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Ontario GenWeb Project: Marriage Records
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Marriage Records

What Is It

Couples could be married by banns or by license:

  • Banns - a published notice that a couple planned to marry. These banns would be read at the church where they planned to marry for three consecutive Sundays. If the bride & groom attended different churches prior to marriage the banns may also be read there. If no one objected to the marriage during the three weeks of the banns a couple was then free to marry. After the marriage a certificate of publication of banns was sent to the Registrar General. Banns could not be used by divorcees or persons who had a previous marriage annulled.

  • License - document purchased prior to marriage by one or both persons who plan to marry. After the marriage the document is signed by the person (minister, justice of the peace, etc) who performed the marriage and is sent to the Registrar General. The marriage is then 'registered'.

After the completion of the marriage by banns or by license the marriage might be registered with the Registrar General creating two more types of marriage records.

  • Registers - copies of entries made at the time of the marriage; if married in a church the minister would record the marriage in the church register and at the end of the year would make a copy of all marriage entries for the government. If married by a justice of the peace the J.P. would record the marriage and at the end of the year make a copy for the government.
  • Certificate - copies of marriage registrations issued by the government. For genealogical purposes if you have a marriage registration you don't necessarily need a copy of the certificate. However, if you do need one, they might be available for purchase from the Office of the Registrar General.

The last type of marriage record would be the church Register recorded by the church at which a couple was married. See Church Records.

How Do I Find It

Religion and location play a huge part in locating a marriage register in the 1800's. In 1763, when Ontario came under British rule, it was expected that the population would be mostly (if not all) Anglican. Therefore marriage was not legally recognized unless performed by an Anglican minister. By the time Upper Canada was born in 1791 it was obvious to the government that settlers had varied beliefs and wanted to continue those practices in their new home. But the laws didn't change as quickly as the settlers came.

In 1793 the Lieutenant-Governor approved a marriage bill (The Marriage Act of 1793) allowing military officers and magistrates (and later Justices of the Peace) to perform marriages if the marrying couple lived more than 18 miles from an Anglican minister and if the district in which they lived had less than five Anglican clergymen. If there were more than five clergyman in a district the marrying couple would have to go to one.

To find your ancestor's marriage record take the time to get familiar with their circumstances. What was their religion? What year (or decade if you're unsure) did they marry? What religions were permitted to solemnize marriage during this time period? If your ancestor's religion was not permitted to perform marriages look to the marriage records of other religions.

If your ancestor married prior to the year in which their religion was able to perform legal marriages look first to the Anglican church for a record of marriage, and if not found look to the records of the church located nearest to your ancestor. By 1900 the laws had become more tolerant and any religious marriage was legally recognized.

If your ancestor's religion was...

  • Anglican/Church of England: There were no restrictions on marriage.

  • Baptist: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Calvinist: Received the right to perform marriages in 1798 if the minister performing the ceremony was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance

  • Catholic: Not permitted to perform marriages until 1798, but even then the marriages were not recognized under the law until 1847.

  • Church of Scotland: Received the right to perform marriages in 1798

  • Congregationalist: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Dunkers: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Independents: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Jewish: Were recognized but not legal until 1857

  • Lutheran: Received the right to perform marriages in 1798 if the minister performing the ceremony was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance

  • Mennonites: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Methodist: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831. For a time couples were required to give an Oath of Allegiance before marrying.

  • Moravians: Received the right to perform marriages in 1831.

  • Presbyterian: Received the right to perform marriages in 1798 if the minister performing the ceremony was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance

    To find a marriage record, you must have an approximate year of marriage. Knowing the exact year isn't required, but it can help narrow down your search.

    Where you'll find the marriage registration you're seeking depends on the year of marriage...

    Known as "District Marriage Registers". Entries were made in the registers if a couple paid a fee to have a copy of their marriage certificate entered. Entries in the register date back to 1793 but there are very few entries in the early years. After 1831 any non-Anglican or non-Catholic marriages were required to be registered. District Marriage Registers were used until 1858 when they were replaced by County Marriage Registers.

