Birth, marriage and death records

Learn about what records exist for researching births, marriages and deaths in Canada and which ones Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds.

On this page

Before you start

Gather information from other documents and family members about your ancestors, such as

  • names
  • approximate years of birth, marriage and death
  • places of birth, marriage and death
  • religious denomination

Places to look

There are many resources available.

Civil registration records

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the governments in each province and territory began the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. These records are also called vital statistics.

LAC does not hold these records since they are under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Each province and territory has records for different years, as well as their own rules concerning access.

You can look for the relevant website by doing an Internet search:

  • Use the keywords “vital statistics” and the name of the province or territory
  • For Ontario, use the keywords “Office of the Registrar General”
  • For Quebec, use the keywords “Directeur de l'état civil”

Most provinces and territories transfer their older records to their provincial or territories archives. See our Canadian genealogy links and resources page for a list of provincial and territorial archives.

Religious records

Many religious institutions recorded the baptisms, marriages and deaths of the members of their congregations. These are often the only source of records before the beginning of civil registration.

There is no one place to find these records. Many are still held by individual churches, synagogues or other religious institutions. Others can be found in these places:

LAC holds a small collection of records for some churches and synagogues.

We also have these records:

  • Jacques-Henri Fabien Collection (MG25-G231)
    • Nominal index to some church records from the Outaouais region and the area around the Island of Montréal. This card index is digitized on Héritage.
  • Fichier Loiselle
    • Alphabetical index for many Roman Catholic marriage records from roughly 1750 to the 1900s. The index includes Quebec, some parts of New Brunswick, eastern Ontario and New England. This microfiche collection is available in the Genealogy room at our Ottawa location (call number CS88 QC4 L6 1986 fiche).

Marriage bonds and licences

Some couples married by licence rather than in a place of worship. LAC holds these records for Ontario and Quebec:

The provincial archives in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have marriage bonds for those provinces.


This database includes a help page with information about sources for finding divorce records.

Acts of Divorce, 1841–1968

Records of Canadian births abroad

If you were born in another country to Canadian parents who were living and working outside Canada, you may have an old birth certificate that is no longer recognized.

Children of civilians

The Canadian Citizenship Act came into effect in 1947. Children born outside of Canada to a Canadian parent had to register the child within two years—any longer and they wouldn’t be considered a “natural-born Canadian citizen.” To register, parents could apply for a Registration of Birth Abroad certificate. These certificates stopped being issued in 1977.

Children of military personnel

The Department of National Defence used to issue a Certificate of Birth (DND 419) (1963–1979) for children born outside Canada to Canadian Forces personnel serving abroad. The certificates were never permitted to be used as legal proof of birth and were later discontinued.

For children of military personnel, there might be information about your birth in your parent’s military file. To access this information, submit a privacy request to LAC explaining that you are looking for any documentation regarding your birth from your parent’s military file. Include this information:

  • Your name, date and place of birth
  • Your parent’s name, date of birth and their military service number if you know it

Both certificates issued to children of civilians and children of military personnel have been discontinued. You should instead

  • Apply for a Canadian citizenship certificate from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Request a birth certificate from the registrar in the country where you were born


Adoption is the responsibility of each province and territory. Each one has its own legislation relating to access to records of adoptions that occurred in their jurisdiction. You will have to apply to the relevant office to request access.

To find the relevant government website, do an Internet search with these types of keywords:

  • the name of the province or territory
  • adoption records or disclosure
  • post-adoption registry or services
  • guardianship records

Before official adoption legislation was enacted in a province or territory, adoptions were done by local officials, churches or family. A court could award guardianship to an individual to be responsible for a child’s personal and financial care. Archival guardianship records are usually held by provincial and territorial archives or local courts.

Federal government records relating to deaths

LAC holds the archival records of federal government departments. Here are a few collections (fonds) that contain some references to deaths.

  • Canadian Transport Commission fonds (RG46)
    • This fonds includes files relating to accidental deaths that involved water, land or air transport, 1904 to 1976. Example:
      • Accident where death occurred—A. Belanger killed at St. Paul Lock, Lachine Canal, 1907 (RG46-C-II-1, volume 1423, file 6301)
  • Canadian National Railway (CNR) Company fonds (RG30)
    • This fonds includes reports on accidents on the CNR and its affiliated railway companies in the early 1900s. Some reports are about civilians and railway employees who were injured or killed by trains. Most are personal injury and workmen’s compensation claims. Example:
      • The Canadian Northern Railway Company—Personal Injury Claims—Claim of Margaret Lemon of Toronto, Ontario, for damages for the death of her son Hiram Hurd Lemon, employed by the Railway Company, 1903 (RG30-V-A-9-h, volume 9066, file 82-4)
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police fonds (RG18)
    • In the early 1900s, accidental and criminal deaths in the western provinces were usually reported in the records of the Northwest Mounted Police. Example:
      • Death of Kamile Lybeer killed by a dynamite explosion, 1914 (RG18-B-1, volume 1741, file 54)
  • Department of Transport fonds (RG12)
    • There are some files relating to fatal casualties, mostly aircraft accidents, 1917–1977. Example:
      • Piper L4B— Board of Inquiry— Accident on 8 August near Chatham, Ontario— Pilot C.A. Couse fatally injured, 1951 (RG12-A-1, volume 1158, file 5002-294)

