Ontario Criminal Records
If you have ancestors with Ontario criminal records, chances are you
will find those records, and any related documents, at the Archives of
Ontario criminal records begin with several types of investigations
for the gathering of evidence, depending on the nature of the crime.
Related documents include, but are not limited to, the following types
of investigations and inquests:
- records from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) (but no records from local, regional, or national police forces), including:
- Ontario Provincial Police investigation records, 1901-1989;
- Criminal investigation records and reports (RG 23-26), 1901-1921 (predominantly 1909-1921);
- Major criminal investigation case files (solved cases) (RG 23-29), 1922-1969;
- OPP members’ diaries and notebooks/journals (RG 23-30), 1925-1989;
- Special Investigations Branch crime reports (RG 23-49), 1936-1984;
- Criminal investigations reports and files (RG 23-50), 1922-1970;
- Major occurrence reports (RG 23-51), 1969-1983;
- coroners' records;
records of investigations (which are informal inquiries) and inquests
(which are more formal, and may involve testimony from witnesses) into
deaths where foul play may be suspected, from 1830 – 1965
- Records of the Medico-Legal Laboratory;
- forensic services to the police, dating from 1931 – 1961; and
- the Fire Marshall's records.
- Includes documentation regarding fires in which a death occurred or there was a large-scale property loss.
Oxford County Court House,
Woodstock, Ontario. Built in 1892.
Charging the Accused
Prosecution and indictment records are housed at the Ontario
Archives. These Ontario criminal records include the Crown Attorneys’
files, as well as those of the Court Registrars. (Crown Attorneys are
the Canadian equivalent of the District Attorney in the U.S.) These
- Early Crown prosecution files, 1794 – 1865;
- Supreme Court Central Office Criminal Assize Clerk criminal indictment case files, 1853 – 1929;
- Supreme Court Registrar’s criminal indictment files, 1930 – 1979;
Attorney prosecution case files, 1865 – 1971. There are some gaps in
the records. Also, most files are with respect to indictable (i.e.,
more serious) offences); and
- Criminal Registry
criminal and civil files. These are files which were referred to the
Ontario Attorney General’s Crown Law Office in Toronto, and contain
correspondence and documentation about major criminal and civil cases.
Criminal Court Records for the years 1792 to 1979 (with some gaps) are also at the Archives of Ontario. These include:
- Docket books, which list all cases heard before a criminal court, in chronological order; and
- Minute books, which provide a brief outline of all cases heard in a particular criminal court, again on a chronological basis.
After Conviction: Prison Records
The Archives of Ontario also has some Ontario criminal records from provincially-managed prisons / jails.
(As explained on my Criminal Records in Canada
page, provincial governments are responsible for imprisoning those
awaiting trial on less-serious offences, and those convicted of offences
with a prison term of less than two years. They also are responsible
for detaining young offenders).
The Don Jail, Toronto, Ontario.
Built in the 1860s.
Records from these institutions date from 1832 to 1986, although there are some gaps. These Ontario criminal records include:
- Adult inmate records,
from 1993-1961, and 1971 – 1983. These are legal documents relating to
the imprisonment of adults in provincial jails / institutions. A
partial index exists;
- Registers, which recorded information about inmates, reasons for imprisonment, and the conditions of their terms;
files, which provide additional information regarding custody and
medical attention. They supplement the information contained in the
- Other miscellaneous records, such as Surgeon’s registers, punishment registers, and log books of daily occurrences.
Probation and Parole
The Archives also has some records relating to probation and parole,
dating from approximately 1950 to 1980. Ontario criminal records
containing personal information about paroled inmates include the
- Selected case files from the Ontario Board
of Parole and the Probation and Parole Field Offices of the Ministry of
- Ontario Board of Parole
minute books (RG 8-53), 1910-1932: Information recorded in these books
includes names of inmates appearing before the Board and Board
- Ticket of leave register (RG 8-55), 1911-1915: “Ticket of leave” was an early term used to refer to parole.
employment of sentenced persons register (RG 8-57), 1921-1922: This
register documents individuals who were allowed to work and live outside
the prison while still officially serving their sentence. and
Board of Parole register (RG 8-59), 1917-1921: This register was used
by the Board of Parole to document all prisoners committed to penal
institutions in Ontario.
The Coboconk, Ontario Jail. In use from 1884 to 1922,
it is one of several claiming to be the smallest jail in Canada.
It measures 4.57 m by 8.84 m (26.68 m2),
or 15 feet by 29 feet (about 287 sq ft).
How do I Access the Records?
For those able to travel to the Ontario Archives, the building is
located on the grounds of York University in Toronto, Ontario. The
134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 1-800-668-9933 Toll-Free Number (Ontario only);
Regular No.: 416-327-1600
Fax Number: 416-327-1999
those researching from a distance, there is an inter-library loan
service for microfilm. However, you may wish to contact the Archives to
determine whether the documents you are requesting are available on
microfilm, and if so, whether they are subject to any access
restrictions due to privacy considerations.
The other alternative, of course, is to hire a local researcher to do more in-depth research for you.
in all, it appears that there is a great deal of information available
with respect to those who served time in Ontario jails. It may indeed
help you to find your roots, and unravel the mystery surrounding a
particular family member that no-one will talk about, even generations
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