    "County Marriage Registers" took over from District Registers in 1858. All denominations (including Anglican and Catholic) were included in these registers. County Registers were used until 1869.

    1869 - 82 years ago
    "Civil Registration". In 1869 The Vital Statistics Act was passed requiring all births, marriages & deaths to be registered with the provincial government*. Even though this Act was enacted in 1869, it wasn't enforced until the 1880's. Therefore, the records for the first twenty or so years of registration are not complete. Unfortunately you won't know if your ancestor was, or wasn't, registered unless you undertake a search of marriage registrations.

    *The provincial government was that of Ontario, not Canada. Therefore, if you're seeking information on vital statistics you would inquire at the provincial (Ontario) level, not at the national (Canada) level.

    82 years ago - present day
    Under privacy laws all marriages registered within the past 82 years remain in the custody of the Office of the Registrar General. They are not available for public search. (See 'Where Can I Find It?' below for more).

    How Do I Use It

    Marriage registrations on microfilm have been indexed. 1873-1910 registrations were indexed at the same time*. These indexes are arranged first alphabetically by surname (All 'A' surnames 1873-1910 together), then by year, then by first name of the bride or groom (both are included in the index individually). 1911+ indexes are arranged first by year then alphabetically by surname, first name.

    *Some marriage registrations were not included in the computer-generated index available on microfilm - July to December 1869 and 1870-1872 are not in this index. You will need to check 'Original Index Books' (see the Archives of Ontario website, linked below, for further information).

    Registrations after 1895 were indexed individually. The index to 1896 is one microfilm with all surnames A-Z. The same with 1897, 1898, and so on.

    The index will give you the following information:
    First Name
    Martha Clara

  • Surname & First Name is the name of the bride or groom. The bride will be listed under the name she had prior to marriage (either her maiden name or name of her previous husband)
  • Sex: M (Male) or F (Female)
  • M: Refers to the month of the marriage
  • D: Refers to the day of the marriage
  • Y: Refers to the year of the marriage
  • REG: Is the registration #
  • Year: Is the year the marriage was registered (not always the year of the marriage)

    Not find your ancestor in the index?

    If you do not find the bride in the index, look for the groom (and vice versa).

    If neither are found the marriage may not have been registered that year. Look at five years either side (five before, five after) to see if they married before you thought or if the registration was delayed.

    If you still cannot locate the registration it's possible the registration was not included in the index. Check the original index books (see the Archives of Ontario link below).

    If the marriage is not in the original index book the marriage was either not registered or did not take place in Ontario.

    Once you have found the registration in the index, take the Registration # and the year of Registration and locate which microfilm you need to view the actual registration. The Archives of Ontario website (linked below) will help you with this. It also gives an explanation of the indexes and how to use them.

    Things to remember:

  • Spelling! Variations, incorrect spelling, phonetic spelling, etc. Check all possible spelling variations of the names you're seeking. Also keep in mind that some names are out of order (not alphabetical). If you're seeking SMITH, check all the "S" surnames.

  • Human Error! These indexes were created by people and are subject to human error. A registration may have been accidentally skipped; i.e. just because it's not in the index, doesn't mean there isn't a registration.

  • Late registration! Not every marriage was registered immediately. If you don't find the person you're seeking in the year you believe they were married, check the index for the next year. The marriage may have been registered the following year.

    What Does It Offer

  • Names of Bride* & Groom - 1857+
  • Ages - 1857+
  • Birth Place - 1857+
  • Birth Place of Father - 1920+
  • License or Banns - 1869+
  • Maiden Name of Mother - 1905+
  • Marital Status - 1869+
  • Marriage Date - 1857+
  • Marriage Place - 1857+
  • Married By - 1869+
  • Name of Father - 1857+
  • Name of Mother - 1857+
  • Occupation of Groom - 1869+
  • Religion - 1869+
  • Residence - 1857+
  • Witnesses - 1869+

    *The bride's name will either be her maiden name if a spinster, or the name of her previous husband if widowed. Also keep in mind that some "widows" were actually divorcees! Don't assume her husband died unless you can find a record of his death.

