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Contents

Introduction

Church records (registres paroissiaux) are excellent sources for accurate names, dates, and places of births, marriages, and deaths. Many people who lived in Canada were recorded in church records. (In this section, French translations are included for the most common terms used in church records.)

Records of births, marriages, and deaths are commonly called "civil registration" because they record critical events in a person’s life. Church records are vital records made by church officials. They are often called parish registers or churchbooks. Roman Catholic Church records are sometimes called sacramental records.

Canada is a country of religious diversity, even though three-fourths of all Canadians claim affiliation with one of four churches: the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, The United Church of Canada, or the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 by a union of most Methodist and Congregationalist groups and 70 percent of the Presbyterians.

Church records are crucial for pre-Confederation research. Since civil authorities did not begin registering vital statistics in most provinces until after 1867, church records are the major information source before this date. Church records continued after civil registration began in the 1860s or later but often are not as accessible after that date. For civil registration of birth, death, and marriage records See Canadian Vital Records (KP).

For more information about records, see Canadian Religious Records (National Institute).

General Historical Background

Church records began in Canada in the 1620s in Quebec with French Catholic records. These early records were kept according to a 16th-century French law. English-language church records begin in 1749 in Nova Scotia with Church of England records. Canada was dominated by the French until 1763, so most Protestant records begin much later.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church (also called Church of England or Protestant Episcopal Church) had government preference in early times.

Main article: Roman Catholic Church in Canada


Until 1793, the British colonial government in the Canadas (present-day Ontario and Quebec) recognized only marriages performed by clergy of the Catholic and Anglican faiths. This law was gradually relaxed to permit marriages by civil authorities and by ministers of other major religions and was finally abolished in 1858.

Main article: Church of England in Canada


Baptists and Congregationalists from New England were in Nova Scotia by 1760.

The term Congregationalist dates from 1642 when it was applied to the followers of Robert Brown, who about 1580 had formulated a new belief in independent groups or congregations governing themselves and following their individual convictions. The tenets and habits were closely allied to the Baptists and Disciples. The sect was never large and came to Canada about 1820. A complete list of churches is available in “The Congregational Church in Canada: a historical and statistical summary,” by Douglas Walkington (unpublished thesis, 1979, available at the United Church of Canada archives in Toronto). Infant baptism was practiced but was not obligatory; there was open communion for believers. In 1907 the Congregationalists in Canada joined with the United Brethren in Christ, an American group, founded in 1789 by Philip William Otterbein. The congregations were very independent and their record-keeping was often haphazard. In 1925 they all amalgamated with the United Church of Canada. Any surviving former Congregational churches will now be United, and there may be information or registers at the appropriate United Church Archives. Some independent congregations may still be found.[1][2]

Main article: Baptist Church in Canada


Methodists from Yorkshire came to Nova Scotia in the 1770s, and many of the American Loyalists and "late Loyalists" who came to Canada beginning in the 1780s were Methodists.

Main article: Methodist Church in Canada


Some Baptists also came with the Loyalist migration.

There were Lutheran congregations in Nova Scotia by 1772 and in Upper Canada (Ontario) by 1784.

Main article: Lutheran Church in Canada


‘Reformed’ is a generic term referring to churches who were part of the Reformation movement; however, in our sense here they refer to denominations who were called Reformed. These included German churches and, most significantly, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.

The German Reformed churches had close ties with the Lutherans and in many places the church is called the ‘Lutheran and Reformed Church.’ Some early Reformed missionaries in Canada founded Lutheran churches and the differences between them did not affect the Canadian church very much. The Reformed Church in America was founded in the Dutch settlements which became New York, and there were Reformed denominations in the Netherlands itself. They did not have a significant impact in Canada until the immigration of numbers of Dutch in the 20th century.[1]

Although many churches were ‘evangelical’ in nature and perhaps also in name, the use of this epithet in the form ‘Evangelical Association’ and ‘Evangelical Union’ as we see in the census, refers to the work of Jacob Albright, an revivalist in Pennsylvania who founded the union in 1807. His work was largely among Pennsylvania Germans and their Methodist ideas and structures led to these groups sometimes being referred to as ‘German Methodists’ (but see under Brethren below). From the 1830s the group held revivals in Canada.

