Ontario Vital Records

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Registration of marriages began as early as 1801 in various districts and in counties formed from those districts. Province-wide registration by civil authorities of births, marriages, and deaths officially began in Ontario on 1 July 1869. A substantially complete registration was achieved by 1930.

Each year, additional records are made available from the Archives of Ontario in Toronto. As of May 2007, the available records include:

  • Births, 1869-1911
  • Marriages, 1801-1924 (there may be gaps before 1869)
  • Deaths, 1869-1934

These records are on microfilm but not online. Go to Ontario Vital Statistics for more information and an update on the years that are available.

Records, including indexes, that are on film in the Family History Library can be found in the Family History Library Catalog by using the Place Search under ONTARIO - VITAL RECORDS. Conversion lists of the microfilm references between the Archives of Ontario and the Family History Library are available on the Archives of Ontario Web site.

Records after the cutoff dates mentioned above must be obtained from the Office of the Registrar General.

The following website can lead you to all information on vital records including the most updated information that is available online:


Birth and Death Records

Births and deaths were not recorded by civil authorities before 1869. You may find some information on pre-1869 births and deaths in genealogies, histories, church records, newspapers, and collections of personal papers.

An article explaining How to Use the Indexes to Birth and Stillbirth Registrations is found on the Ontario,Canadia Web site.

Film conversions for Ontario records of births to Family History Library film numbers are available at the Ontario Website.

Ontario Registrations 1869-1947--A free index (no images) can be viewed at:  


 Contents may include: birth & death date, birth & death place, parents names, parents birth place, mother's maiden name.

Marriage Records

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. The available county marriage books are on microfilm at the Family History Library, cataloged under ONTARIO - VITAL RECORDS. A series of indexes is now being prepared for these records:

Film conversions from the Ontario, Canada marriage records to Family History Library Film numbers are available.

Britnell, W. E. and Elizabeth Hancocks, eds. County Marriage Registers of Ontario, Canada 1858-1869. Volumes 1-. Agincourt, Ontario: Generation Press, 1979-. (Family History Library book 971.3 V22m.)

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. Microfilms of the available records are at the Family History Library. Consult the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under ONTARIO - VITAL RECORDS.

Marriage bonds were sometimes prepared when the couple were married by license, rather than having banns pronounced in church. Ontario marriage bonds, 1803-1845, have been microfilmed and are at the Family History Library, cataloged under ONTARIO - VITAL RECORDS. An alphabetical index to these records is on Family History Library films 1276180-82. Most have been extracted and published in:

Wilson, Thomas B. Marriage Bonds of Ontario 1803-1834. Lambertville, New Jersey, USA: Hunterdon House, 1985. (Family History Library book 971.3 V29w.)

Some Ontarians were married in the United States because requirements were less strict there than in Canada. Names of many who married in the Buffalo, New York, area from 1840 to 1890 are listed in:

Jewitt, Allen E. Early Canadian Marriages in Erie County, New York. 12 Volumes. Hamburg, New York, USA: Jewitt, 1982. (Family History Library book 974.796 V2j; fiche 6010977-88.)

People from Lambton County., Ontario, Canada and elsewhere in Ontario were married in St. Clair County, Michigan. (Most marriages took place in Port Huron, Mich). These marriages are for the period 1838 to 1898.


Divorce Records

Until 1930 an Act of the Parliament of Canada was required to obtain a divorce in Ontario. The act(s) for a divorce often give detailed genealogical information. Copies are available from the Clerk of the Senate. Provide the names of the spouses and the estimated year of divorce and write to:

The Clerk of the Senate
    Parliament Buildings
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

In 1930, divorce became a matter for the Supreme Court of Ontario. See the “Ontario Court Records” article. Some Ontarians received divorces in United States jurisdictions, even though such divorces had no legal standing in Canada.


The following database is available online for free at FamilySearch Record Search.

  • Ontario Deaths 1869-1947

The following databases are available online for a fee at www.ancestry.com.

  • Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1907
  • Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1857-1922
  • Ontario, Canada Deaths, 1869-1932

The following databases areavailable online at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onvsr/

  • Births 1869-1911
  • Deaths
  • Marriages 1800-1927

Background and history of Ontario Vital Records

Civil governments create records of births, marriages, and deaths. Records containing this information are commonly called 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.