    Keep in mind that these registrations are COPIES of the original. At the end of each year any marriages registered would be copied into a book and sent off to the government. This book is what was microfilmed and made available for you to search. So there may be transcription errors.

    What Does It Look Like

    The examples below show different types of marriage records. By clicking on the examples you will see a larger version with one registration highlighted.

  • The example from 1871 is a marriage registration. It has six registrations per page.
  • The examples from 1902 are marriage registrations. These registrations are in list form, two pages wide, and had room for twenty-eight registrations per double page. The example on the left is page one, the example on the right is the continuation.
  • The example from 1915 is a marriage license.

    1902, Page 1
    1902, Page 2

    If you have an Ontario marriage record that is different from these examples, please consider sending it in to be included as an example.

    Where Can I Find It

    1793-1858 District Marriage Registers have been published in book form (The Ontario Register - see books below) and have been microfilmed. The microfilm is available for viewing at:

  • Archives of Ontario
  • Any institution (i.e. Library) that subscribes to Inter-Institutional Loan (not just in Canada! Ask at your local library or genealogy society)
  • LDS Family History Centres worldwide

    1858-1869 County Marriage Registers are available in book form and on CD-ROM (see books below) and have also been microfilmed. You can view the microfilm at:

  • Archives of Ontario
  • Any institution (i.e. Library) that subscribes to Inter-Institutional Loan (not just in Canada! Ask at your local library or genealogy society)
  • LDS Family History Centres worldwide

    1869 – 82 years ago, Civil Registrations & indexes have been microfilmed and are available for viewing at:

  • Archives of Ontario
  • Any institution (i.e. Library) that subscribes to Inter-Institutional Loan (not just in Canada! Ask at your local library or genealogy society)
  • LDS Family History Centres worldwide

    82 years ago - present day marriage records are not available unless...

  • you are applying for your own record
  • the person named on the record is deceased and you are next-of-kin or executor (proof is required)
    To apply for a marriage record for a marriage that took place within the past 82 years, you must fill out a form and mail it to the Office of the Registrar General

    Each year, usually in May or June, the Archives of Ontario releases the marriage registrations of marriages that occurred 82 years ago.

    Is It Online?

    Registrations from 1857-1928 are now online at Ancestry.ca (subscription required). There are also several free access volunteer projects that have transcripts of Ontario marriage registrations online (see links below), but it's hit or miss. You may get lucky and find the one you're seeking, or you'll have to go the "old fashioned" route described above.

    Alternate Resources

  • Cemetery Records
  • Citizenship/Naturalization Records
  • Church Records
  • Court Records (Divorce Records, Estate Records, Wills)
  • Death Records
  • Funeral Records
  • Newspapers

    Related Material

  • Vital Statistics Forms
  • Questions & Answers
  • Books
  • Links
  • Birth Records
        Adoption In Ontario
    Census Records
    Church Records
        Religion In Ontario
    Citizenship/Naturalization Records
    Court Records
    Death Records
        Cemetery Records
        Funeral Records
    Emigration Records
        To the Red River Valley
        Migration: Out of Ontario
    Immigration Records
        Grosse Île
        Migration: Into Ontario
        Ships Lists
        Petworth Emigration Scheme
        WANTED: Settlers
    Land Records
    Marriage Records
    Military Records
        Military Actions
        UE Loyalists: What? Who Were They?
        Black History
        Mental Health Records
        How Gender Influences Work on Wolfe Island, Frontenac Co. Ontario
        Languages In Ontario
        Ontario Newspapers: Past and Present
        Ten Ontario Research Tips

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