Canadian Vital Records:
Births, Marriages, and Deaths

Canadian flag

Finding Canadian vital records is not always a straightforward task.

In Canada, as in many countries, there are several levels of government: federal, provincial, and municipal.

The federal government handles all laws related to international issues and matters of national concern, while the provincial governments handle things of a more localized nature, within each province. Municipal governments, of course, handle things within a city or town.

The matter of births, marriages, and deaths is considered a local matter, which is handled at the provincial government level.

Divorce, however, is a federal matter, while family law, which deals with spousal and child support, division of property at separation / divorce, property rights, and civil rights, all are provincial matters. (More about this here.)

While Canada does have a Library and Archives Canada, it is within federal jurisdiction. Any archiving of provincial records concerning vital records is handled at the provincial level.

There is no central depository for all Canadian vital records. However, the Library and Archives Canada website has links to all of the websites for the various provincial archives. It also has a limited number of vital records, as follows:

  • marriage bonds
    • for Upper Canada (Ontario) issued between 1803 and 1865;
    • for Lower Canada (Quebec) issued between 1779 and 1858;
    • a small collection of parish registers on microfilm;
  • published indexes to many church records and cemeteries; and
  • a database for searching some divorce acts.

See my page Divorce Records in Canada, and the links to the individual provinces at the bottom of this page, for information with respect to divorce in Canada.

Library and Archives Canada also has a genealogy section. It therefore may be a good idea to start your search there, and then follow the links to the various provincial depositories.

Garden of the Provinces and Territories,
with the Library and Archives Canada building
in the background.
Paul Shannon via Wikimedia Commons
Library and Archives Canada building entrance

Locating Canadian vital records, then, can be complicated, in the sense that you have to determine what province or territory your ancestors were in at the time of an event, such as a birth, marriage or death, before you can obtain any further information.

There are paid subscription sites, such as, which eliminate that requirement by providing a search across all provinces, but many find those sites overly expensive.

Each province has different laws for the protection of privacy, which means that the vital statistics information becomes available to the public after different time periods in each jurisdiction. Further, the dates at which civil registration began differ in each province or territory; in many cases, those dates are tied to each province's date of entry into the Canadian Confederation.

It therefore is necessary to look at each province individually, to determine what records are available, and to order copies of records.

However, this is beginning to change. There is a movement afoot for a free Canadian databank, which ultimately will allow searching throughout Canada with just one search.

This database, currently up and running but not yet covering all of Canada, is described as a "federated effort", and is located at

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