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Genealogy and Family History

Explore your roots at VPL and beyond: resources and services for genealogists


Civil registration refers to birth, marriage and death records collected by the government.  The Vancouver Public Library holds microfilm copies of indexes to Ontario civil registration records that have been released to the public. This guide explains how to access the indexes and the civil registration records at the Vancouver Public Library.

Finding Ontario Civil Registration Records


In Ontario, civil registration began in 1869. In the case of marriages, earlier church records also functioned as civil marriage records. Some records date back to 1799. See the Pre-1869 Marriage Records tab for information about early marriage records.

Birth records are released to the public after 104 years, marriages after 82 years, and deaths after 72 years. The following dates are open to the public:

  • Birth registrations: 1869-1917
  • Marriage registrations: 1801-1937
  • Death registrations: 1869-1947
  • Death registrations (overseas): 1939-1947

Note: Due to changes in regulations the 1918 birth registrations and indexes will not be transferred to the Archives of Ontario until 2023.

Civil registration records from dates after those indicated above are held by the Office of the Registrar General in Ontario, and may be released, under certain conditions.


Access to historical Ontario civil registration records has changed over time. Indexes that were once available on microfilm are now available online, and registration records are being digitized and made available online. While records are being digitized, researchers may still need to access the microfilm indexes and microfilm records.


Indexes to historical Ontario civil registrations are available online using two sources:

  1. Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) available for free at all VPL locations
  2. Ontario Historical Record Collections from FamilySearch

VPL also has Ontario civil registration indexes on microfilm on Level 6 at the Central Library.

The latest indexes are available for borrowing on Interlibrary Loan from the Archives of Ontario.

This guide describes how to use Ancestry Library Edition, available at all VPL locations. Researchers may also want to use FamilySearch. The two sources have similar search strategies, although the search interfaces are different. Unfortunately, the FamilySearch indexes are not up-to-date and may not contain the latest year or two. The site also does not provide Archives of Ontario microfilm reference information (i.e. MS 929, reel 9). Researchers could use the [GSU] film number listed in FamilySearch to find the microfilm reference information using the relevant "Registrations of ..." guide on the Archives of Ontario's Vital Statistics web page.


Civil registration records are available in two formats:

  1. Online Digitized Images - Ancestry Library Edition currently hosts over 7 million digitized images online; new digitized images will be loaded on a regular basis. The FamilySearch civil registrations databases collectively contain over 6 million index entries and digitized images.
  2. Microfilm - The Vancouver Public Library has the microfilms of overseas deaths (1939-1947). These are on Level 6 at the Central Library. All other microfilms can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.

As the table below indicates, indexes and digital images of most historical Ontario birth, marriage and death records are available in Ancestry Library Edition and Family Search. However, the most recently released records are available only on microfilm from the Archives of Ontario through interlibrary loan.

Format Records and dates Indexes Full images
(Ancestry Library Edition)
Births - 1869-1913 Yes Yes
Marriages - 1801-1928, 1933-1937 Yes Some
Deaths - 1869-1938, 1943-1947 Yes Yes
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes Yes
Births - 1869-1912 Yes Some
Marriages - 1801-1927 Yes Some
Deaths - 1869-1937 Yes Yes
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes Yes
(Level 6, Central Library)
Births - 1869-1914 Yes No
Marriages - 1873-1929 Yes No
Deaths - 1869-1939 Yes No
Deaths (overseas) - 1939-1947 Yes† Yes
Marriages - July 1869 - 1873 Yes No


  • Full images of original Ontario civil registration records that are not available through Ancestry Library Edition or FamilySearch may be obtained from the Archives of Ontario through interlibrary loan. For more information, see the Using the Interlibrary Loan Service section on the Records on Microfilm tab.
  • The ALE Ontario marriage database is a composite of indexes created by ALE and by the Genealogical Research Library. As a result, it contains some duplicate records. The database also contains records derived from the pre-1869 County Marriage Registers of Ontario. See the Pre-1869 Marriage Records tab for more information.
  • Omitted marriage images are associated with entries indexed by the Genealogical Research Library. There is usually a duplicate ALE entry with an original image. Pre-1869 entries with omitted images are usually derived from the County Marriage Registers of Ontario. See previous note for more information. 
  • Each year, a new annual release of Ontario birth, marriage and death indexes adds an additional year of coverage. Starting with 1916 births, 1931 marriages, and 1941 deaths, records will be digitized and available online.
  • Marriages from July 1869 to 1873 are not covered by the microfilmed Ontario civil registration indexes, although they are included in Ancestry Library Edition. Printed indexes of Ontario marriage records for this period are available in the Vancouver Public Library collection:

 † Index to Overseas Deaths of Ontario Servicemen and Servicewomen, 1939-1947, 2 vols. Ref. 929.3713 A11T51i


Ancestry Library Edition is available for free at all VPL locations. Access from home is not available. Follow these steps to locate Ontario birth, marriage and death indexes and records in ALE:

1. On the ALE home page, click on the Search button

2. In the Explore by location section, click on the Canada tab:



3. Click on the province of Ontario (ON):

4. A list of Ontario Data Collections is displayed:

5. The Ontario civil registration databases are listed in the folder titled Ontario Birth, Marriage & Death. Click on one of the databases and begin searching.