In 1863 the established churches in Ontario withdrew from their American association and formed their own. They continued to evangelize on the frontiers of Canada. In 1946 the association united with the United Brethren in Christ (the US group) to form the Evangelical United Brethren. Most of the Canadian EUB churches joined the United Church of Canada in 1968, at the time when the American part of their group joined the United Methodist Church in the USA.

The history of the group, A Century in Canada: the Canada conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1964), contains photos and brief histories of all the EUB churches at that time.

Records of these churches should be sought at the church concerned or at the United Church Archives. Records of the Evangelical Association itself, and its mission activities, are said to be at Zion United Church in Kitchener, considered the ‘mother church’ of the Evangelical Association in Canada. However, their records are not well organized and it is difficult to tell exactly what is there.[1]

By the early 19th century the Church of Scotland had come to Canada, along with some "secessionist" offshoots. Those branches of Presbyterianism merged in 1875 to form the original Presbyterian Church in Canada. At the 1891 census, the Presbyterian Church in Canada was the largest Protestant denomination. It remained so until the 1925 United Church merger.

Main article: Presbyterian Church in Canada


The Society of Friends or Quakers rose in the north of England in the mid-17th century, and marked a departure from usual Christian thought. They had no sacraments or clergy, but looked to each lay person to listen within themselves for the voice of God.

Although they suffered the usual persecution initially, the group was accorded some respect by the British government and, although relatively few in number, they were able to continue the practice of their religion. When one of their number, William Penn, founded a new colony in America, he brought many of their practices there.

Canadian Quakers are relatively well documented, largely because of the Canadian Friends Historical Association. Their archives are at Pickering College in Newmarket, Ontario.

An out-of-date listing for the college can be found in Edward Phelps’ Inventory of the Archives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada, (1973).[1]

Mennonites and Amish settlers began arriving in Canada in the late 1700s.

Main article: Mennonites and Amish in Canada


The Disciples of Christ (Church of God) were founded in the 1820s in the United States, and came to Canada in the 1830s through extensive revival meetings. The teachings of the church were close to the Baptists in nature, and were originally welcomed by Scottish Baptists in Wellington County, Ontario. The denomination was never large but had many adherents in mid-19th century Ontario.

The members of the group may be listed in the census under Disciples, Church of Christ or Christian . The record-keeping of congregations was not good, and when an individual church disappeared, any records they had tended to disappear also.

  • An excellent history of the Disciples was published in 1949: History of the Disciples of Christ in Canada since 1830, by Reuben Butchart. See also the Reuben Butchart Fonds at Emmanuel College Library.

The term ‘Brethren’ has been part of the name of a number of groups in the United States and Canada, which can be confusing for researchers. The current Brethren in Christ group, based in Illinois, is an evangelical group whose origins lie with German Baptist groups. It may be that people listed as ‘Brethren’ or ‘Christian Brethren’ in the Canadian census have connections with German Baptists, but any researcher who finds these vague terms associated with their relations would be advised to do some local searching about what churches existed in their area at the time, and then make an educated deduction about what churches might be involved.[3] One group now associated with the Brethren in Christ which had congregations in Canada were the Tunkers (also Tunkards, Dunkers, Dunkards). Members of this group are often found in the same areas as Mennonites and have Anabaptist beliefs, and may be confused with them. They have also been referred to as ‘German Methodists’ although this no longer seems to be at all accurate. A good short introduction to Tunker beliefs and practices can be found in:

  • Mary C. Shantz’s “Discovering the Tunkers,” in the Waterloo Historical Society’s annual volume for 1984[4]
  • “The early years of the Tunkers in Upper Canada”, by E. Morris Sider (Ontario History, v. 51, no. 2 Spring 1959)
  • A historical sketch of the Brethren in Christ Church: known as Tunkers in Canada, by George Cober (1953)[5]

The Moravian church grew out of the German Pietist movement of the 17th century, and began in Bohemia. Initially their practices were Lutheran but they evolved their own litany, while continuing to subscribe to many more conventional Christian beliefs, including both the Nicene and Apostles’ creeds. Their emphasis on missions brought them to America, where they had considerable settlements in Pennsylvania and later at Salem, North Carolina. Their missions to aboriginal peoples brought them to Canada.

