Ontario Vital Records
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Birth and Death Records
- 3 Marriage Records
- 4 Divorce Records
- 5 Websites
- 6 Tips
- 7 Background and history of Ontario Vital Records
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.
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.
Gretna Green marriage places. When a marriage was transacted in a jurisdiction that was not the residence of the parties being married, to avoid restrictions or procedures imposed by the parties' home jurisdiction, that place became a "Gretna Green." When an eloping Ontario couple's marriage is not in their home county, search for it in alternate places like:
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
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
- Marriages 1800-1927
For research strategies for all provinces, see Canada Vital Records and click on Research Strategies.
Tip 1. How do I find my ancestor's marriage if they weren't in an index?
Not all early marriage registers are indexed. You may need to search the registers page by page.
Look first for your ancestor's marriage record in the marriage register for the district or county where he or she lived. Look also for marriages of brothers and sisters, children, and even remarriages of parents, aunts, and uncles.
Then look in the marriage registers for neighboring districts or counties. Travelling clergymen may have registered marriages with civil authorities in any district or county along their way. For an explanation of districts and counties, see the Background section of this article.
Look at all records of churches and clergymen in the area, especially Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, which were not always required to register marriages with district or county authorities.
If you find a marriage in the district or county registers, see if you can find it in the church records as well. There may be new information.
At certain periods of Ontario's history, only certain denominations were allowed to perform marriages. In many cases individuals were married by a priest or minister of a religion other than their own.
Not all marriages were reported to government authorities. However, there are many records of early Ontario marriages:
- The Family History Library has many parish records of the Roman Catholic Church and some church records for smaller denominations. Most are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under ONTARIO, [COUNTY], [CITY] - CHURCH RECORDS.
- The National Archives of Canada has microfilm copies of some church records. National Archives of Canada microfilm numbers are listed in Checklist of Parish Registers 1986.
- Some church records are mixed with government vital records in the Marriage Records Collection.
- Other church marriage records remain in the local churches. Some are at the church archives listed in Ontario Church Records and Canada Church Records.
Only a few district marriage registers exist before 1831. Some of the district marriage registers after 1831 and one or two of the county marriage registers have been lost. In some cases, the original church records no longer exist. However, much information about your ancestor's family may be found by searching whatever records do exist for that early period in the area where your ancestor lived.
Tip 2: What should I search next for a marriage?
First look for marriage records of other family members, such as a spouse, brothers or sisters, parents and children.
Then search for family information in records such as:
- Church records
- Cemetery records
- Birth, marriage, and death notices in newspapers
- Local histories
- Probate records often give married names of daughters (clue to marriage)
- Land and property records
- Immigration records, especially border crossings
- Family letters and Bibles
- Military records
- Lineage society records, such as United Empire Loyalists.
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.
Marriages before July, 1869
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.
DISTRICT MARRIAGE REGISTERS 1801 to 1857
|USUALLY CONTAIN||MAY CONTAIN|
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
|USUALLY CONTAIN||MAY CONTAIN|
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.
COUNTY MARRIAGE REGISTERS 1858 to 1869
|USUALLY CONTAIN||MAY CONTAIN|
Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1869 to the present
Province-wide registration of births, marriages and deaths began in July, 1869.
In addition to the information given below, see the Archives of Ontario Vital Statistics Table of Contents.
A free Internet index to Ontario births 1869-1912 with digital images is available at FamilySearch Record Search.
How vital records and indexes are organized (1869 to the present).
Each year, township clerks or other officials forwarded the births, marriages, and deaths for their locality to the office of the Ontario Registrar General. These often included late registrations, especially for births, marriages, or deaths that occurred late in one year, but were not reported until January of the new year.
When the records were microfilmed, they were:
- Put in order by the name of the county.
- Kept together by township for each registration year. Townships do not appear in any specific order, however.
- Stamped with a registration number on each record.
- Indexed year by year by the names of the people who were born, married, or died.
You need both the registration year and the registration number from the index to find a microfilmed record.
If the record you need has not been microfilmed, contact the Office of the Registrar General for information.
The indexes were created from the paper copy of the original hand-written registrations. They give:
- The name of each person who was born, married, or died. Women who had been married before were indexed under their previous married surname.
- The date of the birth, marriage, or death.
- The town or township where the birth, marriage, or death occurred.
- REGISTRATION YEAR.
- REGISTRATION NUMBER.
The indexes are arranged:
- By the first initial of the surname.
- Year by year within that initial.
- With names in alphabetical order for each year.
For example, if you were looking for Charles Grove, who was born about 1882:
- Get the microfilm of the index for births that contains the "G" surnames for the years 1869 to 1895.
- Turn to the year 1882.
- Turn to the Grove surname.
- Search for Charles, Charley, and other variations.
If you can't find the name, search different spellings of the surname, such as Groves or Grover. Remember that the indexer could have misread the handwriting of the clerk.
If you still can't find the name, search the years before (1881, 1880, etc.) and the years after (1883, 1884, etc.).
The registration year.
Not all births, marriages, and deaths were registered in the same year that they occurred.
- Most were registered during that same year.
- Many were registered in the following year or two (slightly delayed registrations).
- Some were registered several years later (very delayed registrations). For example, an adult may have filed a delayed registration as proof of birth for a passport or other reasons.
The index includes the births, marriages, and deaths that occured each year, no matter what year they were registered.
| The registration year is extremely important for finding the actual vital record.
The index always gives the registration year (two digits). It often appears in the righthand column of the index, but may be toward the middle of the index in a small column labeled "Yr. Reg."
If the registration year was given as 84, it was registered in 1884. If the number was 45, it was not registered until 1945 -- a (very) delayed registration.
The registration number.
The registration number is 6 digits long. (If you have one that is 8 digits long, the last two numbers are probably the registration year.)
The first digit in the registration number also helps to determine which microfilm will have the record you want. For example:
|If the year of registration was:||The first digit of the registration # will be||How to get the microfilm number that has the record you need|
|In the same year as the birth marriage or death||0 or 1||
For example, birth registration # 041983 from the 1884 index registration year 84
Get the microfilm which has registration number 41983 for births registered in 1884
|One or two years later||2 or 3||
For example, birth registration #245129 from the 1884 index registration year 85:
|Several years later (very delayed registrations) Called "Series 50" or "Series 90" registrations||5 or 9 (births)||
For example, an 1884 birth, registration number 501015; registration year 46:
|Several years later (very delayed registrations) Called "Series 50" registrations.||5 (marriages)||
For example, an 1884 marriage, registration number 501015; registration year 46:
|Several years later (very delayed registrations) Called "Series 90" registrations||9 (Marriages)||If you find an index entry to a "series 90" marriage for your family, the record must be obtained from the Office of the Registrar General. These are not available at the Family History Library.|
|Several years later (very delayed registrations)||4 (Deaths)||All series of very delayed death records (registration numbers above 400000) must be obtained from the Office of the Registrar General. These are not available at the Family History Library.|
- Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/have-you-searched-and-searched-for-the-marriage-without-finding-it/ (accessed 8 January 2011).