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.





The Investigation

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;
  • Includes 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.
Public Domain
Oxford County Court House, Woodstock, Ontario


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 include:

  • 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;
  • Crown 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.




The Trial

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.
Wikimedia Commons
Don Jail, Toronto, ON


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;
  • Case files, which provide additional information regarding custody and medical attention. They supplement the information contained in the registers; and
  • 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 following:

  • Selected case files from the Ontario Board of Parole and the Probation and Parole Field Offices of the Ministry of Correctional Services;
  • 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 decisions;
  • Ticket of leave register (RG 8-55), 1911-1915: “Ticket of leave” was an early term used to refer to parole.
  • Extra-mural 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
  • Ontario 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).
Wikimedia Commons
Coboconk, ON jailhouse


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 address is:

134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M7A 2C5

e-mail: reference@ontario.ca

Telephone: 1-800-668-9933 Toll-Free Number (Ontario only);
Regular No.: 416-327-1600

Fax Number: 416-327-1999

For 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.

All 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 later.






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