Their ideas had considerable influence on other religious groups. For background, look at The Moravian Church in Canada, by John R. Weinlick (1966) and The Founding of the Moravian Church in Western Canada and the Andreas Lilge Story, by Kurt H. Vitt (1983).

A very small group, called the Irvingites, followed the teachings of Edward Irving (1792-1834), initially a Presbyterian minister. He had apocalyptic visions and his teachings included that the Second Coming would occur in 1864. His movement was later known as the Catholic Apostolic Church.

There was a group of his followers in Lambton County, Ontario and there may have been others among Scots and Presbyterians in eastern Canada. A general history is Rowland A. Davenport’s Albury Apostles: the story of the body known as the Catholic Apostolic Church (sometimes called 'The Irvingites') (1970, revised edition 1974).

Very small in number, the Plymouth Brethren were founded in 1831 by an Anglican priest, but their beliefs were evangelical and fundamentalist in nature. Congregations are self-governing and most practiced believers’ baptism. Plymouth Brethren records for Canada are at the Baptist Historical Archives at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Adventism grew up in the United States in the 19th century, and had some adherents in Ontario by 1851 although the church was not officially organized until 1871. The Seventh-day Adventists, the largest group, hold services on the 7th day (Saturday), not the 1st as most Christian churches do, and believe in the Second Coming as an expected event. Questions about their history should be directed to them.

Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada
1148 King Street
East Oshawa, Ontario L1H 1H8
Telephone: (905) 433-0011[6]

For more information about major churches in Canada, look in:

  1. Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing Co., annual. (Family History Library book 971 E4ca.)
  2. Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ontario: Southam Inc., annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.) Editions before 1998 were called:
  3. Corpus Almanac & Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ontario: Corpus Information Services, annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.)

Record-keeping Practices

The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church kept more detailed records than some other religions. Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and other groups, especially those that did not baptize infants, often did not keep church registers unless required by law. You can find a person’s religious affiliation in Canadian censuses beginning in 1851.

Records

Baptisms (baptêmes)

Children were generally christened within a few days of birth. Christening registers usually give the infant’s and parents’ names, names of godparents or witnesses, and the christening date. You may also find the child’s birth date, father’s occupation, and the family’s place of residence. Death information has sometimes been added as a note.

Illegitimate children are listed in French Catholic baptismal records as children of parents inconnus, "parents unknown" and in Anglican records as filius populi or filia populi, a "child of the people."

For additional information, see Canadian Baptismal Records Overview, Examples, and Peculiarities (National Institute).

Marriages (mariages)

Marriage registers may give:

  • Date of marriage.
  • Names of the bride and groom.
  • Notes if the bride or groom were single or widowed.
  • Names of witnesses.
  • The bride’s and groom’s ages, residences, occupations, names of parents, and birthplaces.
  • Names of previous marriage partners.
  • A note whether a parent or other party gave permission for the marriage.

Marriage registers sometimes give the two or three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced in addition to the marriage date. These announcements, called banns, gave opportunity for anyone to come forward who knew any reasons why the couple shouldn’t be married.

Early French Catholic records are usually quite detailed, but Protestant marriage records and civil records often give little information about the parents of the couple until mid-19th century. In Upper Canada the names of the bride’s and the groom’s parents began to be recorded in the county marriage registers in 1858.

Burials (sépultures)

Burials were recorded in the church record of the parish where the person was buried. The burial was usually a day or two after the death in the parish where the person died. However, many burials were not conducted by clergy and were not recorded by the church.

Church burial registers give:

  • Name of the deceased.
  • Date and place of death and burial.
  • (Often) the age, place of residence, and cause of death.
  • Names of survivors.
  • (Occasionally) date and place of birth of deceased.

Items in a burial record may not be accurate if the person giving the information did not have complete information.

There may be burial records for persons born before births and marriages were recorded. However, in some parishes, burial records may start later than the christening and marriage records of that parish.

