Ontario Vital Records:
Births, Marriage, and Deaths

Are you looking for Ontario vital records? Perhaps your ancestors lived in Ontario before moving to homestead in the Prairies, or to the US? Or maybe, like me, they, and you, remained in Ontario?

Ontario Flag
Ontario Flag

Ontario began civil registration as of July 1, 1869. From that time on, all Ontario vital records had to be registered with the government.

Prior to that date, there was no requirement to record these events; if recorded at all, they were recorded by churches.

Ontario’s Privacy Laws

Under Ontario’s privacy laws, records cannot be released which are of a private and sensitive nature for specified periods of time after their occurrence.

Birth records are available to the public 95 years after they occur; marriages are available 80 years later; and death records, 70 years later. They are transferred to the Ontario Archives in the year in which that "anniversary" date is reached. They then have to be microfilmed before they can be made available to the public.

At the current time (i.e., in 2011), the Ontario vital records available to the public at the Archives of Ontario are as follows:

  • Births – from 1869 to 1914
  • Marriages – from 1801 to 1929
  • Deaths – from 1869 to 1939

Any records of births from 1915 to the present, marriages from 1929 to the present, and deaths from 1939 to the present, are held at the Office of the Registrar General in Thunder Bay, Ontario. They are not available to the public, and can only be accessed by specified persons. See their website at http://www.ontario.ca/en/services_for_residents/121591.html for more details.

Marriages Prior to July 1, 1869

From 1763, when Upper and Lower Canada came under British rule, to the 1790s, the only recognized church in what is now Ontario was the Church of England (the Anglican church). The local Anglican church therefore may be a good starting place, if you are looking for Ontario vital records – especially for christenings and marriages - during that time period, as marriages were only recognized if they were performed by an Anglican clergyman.

St Mark's Anglican Church
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Begun 1804, completed 1810, rebuilt 1822.
Wikimedia Commons
St Mark's Anglican Church<br>Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Starting in 1793, laws were passed to allow military officers and magistrates to conduct marriages, provided there was no Anglican church within a specified distance from where the fiancés lived. This later was expanded to include Justices of the Peace. Ministers from a number of other religions were allowed to perform marriages starting in 1798, if they met certain requirements, and those from a larger number of religions in 1831.

From 1793 to 1858, District Marriage Records were used to record marriages. Couples who paid a fee could have their marriage recorded in these records. Although technically they began to be used in 1793, very few records were entered in these books in the early years. Perhaps this is why the Archives of Ontario records begin in 1801, rather than 1793. After 1831, any marriages not performed in an Anglican or Catholic church had to be entered in these District Marriage Records.

County Marriage Records replaced District Marriage Records in 1858. All marriages, regardless of where they were performed, were to be included in these registers.

The Archives of Ontario has records for marriages from 1801 to June 30, 1869. However, what was recorded can be quite sparse, at times including only the names of the spouses, the clergyman and the denomination in which the service was conducted, and the date and location of the marriage. Others may contain much more information. It depended on the individual clergyman and how much he felt it was necessary to record.

Old Hay Bay Church, Greater Napanee, Ontario, Canada.
This simple church was built in 1792
by United Empire Loyalists.
The church was enlarged in 1835, and remains
the oldest surviving Methodist building in Canada.
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Old Hay Bay Church, 1792, Gananoque, Ontario, Canada

Births and Deaths Prior to July 1, 1869

These Ontario vital records most likely would be found in the church at which the christening or burial occurred. Some detective work may be involved in determining which church has the records. Census schedules generally asked questions regarding religion, so that may give some clues to where to start looking, at least for the more recent Ontario vital records.

Check with local family history societies to find out what churches existed during the time period that is of interest to you, and ask where you would find the records for those churches.

A few things to keep in mind with respect to Ontario vital records:

  • The date of a baptism / christening is not necessarily close to the person’s date of birth. Baptism has a varying significance in different Christian religions. Some christen infants as a matter of course; others practice adult baptism, after confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Still others practice household baptism. Unless the baptismal / christening record specifies the actual date of birth, or the age of the person at the time of the baptism or christening, that record really only proves that the person was alive at that point in time.
  • Burial records (where they exist) will establish when the burial took place, rather than the date of death. The burial most likely was in the church yard of the church in which the burial is recorded.

  • Church records also can tell you who the members were at any given time, and when people joined or left the church. That can provide clues to events in your ancestors’ lives.
  • Church records also included minutes of church board meetings, which list who attended and what was discussed. The planning of social events, and sometimes marriages, births, and deaths, could be mentioned in these minutes. These records also contained references to people in the church who were “misbehaving” in one way or another, and what the board members decided to do about it.

