|Tracing Your Family Tree in Ontario|
Four hundred years ago, about 60,000 people lived in the area which is now Ontario. They belonged to many Indian nations including the Ojibwa and Cree in the north and the Huron and Iroquois in the central and southern areas. Europeans began exploring the area in the early 1600s and conflicts began to break out between the French, the British and the Indian tribes. Both the French and the British explorers wanted to claim the newly-discovered lands for their countries and the Indian tribes were split in their support of the two sides. The Treaty of Paris (1763) at the end of the Seven Years' War (1756 to 1763) finally brought France's rule of North America to an end. In 1774 the British government attached Ontario to Quebec in an attempt to create an English-speaking majority in the whole area of English Canada. The plan backfired, however, and the Constitutional Act of 1791 split Quebec into Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario) with the Ottawa river forming the boundary. In 1841 they were again joined and became known as Canada West and Canada East (often abbreviated in genealogical records as CW and CE). In 1867 they joined with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and the dominion of Canada was born.
Many of the early settlers to what is present-day Ontario were loyalists who had left the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the American Rebellion. Others were soldiers from the British forces that were granted lands for their services in the rebellion or the War of 1812. Later many English, Scots and Irish migrated directly to Upper Canada. Some stayed and others eventually migrated further west or into the United States.
As a result of its rich
history, many sources are available to help researchers searching for ancestors
in the province of Ontario. Here are some of the major record sources which you
may find useful in your search:
Registration (Birth, Marriage & Death Records)
Government registration of births, marriages and deaths started on July 1, 1869. The law was slow to be enforced, however, so many events in the earlier years were not registered and the records are not complete. Records are open to the public for the following years:
- Births 1869-1903
- Marriages 1801-1918
- Deaths 1869-1928
New records are transferred to the archives each year, as the privacy restriction dates are past. The latest transfer (1904 births, 1919 marriages and 1929 deaths) are currently being filmed and will be available later in 2001.
All of these records are publicly available on microfilm in the Reading Room at the Archives of Ontario in Toronto, by Interlibrary Loan from the Archives of Ontario to your public library and through your local Family History Center, satellites of the great Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT. The Archives does not do searches and will only certify photocopies of registrations produced in the presence of Archives' staff in their reading room. For Vital Statistics records not held by the Archives (those from the past 95 years), the Office of the Registrar General will issue Birth and Marriage Certificates, but only to the person identified on the record or to close kin in some cases. They will issue Death Certificates to anyone, but will only issue the long form (which contains a little more information) to the next of kin.
Marriages prior to 1869
Under the 1831 Upper Canada Marriage Act, the District Clerks of the Peace compiled registrations of marriages from the districts covering the years 1831-1858. They are among the earliest registrations of marriages available for the province. Beginning in 1858 the various counties of Ontario took over the responsibility of maintaining a registry of marriages that were enacted in their area. These marriage records for most areas begin in 1858 and continue until 1869 when the provincial government took over the responsibility. All of these early marriage records are available at the Archives of Ontario, public libraries in the province, branches of the Ontario Genealogical Society and local Family History Centers (FHCs) around the world.
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