Locating Church Records

Church records were kept at the local parish of the church. A parish is a local congregation that may include many villages. Your ancestor may have lived in a village and belonged to a parish in a nearby larger town.

To find church records, you must know your ancestor’s religion and the town where he lived. You must determine which parish your ancestor’s town belonged to so you know which parish registers to search.

The town where the church building was located is considered the parish headquarters. In the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog, you will usually find the microfilm numbers for church records under the city, town, or municipality where the parish had its headquarters.

Small villages which did not have their own church were designated as belonging to a particular parish. Over time, some villages, chapelries, or "missions" may have belonged to several parishes as jurisdictions changed.

Church records are stored in places decided by authorities of each denomination and sometimes by the individual congregation. Practices vary widely.

Also see Finding Canadian Church Records (National Institute)

Records at the Family History Library

The Family History Library has many church records from Canada on microfilm. This collection continues to grow as new records are microfilmed. It includes a few records from most provinces plus records from:

  • Most Roman Catholic parishes in Quebec, from the beginning of record keeping through 1899.
  • Many Catholic parishes of Ontario through 1910.
  • Many Protestant records from Quebec through about 1880.
  • Some New Brunswick Catholic parishes.
  • Some Baptist churches in Ontario.

Look in the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the town where the parish or church was, not the town where your ancestor lived. Look under:

[PROVINCE], [COUNTY], [CITY] - CHURCH RECORDS

[PROVINCE], [CITY] - CHURCH RECORDS

Many church records are not cataloged under the city name, but under the province or county. See also:

[PROVINCE] - CHURCH RECORDS

[PROVINCE], [COUNTY] - CHURCH RECORDS

Locating Records Not at the Family History Library

As Canada has no single repository of church records, the location of records depends on the religion and the location of the church.

A few early church records of various denominations have been microfilmed and are available from the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. Public libraries may request an interlibrary loan. These microfilms are described in:

Campeau, Marielle, and Patricia Birkett. Checklist of Parish Registers, 1986. Ottawa: Manuscript Division, National Archives of Canada, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 K23p 1987.) This source lists the available parish registers by place-name within each province. It also gives the National Archives of Canada film numbers. Public libraries can use these numbers to order the films through interlibrary loan.

Provincial archives have some copies of church registers. See "Archives and Libraries" Wiki articles of the provinces for their addresses.

Anglican or Roman Catholic Records. For Anglican or Roman Catholic records, there is no central Canadian repository. Many, but not all, of their records have been transferred to diocesan archives; some are still at the parishes. These guides are helpful:

Guide sommaire des archives des diocèses catholiques au Canada (Abridged Guide to the Archives of Catholic Dioceses in Canada). In French and English. Ottawa: Centre de Recherche en Histoire Religieuse du Canada, Université Saint-Paul, 1981. (Family History Library  book971 K23g; film 1698288 item 6.)

Annuaire de l’église catholique au Canada (Canadian Catholic Church Directory). In French and English. Montreal: B. M. Advertising, annual. (Family History Library book 971 K24a.) This book lists names, addresses, and telephone numbers of Canadian dioceses and parishes.

The Anglican Church of Canada is publishing a series of guides to church records and where they may be found. Some records remain in the parishes and are not listed in these guides. Records pertaining to a particular locality are listed under the diocese where they are stored. The following guides are available:

Guide to the Holdings of the Archives of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land. Winnipeg: St. John’s College Press, 1986. (Family History Library book 971 A3m.) This guide covers ten dioceses in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and northern Ontario. It lists record types and years covered and includes a place-name index.

Guide to the Holdings of the Archives of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. Agincourt, Ontario: Generation Press, 1990. (Family History Library book 971.3 K23.) This guide covers seven dioceses.

Guide to the Holdings of the Archives of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. (Family History Library book 971 K23gh.) This guide covers six dioceses.

These and other inventories are in the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

CANADA - CHURCH RECORDS - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS [or] CATALOGS

[PROVINCE] - CHURCH RECORDS - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS [or] CATALOGS

Presbyterian Records. Many early records have been transferred with those of other constituent churches to The United Church of Canada Archives in Toronto and to other regional United Church archives. Most of the remaining parish records at the Presbyterian Church Archives have been filmed to 1900 or later. They are at the Family History Library. To find microfilm numbers, check the Author/Title Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN CANADA or the Locality Search under the towns of interest to you.