Ontario civil registration records are also available on microfilm. Locating these records is a two-step process:

  1. Look for the individual's name in the indexes to Ontario civil registration records. These are available through the following sources: 
    • Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) available for free at all VPL locations
    • Ontario Historical Record Collections from FamilySearch
    • The microfilm of Ontario civil registration indexes available on Level 6 at the Central Library
    • The latest indexes are available for borrowing on Interlibrary Loan from the Archives of Ontario.
  2. After an index entry is found, borrow the corresponding microfilm containing the full registration records from the Archives of Ontario through interlibrary loan.

Using the Microfilm Indexes

The microfilm indexes to Ontario civil registration records are in the Genealogy area on Level 6 at the Central Library.  Before consulting the indexes, make sure that the indexes and records you are looking for are not available in Ancestry Library Edition (see the Searching Ancestry Library Edition tab) or FamilySearch.

There are separate microfilm indexes for births, marriages and deaths. To find the number of the index reel you need, go to the following tables, on the Archives of Ontario website:

These tables are also available in the Indexes to Ontario Civil Registration Records finding aid binder at the bottom of the genealogy magazine rack on Level 6 at the Central Library.

Indexes for Ontario overseas deaths are available through Ancestry Library EditionFamilySearch or in Index to Overseas Deaths of Ontario Servicemen and Servicewomen, 1937-1947, 2 vol. (Ref. 929.3713 A11T51i).

On the actual index reels, records for each year are in a separate alphabetical sequence, e.g. 1880 A-Z, 1881 A-Z, etc.

extract from the 1880 birth index

If you find an entry of interest, be sure to record all the information, especially the numbers under the column headings for Registration No. and Reg. Year at the right. This information is necessary to order a copy of the full registration record on microfilm from the Archives of Ontario through the Vancouver Public Library's Interlibrary loan service.

Using the Interlibrary Loan Service

Once you have the registration number corresponding to a person's birth, marriage or death and know the year in which the event was registered, you can determine which microfilm reel you need to order from the Archives of Ontario. To do so, refer to the following pathfinders on the Archives on Ontario website:

IMPORTANT: Most births, marriages and deaths were registered in the same year that they occurred. Make sure that the Reg. Year and the year of the actual event are the same. If they do not match, you must order the film corresponding to the year of registration, not the original birth, marriage or death.

Before placing an interlibrary loan request for Ontario birth, marriage or death records, confirm that the records you want are not available in Ancestry Library Edition (see the Searching Ancestry Library Edition tab) or FamilySearch.

The Archives of Ontario places no limit on the number of films that may be borrowed at one time, but the Vancouver Public Library has a total limit of 10 simultaneous requests. You can place an Interlibrary loan request with the help of information staff at any VPL location.


In some cases, records of marriages in Upper Canada / Canada West (now Ontario) are available prior to 1869. These earlier records are actually church records, but copies were sent to civil authorities. The system began in 1831, but only applied to marriages performed in churches that were neither Anglican nor Roman Catholic, also known as "non-conformist" churches. "Non-conformist" clergy who performed marriages sent copies to the Clerks of the Peace in district towns, where they were transcribed into registers. In some cases, clergy submitted earlier records, with the result that marriage records survive from as early as 1799. Anglican and Roman Catholic parishes were exempt from this requirement.

In 1857, new legislation required all marriages performed in Canada West to be registered with civil authorities, not just those performed by "non-conformist" clergy.

Microfilm copies of these early marriage records are available from the Archives of Ontario through Interlibrary loan (see the Records on Microfilm tab).

The following series of printed transcripts are available at the Central Library:

The Marriage Registers of Upper Canada / Canada West. 23 vol. in 17 (2000)
Walker, Can and Fawne Stratford-Devai
Ref. 929.3713 W17m
vol. 1. Talbot District, 1837-1857
vol. 2. Brock District, 1839-1857 
vol. 3. Huron District, 1841-1870 
vol. 4. pt. 1. London District, 1795-1841
vol. 4. pt. 2. London District, 1841-1852 
vol. 5. Bathurst District, 1831-1852 
vol. 6. Ottawa District, 1816-1853 
vol. 7. pt. 1.Newcastle District, 1810-1848 
vol. 7. pt. 2. Newcastle District, 1848-1855 
vol. 8. pt. 1. Johnstown District, 1799-1851 
vol. 8. pt. 2. Johnstown District, 1847-1863 
vol. 9. pt. 1. Wellington District, 1840-1852
  vol. 9. pt. 2. Wellington District, 1852-1857 
vol. 10. Colborne District, 1841-1857 
vol. 11. pt. 1. Home District, 1808-1836 
vol. 11. pt. 2. Home District, 1835-1843 
vol. 11. pt. 3. Home District, 1843-1849 
vol. 12. Eastern District, 1801-1865 
vol. 13. Gore District, 1842-1856 
vol. 14. Western District, 1786-1856 
vol. 15. Victoria District, 1839-1858 
vol. 16. Simcoe District, 1842 1857
vol. 17. Prince Edward District, 1833-1849

In addition to the district marriage registers cited immediately above, transcriptions derived from original county registers are available in a series of 32 volumes (The county system replaced the district system in 1849). For a full listing of county marriage registers, consult the following list of titles: county marriage registers Ontario.

Websites of Interest