An act for the relief of John Monteith. Statutes of Canada, 1887, chap. 129.
From 1840 to 1968, divorces in Canada were granted by private acts of the Parliament of Canada. Before 1867, only five divorce acts were passed and published either in the Statutes of the Province of Canada or in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.
From 1867 to 1968, a person wishing to obtain a divorce was first required to place a notice of intent to petition the government for an Act of Divorce in the Canada Gazette and in two newspapers in the district or county where the petitioner resided. It was to appear for a 6-month period.
The petition would contain details such as the date and place of the marriage, and events surrounding the demise of the marriage. In the case of adultery or bigamy, a co-respondent was often named. If the petition was allowed, Parliament would pass an Act of Divorce nullifying the marriage.
Between 1867 and 1963, a transcript of the Act was published in the Statutes of Canada for the current year. Between 1964 and 1968, the transcript was published in the Journals of the Senate of Canada.
The transcripts include this information from the petition:
- the names of petitioner and spouse;
- their place(s) of residence;
- the date and place and marriage; and
- the grounds under which the divorce is being sought.
This research tool provides access to a database containing 12,732 references to the transcripts of the acts of divorce published in:
- Statutes of the Province of Canada
- Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
- Statutes of Canada
- Journals of the Senate of Canada.
Each volume was consulted in order to identify the names of the petitioner, of the spouse and the citation number for each act.
The search screen enables you to search by:
- Surname of Petitioner
- Given Name(s) of Petitioner
- Surname of Spouse
- Given Name(s) of Spouse
Some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only. Women are identified by maiden name if the maiden name was provided in the divorce act.
How to Interpret the Results
Your search results will be posted as a list showing the following fields:
- Name of Petitioner (surname and given name)
- Name of Spouse (surname and given name)
- Reference (extracted from various official publications of the Government of Canada)
- Year (the issue of the specific publication in which the act was published)
- Citation (the number of the private act).
How to Obtain Copies of Divorce Acts
Libraries in Canada
Many libraries in Canada hold copies of the official publications of the Government of Canada that contain the acts. Each act consists of one page in English and French.
You can use the AMICUS catalogue to find out which libraries hold copies of specific publications. Click on a publication below. In AMICUS, click on "Locations," then on the library code on the left column to obtain details such as address and contact information.
Library and Archives Canada
You can order copies from Library and Archives Canada by using the Order Form for Photocopies and Reproductions. Include the complete reference citation from AMICUS including the AMICUS number.
Senate of Canada
The Senate of Canada holds the original divorce files, but they are closed to the public. You can obtain a certified copy of a divorce act for legal purposes from them:
Senate of Canada
Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
40 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4
Divorce proceedings were also handled by the provincial courts. Consult What to Search: Divorce for additional resources.