Births after July 1, 1869

Baby feet.
Wikimedia Commons
Baby feet

Births registered after July 1, 1869 included the following information:

  • year of birth;
  • name of the child;
  • gender of the child;
  • names of the parents, usually including the mother’s maiden name;
  • occupation of the father;
  • signature and residence of informant (the person reporting the birth);
  • name of the midwife or other assistant at the birth;
  • date of registration;
  • registrar's signature; and
  • county or district of registration.

Certificate of Marriage
Public Domain
Marriage Certificate” style=

Marriages After July 1, 1869

Records of marriages after July 1, 1869 contain much more information, due to the registration requirements. Most, if not all, of the following information should be included:

  • Names of the spouses;
  • Ages of the spouses;
  • Places of residence of each of the spouses at marriage;
  • Marital status of each of the spouses at the time of the marriage;
  • Occupations of the spouses at the time of the marriage;
  • Names of the parents of each of the spouses (which sometimes included the maiden names of the mothers of the spouses);
  • Religious denomination;
  • Date and place of marriage;
  • Names and places of residence of witnesses;
  • Name of the clergyman conducting the ceremony; and
  • Whether the marriage was by licence or banns.

Deaths after July 1, 1869

Death registrations were to include specific information. However, the required information was not always supplied; sometimes the person providing the information (the informant) may not have known the answers, or may have provided incorrect information. The following information may be provided:

  • Name of the deceased;
  • Age of the deceased;
  • Gender of the deceased;
  • Occupation at time of death;
  • Cause of death;
  • Birthplace;
  • Religion;
  • Name of the information (the person providing details of the death);
  • Name of the registrar;
  • Date of registration; and
  • County or district of registration.
  • Death registrations after 1907 may also include the following:

  • Place of burial; and
  • Names of the deceased’s parents.

Where Can I Find the Records?

As indicated above, some Ontario vital records are available on microfilm at the Archives of Ontario. You can visit the Archives, which is located on the property of York University, just north of Finch Ave. on Keele Street. The address is 134 Ian Macdonald Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M7A 2C5.

You can also order microfilms from the Archives through your local library. The maximum you can order at any one time is 3 reels per researcher.

The other alternative is to order them delivered to your local Family History Center for viewing, from the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Utah.

Ontario vital records prior to July 1, 1869 (1793 for marriages) are not in a central location, and are most likely in a church or a church archive somewhere in the Province.

Archives of Ontario building
Public Domain
Archives of Ontario building

Are any Ontario vital records available online?

Ancestry’s Canadian version, at www.ancestry.ca, has a number of databases containing Ontario vital records. Among them are the following:

  • Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1911
  • Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926
  • Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1936 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947
  • Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967
  • Ontario, Canada Marriage Registers by Clergy, 1896-1948 (Free Index)
  • Marriage Notices of Ontario 1813-1854 (A collection of marriage notices from various newspapers of the time)
  • Ontario Marriage Notices [1830-1856] (A further collection of marriage notices from newspapers not included in the other database)
  • Canada Parliamentary Marriage and Divorces, 1867-1919

Likely the most complete collection of free resources with respect to Ontario vital records is the Ontario Gen Web project. To use this website effectively, you will need to know the county and approximate year in which your ancestors lived, as it is not, as yet, a searchable database.

You can browse through the pages for a county and year to see if your ancestors are listed. I found page after page of Ontario vital records for my ancestors and their offspring in one of the counties, to the point where I recall saying to my husband, “Why did my ancestors have to have so many children!” It took a long time to enter them all in my family tree database!

Go from "Ontario Vital Records: Births, Marriages, and Deaths" to Canadian vital Records: Births, Marriages and Deaths

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Subscribe to my E-zine!

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Branches, Twigs, & Roots.

What's New?

is now on Facebook!

For daily updates
and the latest
in genealogy news,
as well as reminders re upcoming webinars,
Join us on Facebook!

Looking for
cross-stitch kits,
scrapbooking materials,
mousepads, lapel pins,
and many other items
with a family-history theme?

Try Genealogy Today Marketplace!

You'll be glad
you stopped by!

Upcoming Webinars

Click here for upcoming webinars, courtesy of Geneawebinars.

Your DNA is a time machine. It could reveal an interesting ancestor. Start your Journey Here!

Heard the buzz about the new Flip-Pal scanner? See my review, here, or click on the ad, below, to go directly to their website.

Planning a trip to the ancestral village - or just a vacation?
Visit my low-cost travel webpage
for links to all of your favorite travel sites, in one place!

Here's an example:


And another:

Travel Deals to top Destinations. Get yours now

Real Genealogy - Not Just Links

This is a Genealogy site.