoucheur's name (the person assisting with the birth)
  • registration date, registrar's signature
  • county/district of registration (an exact city, town or township is normally not given in the records for the earliest years).

Marriages (1801-June 1869): There is a lot of variation in recorded information for marriages. It can be very limited in the early years:

name of groom, bride, and clergy
  • location, date and religious denomination of ceremony).

Marriages (July 1869 and after): There is information about each person and about the marriage.
About each person:

  • Name
  • age
  • place of residence and birth
  • marital status (bachelor/ widower, spinster / widow), occupation
  • father’s name
  • mother's maiden name
  • religious denomination.

About the marriage:

  • Location and date marriage occurred,
  • witnesses' names and residences
  • name of clergy conducting the marriage
  • whether marriage was by issuance of a marriage license or publication of banns
  • registration date.

Deaths: The records may include:

  • the deceased person’s name
  • age
  • sex
  • religious affiliation
  • rank or profession
  • birthplace
  • cause of death
  • name and description of informant
  • registrar's name
  • date registered
  • county/ district of registration.

Registrations after 1907 may also include:

  • the place of burial and the
  • name of the parents.[2]

Pathfinders Research Guides for Using Microfilms (Archives of Ontario and Family History Library)[edit | edit source]

These guides have detailed step-by-step instructions and links in a logical pattern of methods for locating birth, marriage, and death records, using the microfilms at the Archives of Ontario, and at the Family History Library. They do not apply to the online records:

FamilySearch Library Microfilms[edit | edit source]

Archives of Ontario[edit | edit source]

  • The Archives of Ontario receives Vital Statistics records from the Office of the Registrar General of Ontario on an annual basis. These records contain indexes (where they exist) and registrations capturing information about births, marriages and deaths in Ontario.
  • Records are made available from the Archives of Ontario in Toronto.
  • For complete instructions, see the Archives of Ontario research guide: Vital Statistics Records.
  • As of September 2020 (additional records are added each year), the available records include:
    • Births, 1869-1919
    • Marriages, 1801-1939 (there may be gaps before 1869)
    • Deaths, 1869-1949
  • For more recent records, the researcher may apply to the Registrar General of Ontario. There are restrictions on record access and a fee is required. Online Certificate Application.

Archives Research Guides[edit | edit source]

Marriage Bonds[edit | edit source]

"Gretna Green" Marriage Places[edit | edit source]

Some Ontarians were married in the United States because requirements were less strict there than in Canada. When an eloping Ontario couple's marriage is not in their home county, search for it in alternate places (nick-named "Gretna Greens" after a popular elopement town in Scotland) like:[3]

Divorce Records[edit | edit source]

Divorce files are typically filed at the county courthouse where the divorce hearing took place. They may include the petition for divorce, affidavits, the degree nisi and the decree absolute (also referred to as the judgement absolute). Some files may also include examinations, documents relating to child custody, copies of marriage certificates and photographs of the people involved. In order to find a divorce file, you need to know when the divorce took place. There are three sources of records for divorces in Ontario. They cover the periods 1867 to 1930, 1931 to 1986, and 1987 to the present.

1867 to 1930[edit | edit source]

  • Until 1930, only the Federal Parliament could grant a divorce in Ontario through a Resolution or an Act of Parliament. Couples had to have a private member’s bill (a bill that a Member of Parliament presented to the House of Commons) requesting that their divorce be granted.
  • All divorces granted by the Federal Parliament are indexed: Index to Canadian Parliamentary Divorces 1826-1946.
  • Divorces granted between 1867 and 1930 are also indexed in a book titled Index to Canadian Parliamentary Divorces, 1867- 1930, by J. Brian Gilchrist and Nancy J. Duffy. This book is available in the Archives of Ontario’s Reading Room and in major public libraries (WorldCat).
  • For a certified copy of the Resolution or Act of Parliament for a divorce (needed for legal purposes), you must contact:
Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
Senate of Canada
1310-40 Elgin Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0A4
Telephone: 613-992-2416

1931 to 1986 and 1987 to the Present[edit | edit source]

See Finding Divorce Files in Ontario for details.

Using Newspapers[edit | edit source]

In order to narrow your search, you may wish to consult historic newspapers. Ontario divorce proceedings and decrees were rountinely published in newspapers such as The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star (formerly the Toronto Telegram). Back issues of The Globe and Mail and Toronto Star are available as part of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database which is available free of charge in-person at most libraries in Southern Ontario. Some Ontario libraries also allow online access to ProQuest with a library card number.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Canada Parliamentary Marriage and Divorces, 1867-1919," at Ancestry.com, https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/5776/, accessed 29 November 2020.
  2. Vital Statistics Records. Archives of Ontario. http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_202_vital_statistics_EN.pdf, accessed 6 October 2020.
  3. Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at Arlene H. Eakle(accessed 8 January 2011).