Ontario Marriage Records

Births, Marriages & Deaths were recorded initially by the church through their logs of baptisms, marriage ceremonies and burials. Few of these records survive and those that do can be a challenge to locate as there isn't a central respository for church records.

In 1763 when Ontario came under British rule, it was expected that the population would be mostly, if not all, Anglican (Church of England). Therefore marriage was not legally recognized unless performed by an Anglican minister. The Marriage Act of 1793 allowed military officers, magistrates, and later, Justics of the Peace, to perform marriages if the 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 the couple would have to travel to one to be married.

By 1900 laws restricting marriage based on religion were more tolerant and any religious marriage was legally recognized. Before then, if your ancestors were:

ReligionYear the religion received the rights to perform marriage in Ontario
Anglican (Church of England)1763
Calvinist1798 if the minister was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance
Catholic1798 but marriages were not legally recognized until 1847
Church of Scotland1798
JewishRecognized but not legal until 1857
Lutheran1798 if the minister was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance
Methodist1831 but in the early years couples were required to give an Oath of Allegiance
Presbyterian1798 if the minister was certified and had taken an Oath of Allegiance

Couples could be married by banns or license. Banns required a couple to publish a notice, known as banns, of their intent to marry. The banns would be read for three consecutive Sundays in the church where they planned to marry, as well as in the home churches of the bridge and groom if different than the church where they planned to marry. If no objections were made during this time the couple was free to marry. However, banns could not be used by divorcees or those who had a previous marriage annulled. Alternately, a license could be purchased and once done a couple was free to marry.

The Vital Statistics Act was passed in 1869 requiring that all births, marriages and deaths in Ontario be registered with the province. However, the Act wasn't enforced until the 1880's. These records are held by the provincial government and kept private for a specified period of time before being released to the public.

Unless marked with a $ all links to available records are free to view. Some websites may require free registration.
Record Years Available Who Can Obtain the Record Where Available
Marriagesbefore 1793- AnyoneSee Church Records
District Marriage Registers1793-1858- Anyone

Archives of Ontario
Family Search (c1800-1858)
$ Ancestry (c1800-1858)
Early entries in the District Marriage Register were few as couples were only entered if they paid a fee. After 1831, any non-Anglican or non-Catholic marriages were required to be registered. After 1858 all marriages regardless of religion were to be registered.
County Marriage Registers1858-1869- AnyoneArchives of Ontario
Family Search (1858-1869)
$ Ancestry (1858-1869)
Marriage Registrations1869-- AnyoneArchives of Ontario
Family Search (1869-1927)
$ Ancestry (1869-1937)
Marriage Certificates-- Either spouse
- Next-of-kin or executor if both spouses are deceased
$ Registrar General

Registrations vs. Certificates: Registrations are recorded when a marriage is performed. Until the early 1900's, at the end of each year registrations were copied into a book and sent to the government. This book is what was microfilmed (later digitized). If originals were kept they would have remained with the church. Certificates are certified copies of a registration and are issued by the government but only for the years indicated above. Certificates may or may not include all the information available on the registration.

Information in a marriage registration Years this information is included
Names* at time of marriage1793+
Place of birth1857+
Married by License or Banns1869+
Groom's occupation1869+
Marital status1869+
Fathers names1857+
Mothers names1857+
Mothers maiden names1905+
Marriage date1857+
Marriage place1857+
Married by1869+
Fathers place of birth1920+

* The bride's surname will either be her maiden name, if a spinster, or the surname of her previous husband. Keep in mind that some 'widows' were actually divorcees.