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Consult church registers for records of baptisms, marriages, and burials before 1869—the year civil vital registration began in Ontario. These registers may be useful to 1930, when complete civil vital registration was finally achieved. Religious affiliation can be determined from family sources or censuses beginning in 1851.
You should search the registers of all denominations in the area where your ancestor lived, since many baptisms were performed in the nearest church, regardless of the family's religious affiliation. At certain periods of Ontario's history, only certain denominations were allowed to perform marriages. In many cases an individual had to be married by a priest or minister of a religion other than his own. The following history traces these changes:
1793: Pre-Only Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy could legally perform marriages.
1798-1793: Marriages could be performed by Anglican and Roman Catholic clergy and district clerks if the couple resided more than eighteen miles from an Anglican minister. Despite legal restrictions, a few Lutheran and Presbyterian ministers performed marriages before 1798 and recorded them in church registers.
1831-1798: Anglican, Calvinist, Church of Scotland, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic clergy could perform marriages.
1858-1831: All denominations mentioned above as well as Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians could perform marriages. Only non-Catholic and non-Anglican clergy were required to keep marriage registers for the inspection of civil authorities, separate from regular parish records.
1869-1858: Clergy of all denominations could perform marriages. Clergy of all faiths were requested to transcribe information into county marriage registers; many did not.
The Family History Library has many parish records of the Roman Catholic Church and some church records for smaller denominations, notably minutes of various Baptist conferences.
Many denominations have collected their records into central repositories. Some national church headquarters or archives are described in the Canada Church Records section of the Canada Research Outline. Addresses of many church archives in Ontario are in Brenda Dougall Merriman's Genealogy in Ontario, pages 243-46.
You can write to the following churches to learn where their records are located.
The Anglican Church in Canada, sometimes called Church of England or Protestant Episcopal Church, has published an inventory of church records and their locations at diocesan archives in Ontario:
Guide to the Holdings of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. Agincourt, Ontario: Generation Press, 1990. (Family History Library book 971.3 K23g.)
Further information is available from:
Diocese of Ontario
Mr. Paul Banfield, Archivist
Ms. Lisa Russell, Diocesan Archival Technician
90 Johnson St.
Kingston, ON K7L 1X7
Many Baptist records for Ontario are at the Family History Library. For further information write to:
The Canadian Baptist Archives
McMaster Divinity College
1280 Main Street West Room 152
Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1
Telephone: (905) 525-9140 x23511 or x23512
Only a few pre-1925 Presbyterian records are available through the Presbyterian Church in Canada. Some of these are on film at the Family History Library. Most such records are at archives of the United Church of Canada. See the address below.
THE DROUIN COLLECTION:
Drouin Collection 1621-1967 at Ancestry.ca. When searching these databases, be creative in the spellings as well as the various focuses in searching for an ancestor. The French language has many possible spellings for a name, as well as there are errors in the indexing.
This French-Canadian collection has over 15 million genealogical and vital records entries; they were microfilmed by the Institut Généalogique Drouin. In Quebec, under the French Regime, there were two sets of records kept: a copy for the civil government archives and a copy for the ecclesiastical church archives. The Drouin collection is a civil copy of these entries. Please note that the cutoff date of this collection is in the early 1940s; only a small percentage of entries were covered from 1948 to 1967.
This collection is divided into six databases: 1. Quebec Vital and Church Records, 1621-1967 2. Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967, 3. Early U.S. French Catholic Church Records, 1695-1954, 4. Acadia French Catholic Church Records, 1670-1946, 5. Quebec Notarial Records, 1647-1942, and 6. Miscellaneous French Records, 1651-1941.
Ontario French Catholic Church Records, 1747-1967: This database only contains the French-Canadian Catholic parish records in the province of Ontario. The types of records include baptisms, marriages, and burials as well as confirmations, dispensations, censuses, statements of readmission to the church, and so on. They are written mainly in French, as well as English, Latin, and Italian.
Most pre-1910 records of Roman Catholic parishes in Ontario have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library and its centers. Exceptions are listed below.
The records of Stormont and Glengarry Counties are at:
Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall
220 Chemin Montreal
P.O. Box 1388
Cornwall, ON K6H 5V4
Telephone: (613) 933-1138
Fax: (613) 937-4931
The parish records of the Diocese of Hamilton are at:
Diocese of Hamilton
700 King Street West
Hamilton, ON L8P 1C7
Phone:  528-7988
FAX  528-1088
United Church of Canada
United Church records include Methodist, most Presbyterian, and Congregational church records dating from before the 1925 merger which formed the church. Many records are still in the hands of local clergymen. Others are at:
- United Church of Canada Archives
73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, ON M5S 1K7