Congregationalist Records. Very few early records are at United Church or Presbyterian archives.

United Church of Canada Records. The size and complexity of the United Church of Canada’s archives warrants a section of its own. The system of regional United Church archives is described in:

First, anyone planning on working in the UCC archives should consult the Guide to Family History Research in the Archival Repositories of the United Church of Canada compiled by the Committee on Archives and History, United Church of Canada (1996) (Family History Library book 971 J5gf). The book provides an historical background for each of the four major components of the United Church (Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, EUB), a description of the archival arrangements, brief summaries of their services and major holdings, advice on conducting genealogical research in the United Church repositories and then a listing of the ten archives, their locations, hours and collections. One chapter covers the histories of The United Church of Canada and of the uniting denominations. United Church Website.

Some records remain in local congregations, called "pastoral charges." Addresses are in:

The United Church of Canada Yearbook and Directory. Etobicoke, Ontario: Department of Education and Information of The United Church of Canada, annual. (Family History Library book 971 K25y. 1982 edition on Family History Library microfilm /1320688 items 8 and 9.)

You may wish to visit:

United Church of Canada Central Archives
Victoria University
73 Queen’s Park Crescent East
Toronto, ON M5S 1K7
CANADA
Telephone: 416-585-4563
Fax: 416-585-4584
Internet: http://unitedchurcharchives.vicu.utoronto.ca/

There are some published works which will help you. For example:

  • A Guide to the Archives of the United Church of Canada: Alberta and Northwest Conference, by Lorraine Mychajlunow and Keith Stotyn (1991) gives an overall picture of this collection
  • Guide to the Local Church Records, Montréal/Ottawa Conference, United Church of Canada, Susan Stanley, general editor (1986) focuses on genealogical materials.
  • A Record of Service: a guide to holdings of the Central Archives of the United Church of Canada, project coordinator Ruth Dyck Wilson (1992, also available on 7 microfiche) may seem at first glance to be just what the family historian ordered, but in fact it concerns the non-BDM records. It does contain a great deal of information and material which will be of use to the more advanced researcher who is looking for more than the registers to work with.

The policy of the United Church now is that any church registers or other record books belong to the overall denomination and should be in the archives if not kept at the local church. Some archivists can be quite determined on this subject and it is advisable not to become involved in discussions on the matter, or in any situations where records are located elsewhere. While it may be possible to find United Church records outside their archives, it is becoming increasingly rare.

A most important step forward for genealogists is that the Archives have placed the Archives database of church record collections on their website as well as a Graphics database.[7]

Other Records. Jewish records of births, marriages, and deaths usually remain with synagogues. A few have been transferred to national or provincial archives. Lutheran Church records often remain with local congregations.

Descriptions of selected church archives in Canada are in:

Archivaria: The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists 30, (Summer 1990), Special Issue on Religious Archives. (FHL periodical 971 B2ar.)

Addresses of many regional church archives are in the following guides, listed in "Archives and Libraries":

Directory of Canadian Archives. 5th ed. Ottawa: Association of Canadian Archivists, 1990. (Family History Library book 971 J54d 1990.)

The Official Directory of Canadian Museums and Related Institutions, 1987–1988. Ottawa: Canadian Museums Association, 1987. (Family History Library book 971 J54dc.)

Addresses of church headquarters in Canada are in:

Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ontario: Southam Inc., annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.) Editions before 1998 were called:

Corpus Almanac & Canadian Sourcebook. Don Mills, Ontario: Corpus Information Services, annual. (Family History Library book 971 B5c.)

Canadian Almanac and Directory. Toronto: Canadian Almanac and Directory Publishing Co., annual. (Family History Library book 971 E4ca.)

Jacquet, Constant H. Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. Nashville, Tennessee: Abingdon Press, annual. (Family History Library book  970 K2 wh.)

Addresses of major archives or central headquarters of some denominations are given below. You can write and ask for names and addresses of their regional archives. The staff of most of these archives cannot search their records for you but may be able to furnish names of professional researchers who can. Some require fees for their services; others appreciate a donation. Do not forget to enclose proper postage or international reply coupons when writing.