Search for a federal government file:

  • Go to Collection Search
  • Click on Advanced Search
  • Select Collections and Fonds database
  • In All these words enter a person’s surname
  • In Any of these words enter keywords such as death, died, killed, murder, inquest, casualty, fatal. You can also enter any of RG46, RG30, RG18, RG12 (optional)

Wills, probate and estate records

Wills, probate and estate records are administered by the courts in each province and territory. Some older records are transferred to the provincial and territorial archives. Wills usually name family members, with details about them.

LAC does not hold copies of those records, apart from these microfilms from the Archives of Ontario:

We also have a small number of wills, probate records and estate files found in some private and federal government collections. These include the estate files of some First Nations individuals. To search for a record,

  • Go to Collection Search
  • Click on Advanced Search
  • Select Collections and Fonds database
  • In All these words enter a person’s surname
  • In Any of these words enter keywords such as will, probate, estate

Published sources

Indexes are created by individual volunteers or organizations who gather and transcribe records into one publication. This provides access to valuable information that might otherwise be difficult to find.

These are the most common types of indexes:

  • church records
  • cemetery gravestone inscriptions
  • newspaper obituaries
  • marriage and death notices
  • funeral home records
  • wills

Some publications are not just indexes; they may be complete transcriptions of the items.

Search for indexes

You can find many of these books on open shelves in the Genealogy room at LAC’s Ottawa location. Handouts are available on site that explain the book collection and how it is organized in the room.

Search for published indexes in our Aurora catalogue. Use the keyword genealogy and a place.

  • If a book’s call number includes the word genealogy, the book is in the Genealogy room at our Ottawa location.
    • Example of a call number: Genealogy Ref. CS88 A2 A38 2003

Aurora entries also show if the item is available in other libraries. You can also check your local library’s online catalogue.

Here are a few examples of the types of indexes you will find:

Search tips

Here are some tips and strategies to help with your research.

  • Start searching within a community, then move outwards. The location listed on a birth record or a tombstone may not be the exact place a person was born or died. For example,
    • Not all communities had churches, so a family may have had to travel to a church or attend a different denomination.
      • An Anglican couple might baptize their children at a Methodist church if there was no Anglican church in their community.
      • A name on a tombstone could be a memorial rather than a burial place.
  • It is helpful to know the family’s religious denomination and where they lived. In Canada, religious denomination was indicated in most census records.
    • Keep in mind that not everyone attended a church or belonged to a religious denomination.
  • Sometimes individuals had to convert religions to be married within their spouses’ religions. For example, if your Protestant ancestor married a Catholic person, they would have had to convert to Catholicism if they wanted to marry in a Catholic church.
  • Dates may not be the exact date a child was born or a person died. Try widening your search to a range of dates.
    • Most parents baptized their children soon after birth, but sometimes it might be months or even years later or not at all.
    • In some cases, a minister or missionary would travel to various communities in a region to baptize children and marry couples. They were sometimes called circuit riders.
    • Some details on tombstones may be incorrect, especially when it was erected years after the person’s death.
  • If you find information in an index, try to get a copy of the original record. It will usually have more information than what is in the index. Check the author’s notes to see where they found the original records.
  • Older records have less information in them or may have been lost over time. Some people may not have been recorded at all.

Access the records

Digitized records

If you find a record of interest, there may be a digital image. Some of these are available through Collection Search. Others, particularly digitized microforms, are available through Héritage.

Records that are not digitized

For records that are not digitized, you will need to see them in person. If you cannot visit us in person, you may want to order copies or hire a researcher.

References to federal government records found in our Collection Search database indicate if a record is open (access code 90) or restricted (access code 32). To find the access code in an item description, click on “Ordering and Viewing Options,” then “Conditions of access.”

If the item is restricted, you can submit a request to our access to information and privacy (ATIP) team to obtain a copy.

Related resources

Online resources

Search other websites for information and records relating to births, marriages and deaths:

  • Genealogical societies
  • Free and subscription genealogy websites and wikis
  • Public libraries: some library websites also have databases for birth, marriage and death notices from local newspapers
  • Local archives
    • Search for records at using keywords such as a place and a religious denomination, a cemetery or a funeral home
  • Websites for Canadian headstones, graves and cemetery projects (also try the French words généalogie and cimetières in Internet searches for Quebec resources)