Major government vital records for Ontario before 1869 consist of marriages only. For a description of the types of marriages and what information they contain, see these subsections:

  • District Marriage Registers 1801 to 1857
  • Marriage Bonds 1803 to 1845
  • County Marriage Registers 1858 to June 1869
  • Province-wide marriages 1869–present

These and other vital records are described in detail in Brenda Dougall Merriman, Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records, 3rd edition, and in any of the volumes in the series by Dan Walker and others, The Marriage Registers of Upper Canada/Canada West.

District marriage registers 1801 to 1857

District marriage registers were created by civil authorities from reports sent to them by many Protestant ministers.

Indexes to district marriage registers include:

  • Books that index and include information from some district marriage registers are being published as part of a series called The Marriage Registers of Upper Canada/Canada West.
  • A few district marriage registers have been published separately, such as Edwin A. Livingston, Johnstown District Marriages 1801-1851.
  • Some microfilmed indexes to district marriage registers are included in Marriage Registers 1801-1944. The district marriage registers themselves are also in this collection.

If you did not find the needed marriage in the above indexes, search the indexes to the marriage bonds (mentioned below). They may help you to identify the district where your ancestor or family members married in Ontario between 1803 and 1845. Then search the actual registers which are included in Marriage Registers 1801-1944.

District marriage registers and what they contain

Beginning about 1801, some Protestant ministers were granted legal permission to perform marriages and were requested to report those marriages to district authorities. As other religious groups were given permission to perform marriages, they also were requested to report those marriages.

By 1831, marriages performed by many Protestant groups were being recorded in district marriage registers. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England (Anglican Church) were considered "established" churches, and their marriages were not recorded in district marriage registers.

This table tells you the genealogical information contained in early Ontario district marriage registers.

  • Name of groom
  • Name of bride
  • Date of marriage
  • Name, religion, and residence of the clergyman who performed the ceremony
  • Age of groom
  • Age of bride Residence of groom and bride
  • Names and residences of one or two witnesses
  • Remarks
Marriage bonds 1803 to 1845

Marriage bonds were issued in some cases by a magistrate or a justice of the peace giving a couple license to marry. Some marriages for which there are bonds may also appear in the District Marriage Registers.

Indexes to the marriage bonds include:

A book that indexes many of the marriage bonds and includes information from them is Thomas B. Wilson, Marriage Bonds of Ontario 1803-1834. Microfilmed indexes to the bonds are in Nominal Card Index for the Upper Canada Marriage Bonds. Check the Internet for online indexes.

The microfilmed marriage bonds themselves are included in Marriage Bonds, Licenses and Correspondence of Ontario (Upper Canada) 1803-1845.

Marriage bonds and what they contain

A marriage bond was issued in behalf of a couple who intended to marry. The date the bond was issued may not be the date of the marriage. In some cases, the marriage did not take place. The marriage may have been performed by a magistrate or justice of the peace, rather than a minister.

Most marriage bonds for Ontario are for the years between 1803 and 1845. The two bondsmen, who were friends or relatives of the couple, declared that there was no obstacle to the marriage.

This table tells you the genealogical information contained in early Ontario marriage bonds.

MARRIAGE BONDS 1803 to 1845
  • Names of man and woman who intended to marry
  • Date and place of bond
  • Names and residences of two bondsmen
  • Occupation of man who intended to marry
  • Occupations of the bondsmen
  • Name of the woman's father if she was underage and his permission to marry was required
County marriage registers 1858 to 1869

County marriage registers were created by civil authorities from reports sent to them by ministers of all faiths.

Indexes in book form for most county marriage registers are County Marriage Registers of Ontario, Canada, 1858-1869.

Microfilmed indexes for one or two county marriage registers are listed with the Marriage Registers 1801-1944. The county marriage registers are also listed there.

County marriage registers and what they contain

By 1858, clergy of all faiths were allowed to perform marriages in Ontario. All clergy, including Catholics and Anglicans, were requested to report marriages. If they were reported, they were recorded in the county marriage registers.

This table tells you the genealogical information contained in early Ontario county marriage registers.

  • Name of bride and groom
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Ages of couple at time of marriage
  • Residences at time of marriage
  • Birthplaces of bride and groom (town, province, or country)
  • Groom's rank or profession
  • Names of parents
  • Name of person who performed the marriage (possible clue to family's religion)
  • Names of witnesses (possible relatives)
  • Date of registration
  • Name of township and county where marriage took place, and where it was registered
  • Religion of bride and groom
  • Previous marriage (if any)
  • Signatures of couple and witnesses
Province-wide registration, 1869 to the present