Baptist

Many Baptist records have been centralized at McMaster University where they have been filmed by the Family History Library. A larger collection is at Acadia University.

Canadian Baptist Archives
McMaster Divinity College
Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1
CANADA
Telephone: 905-525-9140, extension 23511
Fax: 905-577-4782
Internet: http://www.macdiv.ca/students/baptistarchives.php

(covers all of Canada except the Atlantic Provinces)

Acadia University Archives
50 Acadia Street
Wolfville, NS B0P 1X0
CANADA
Telephone: 902-585-1412
Fax: 902-542-1748
Internet: http://library.acadiau.ca/archives/links/

(Atlantic Baptist Historical Collection)

Lutheran
Archivist
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
302-393 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3B 3H6
CANADA
Internet: http://www.elcic.ca/

Mennonite

Mennonite records are usually gathered into archives.

Mennonite Heritage Centre
600 Shaftesbury Boulevard
Winnipeg, MB R3P 0M4
CANADA
Telephone: 204-888-6781
Fax: 204-831-5675
Internet: http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/programs/archives/

Methodist

See United Church of Canada Central Archives, above.

Presbyterian

Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives and Records Office
50 Wynford Drive
North York, ON M3C 1J7
CANADA
Telephone: 416-441-1111
Fax: 416-441-2825
Internet: http://www.presbyterian.ca/archives/

Society of Friends (Quaker)

These records may be at the central archives or at one of the meetings.

Genealogical Enquiries
The Dorland Room
Pickering College
16945 Bayview Avenue
Newmarket, ON L3Y 4X2
CANADA
Telephone: 905-895-1700
Fax: 905-895-9076
Internet: http://www.quaker.org/

An important guide to Quaker records is:

Hill, Thomas C. Monthly Meetings in North America: A Quaker Index. 4th ed. Cincinnati: Thomas C. Hill, 1997. (Family History Library book 973 K22h 1997. The second (1993) edition of this book is on Family History Library  film 1698282 item 11.) This guide is organized alphabetically by the name of the monthly meeting. It gives the meeting address and sometimes indicates the location of the records. A geographical index lists by province the names of the 50 monthly meetings in Canada.

Very early records of monthly meetings in Canada were sent to the New York Yearly Meeting Archives. These records have now been transferred to:

Friends Historical Library
Swarthmore College
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore, PA 19081
USA
Telephone: 610-328-8496
Internet: http://www.swarthmore.edu/x7556.xml

Some of these early records have been used to compile this early church census, which lists more than 250 Quaker families in Canada:

Fay, Loren V. Quaker Census of 1828: Members of the New York Yearly Meeting, The Religious Society of Friends at the Time of the [Hicksite] Separation of 1828. Rhinebeck, New York: Kinship, 1989. (Family History Library book 974.7 K2fL.) This book contains the names of adults and the names and sometimes ages of children. A "key number" indicates the monthly meeting to which the family belonged.

Records not on microfilm or at a central archives may be in local parishes. If possible, write in French to French-speaking areas, but a letter in good English is better than one in bad French.

When writing to local Canadian parishes for genealogical information, include the following:

  • Check or money order for the search fee, usually about $15.00.
  • Full name and the sex of the person sought.
  • Names of the parents, if known.
  • Approximate date and place of the event.
  • Your relationship to the person.
  • Reason for the request (family history, medical, and so forth).
  • Request for a complete extract or photocopy of the original record.

International reply coupon, available from your local post office, when writing from outside the country. Within Canada, enclose a self-addressed envelope with proper postage.

If your request is unsuccessful, search for duplicate records in other archives or in civil registration offices.

For more information about record location, see Canada Church Archives (National Institute).

Church Record Indexes

Indexes to church records are valuable tools to locate families in Canada, especially in the absence of census indexes. The Family History Library has indexes to many Roman Catholic and a few Protestant records, listing church marriages of Canadian families who settled on both sides of the United States-Canada border. Many of these indexes are of French Canadian families. The following index, with one million marriages, has the most names and the greatest geographical coverage:

Loiselle, Antonin. Loiselle Card Index to Many Marriages . . . (225 rolls of film beginning with 543721.) This source usually lists the names of the bride and groom, their parents’ names, and the date and place of their marriage. The index is arranged roughly in alphabetical order. To find the portion of the alphabet covered by each film, consult Quebec Civil Registration, or see the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under QUEBEC - CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES.

A supplement to the Loiselle index adds many more marriages and covers the Ottawa River valley area of Ontario and Quebec (51 rolls of microfilm beginning with 1571024.)

Drouin Collection Index of French Canadian records 1621-1967
This collection has over 15 million entries for French Canadian genealogical and vital records. It includes Quebec notarial, vital, and church records, Acadian Catholic records, Ontario French Catholic records, early French Catholic records in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, and Wisconsin.

For indexes or repertories of French Canadian Catholic marriages in cities and counties in Quebec and Ontario and parishes in some New England towns, see the Locality Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under appropriate jurisdictions and record categories, such as:

[STATE], [COUNTY], [CITY] - CHURCH RECORDS

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)

Early, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church records for Canadian Wards and Branches can be found on film and are located at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers, for each ward, can be locate through the FamilySearch Catalog. Or by refering to Jaussi, Laureen R., and Gloria D. Chaston. Register of Genealogical Society Call Numbers. 2 vols. Provo, Utah: Genealogy Tree, 1982. (FHL book 979.2258 A3j; fiche 6031507). These volumes contain the film numbers for many (but not all) membership and temple record films.

Research Strategies

Step 1. Identify where your ancestor was living at a given time.

Identify the town where your ancestor was living at a given time, such as when he or she was born, was a child, was married, had children, or died. Your ancestor probably attended a church in a town or city where the family lived.

For help in identifying the town of residence of your ancestor at a given time, see How To Locate Your Ancestor in Canada.

Step 2. Determine which denomination your ancestor attended during that time.

To determine which denomination your ancestor belonged to, consider:

  • Family traditions and artifacts.
  • Which country your ancestor came from.
  • Family histories.

For the relationship between national origin and religious denomination, see Tip 1.

For further suggestions on how to determine which church your ancestor attended, see Tip 2.

Step 3. Find the records of your ancestor's church.

For records available at the Family History Library, search the FamilySearch Catalog. Many church records have been assigned to the town level in the Catalog. To find town records:

  • Click on the Town tab.
  • Select the town of your ancestor.

If you do not find church records for the town, check for church records for the county (if the Province has counties) by clicking the County tab. You may also need to check for records for the province.

Step 4. Search the church records.

Look at a few pages to determine how the church records are organized. Church records may be organized by:

  • Date
  • Event and then by date
  • Event and then in alphabetical order by surname

Once you determine how the records are organized, search the records for your ancestor and for other people in your ancestor's life. See Your Ancestor Had A FAN Club for an explanation of this research principle.

Step 5. Copy the information from the record.

Make a photocopy of the page(s) with the information about your ancestor. By copying the entire page(s), you can study the record in depth and save it for future reference. You can analyze the handwriting and note other details you may have missed when you first looked at the record. You may find other relatives of your ancestor.

Be sure to document the source of the information by writing the title, author, book or film number, and page number on the copy, or photocopy the title page at the front of the book or film. Also write the name of the library, archive, etc., where you found the church records.

Step 6. Analyze the information you found.

Study the document. Compare the information to what you already knew about your ancestor.

  • What new information did you find about your ancestors or their in-laws?
  • Notice the names of witnesses and bondsmen, since they were often relatives or close friends. See Your Ancestor Had A FAN Club for information on this research principle.
  • Did the records mention the church where they formerly lived or moved to?
  • Does the information fit with what you already know about the family?
Use a Timeline to compare what you already knew about your ancestor with the information you found.

For more help on comparing new information with what you already knew about your ancestor, see How to Recognize your Canadian Ancestor.

Tips

Tip 1. The country of origin may help learn the church they attended

Persons from France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Latin American countries were often Roman Catholic and usually attended that church. If your ancestors were from one of these countries and were Protestant, sometimes they were very loyal to their denomination. Other times they may have attended the Protestant church closest to their home.

  • French Huguenots were Protestant.
  • Persons from the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) were generally Lutheran, because the Lutheran church was the state religion in Scandinavia. Immigrants from Scandinavia very likely attended the Lutheran church in Canada.
  • Scottish ancestors very likely attended the Presbyterian church in Canada. The Church of Scotland was the state church in Scotland. It is known in Canada as the Presbyterian church.
  • English ancestors may have attended the Church of England. Also, many ancestors from England belonged to one of the dissenting groups, such as the Quakers.

Tip 2. How can I determine the denomination of my ancestor?

Consider the following, and relate the information to what you know about your ancestor:

  • Some communities only had one church, so most residents would have attended that church.
  • Sometimes an ancestor preferred to attend a church close to his or her home and was not so concerned about what denomination he or she attended.
  • Sometimes an ancestor was strict about which denomination he belonged to and may have traveled some distance to attend his church. Check where persons of that denomination met.
  • In large cities there may have been many churches of an ancestor's denomination. Use city directories together with maps, inventories, and directories of churches to identify which churches of your ancestor's denomination were in your ancestor's neighborhood.
  • It may be necessary to look at the records of all the churches near your ancestor's home to locate your ancestor's church records.

See also Determining an Ancestor's Church in Canada (National Institute)

Canada Previous Research, Part 1 may give you further suggestions on how to identify the denomination of your ancestor.

Tip 3. Finding where church records are kept now?

Sometimes church records were kept in the church and sometimes in the home of the minister. The records may still be at the church, with the present minister, at a local historical or genealogical society, or they may have been deposited in an archive of the denomination.

A wiki article describing this collection is found at:

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Merriman, Brenda Dougall. "Canadian Denominational Background Church of England, Mennonites, Amish, Congregationalist, Baptist (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Canadian_Denominational_Background_Church_of_England,_Mennonites,_Amish,_Congregationalist,_Baptist_%28National_Institute%29.
  2. Merriman, Brenda Dougall. "Canadian Denominational Background Presbyterian, Reformed, Society of Friends, Methodist, Evangelical, United Brethren in Christ (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Canadian_Denominational_Background_Presbyterian,_Reformed,_Society_of_Friends,_Methodist,_Evangelical,_United_Brethren_in_Christ_%28National_Institute%29.
  3. The designation ‘Christian’ in the census can be confusing, because it may refer to members of this sect, to members of the Bible Christian Church, a kind of Methodist, or may simply be the individual’s insistence that they are Christian but belong to no denomination. In the last case, modern researchers have no way of knowing this state of mind of their ancestor.
  4. This item does not have a title, but is referred to as given. The 1984 volume (v. 72) is published by the society based at the Kitchener Public Library, Kitchener, Ontario, and is widely available in libraries.
  5. Researchers wanting more extensive information should consult History of the Tunkers and the Brethren Church; embracing the Church of the Brethren, the Tunkers, the Seventh-Day German Baptist Church, the German Baptist Church, the Old German Baptists and the Brethren Church, including their origin, doctrine, biography and literature, by H. R. Holsinger (originally published 1901, later editions in 1962 and 1977).
  6. Merriman, Brenda Dougall. "Canadian Denominational Background Disciples Church of God, Brethren, Tunkers, Moravians, Irvingites, Plymouth Brethren, Adventists, Jewish, The United Church of Canada Archives (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Canadian_Denominational_Background_Disciples_Church_of_God,_Brethren,_Tunkers,_Moravians,_Irvingites,_Plymouth_Brethren,_Adventists,_Jewish,_The_United_Church_of_Canada_Archives_%28National_Institute%29.
  7. Merriman, Brenda Dougall. "Canadian Denominational Background Disciples Church of God, Brethren, Tunkers, Moravians, Irvingites, Plymouth Brethren, Adventists, Jewish, The United Church of Canada Archives (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Canadian_Denominational_Background_Disciples_Church_of_God,_Brethren,_Tunkers,_Moravians,_Irvingites,_Plymouth_Brethren,_Adventists,_Jewish,_The_United_Church_of_Canada_Archives_%28National_Institute%29.

 

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