Ontario: Genealogy resources

​​​​​Are you researching ancestors who lived in Ontario? On this page, you will find information about records held at Library and Archives Canada and the provincial archives. There are also links to online resources and to other institutions, societies and government agencies.

Ontario was one of the original provinces that founded the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867.

Before that:

  • The first peoples were Indigenous, including Huron, Iroquois, Ojibwa and Cree.
  • European settlement began with the French and continued with the arrival of Loyalists in the 1780s.
  • In 1791, the colony of Quebec was divided to create Upper Canada (today Ontario) and Lower Canada (today Quebec).
  • In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada were united to form the Province of Canada. Upper Canada was renamed Canada West and Lower Canada was renamed Canada East.

Civil registration (birth, marriage and death records)

Civil registration is a provincial jurisdiction. It began in Ontario in 1869. The Archives of Ontario holds the following records:

  • births 1869 to 1917
  • marriages 1869 to 1938
  • some births and marriages before 1869
  • deaths 1869 to 1948

To find out what years are available online, on site and on interlibrary loan, consult the following Archives of Ontario guide: Ontario Vital Statistics: Registrations of Births, Marriages and Deaths

The records are being digitized and/or indexed on the following websites:

Tip: Some documents are two pages. When looking at a digitized record, be sure to look at the previous and following images.

If the years of interest to you have not yet been transferred to the Archives of Ontario, you must request copies of records from the Office of the Registrar General.

Adoption and divorce

Courts and criminal records

Land records

The province is divided into counties. In less populated areas, there are districts instead of counties. Districts and counties are divided into townships. 

The present-day counties and districts evolved from earlier districts. For information and maps, visit the Archives of Ontario's Early Districts and Counties 1788-1899.

See also:

  • Land records at Library and Archives Canada

    Upper Canada Land Petitions (RG 1 L3)

    The records have been indexed and digitized. Read the database main page for information about the records. Under "How to obtain copies" there is a link to the digitized microfilm.

    Database: Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865

    Upper Canada Land Books (RG 1 L1)

    After a petition was submitted, the Executive Council of Upper Canada made a decision of granting or not granting a Crown land. The record of those decisions are in the minutes, commonly known as the Upper Canada Land Books. These books contain the deliberations, decisions and recommendations of the Land Committee of the Executive Council of Upper Canada.

    The microfilm copies of those books are digitized on Héritage. For a list of contents of each microfilm reel see Upper Canada Land Books, February 1787 – February 1841. That page also includes search tips and other resources.

    Ontario Ancestors (Ontario Genealogical Society) indexed the records by name. The Index to the Upper Canada land books (9 volumes) is available in book format in many libraries. It was also published as a CD-ROM. Copies of the books and the CD-ROM are available in the Genealogy reference room at Library and Archives Canada.

    Upper Canada Sundries (RG 5 A1)

    This collection includes some petitions for land, 1791 to 1841. The index to those petitions is included in the following database.

    Database: Land Petitions of Upper Canada, 1763-1865

    The records are digitized on Héritage. For more information about the records and a list of contents of each microfilm reel see Upper Canada Sundries, 1766-1841.

    Upper Canada Land Board, 1765 to 1804 (RG 1 L4)

    Land Boards were established in 1789 to facilitate settlement in the districts then known as Hesse, Nassau, Lunenburg and Mecklenburg by granting certificates of location to the early settlers. The records include, minutes, reports, correspondence and instructions or regulations for the operation of the Land Boards.

    The index of the Upper Canada Land Board is available online. It includes names of settlers and references to the original records (volume, page and microfilm numbers).

    Database: Land Boards of Upper Canada, 1765-1804

    The microfilm reels are digitized on Héritage.

    Lower Canada Land Petitions (RG 1 L3L)

    This series includes some land petitions and documents relating to the part of the colony of Québec that later became Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), up to and including 1791.

    Database: Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764-1841

    Heir and Devisee Commission - Upper Canada, 1797 to 1854 (RG 1 L5)

    The Heir and Devisee Commission was established in 1797 to clarify the titles to lands. Records can include affidavits, bonds, location certificates, powers of attorney, orders-in-council, copies of wills, mortgages, deeds of sale and testimonial letters.

    Library and Archives Canada holds most of the records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797 to 1804) and some of the records of the second Commission (1805 to 1854). These records have been microfilmed, but there is no index by name. The records are arranged by district, then by type of document (RG1 L5, volumes 1 to 104, microfilm H-1133 to H-1153).  For more information about these records, see the archival description.

    Heir and Devisee Commission: List of districts, descriptions, volume numbers and microfilm numbers.

    A more detailed description of the content of each volume can be found at the start of each microfilm reel.

    Those microfilm reels are digitized and can be viewed free on our partner website Héritage.

    Other Heir and Devisee records are held at the provincial archives, as described below.

  • Land records at the Archives of Ontario

    Crown Land Records

    The Archives of Ontario holds numerous collections relating to land records such as land grants (patents), fiats, warrants, orders-in-council, township papers and petitions. A comprehensive list of their holdings with links to research guides can be in Crown Land Records: Introduction.

    The Ontario Land Records Index is available on microfiche at many libraries and archives, including in the genealogy room at Library and Archives Canada.

    The Township Papers are digitized on FamilySearch: A to H and H to Z (sign up for a free account to view the images).

    Canada Company fonds

    The Canada Company (1825 to 1953) was granted large tracts of lands in southwestern Ontario during the 1800s, then leased and sold lots to settlers. The records are described in the Archives of Ontario's Canada Company fonds (F 129). See also the following book:

    Genealogical extraction and index of the Canada Company remittance books, 1843-1847, by Ruth Holt and Margaret Williams, 1990.

    Heir and Devisee Commission

    The Archives of Ontario holds a small number of records of the first Heir and Devisee Commission (1797 to 1804) and all of the records for the Second Heir and Devisee Commission (1805 to 1911). For more information, see First and Second Heir and Devisee Commission Records. See also Second Heir and Devisee Commission Case Files Database.

Wills and estate records

  • The administration of wills and estates is a provincial jurisdiction. Older records are in the custody of the Archives of Ontario. See the following guides on their website:
  • Records that have not been transferred to the Archives of Ontario are still in the local courthouses.
  • Library and Archives Canada holds the following records
    • Surrogate Court of Carleton County fonds (MG9-D11)
      The records were microfilmed from originals held at the Archives of Ontario. The registers contain Probate of Wills and Letters of Administration for the Surrogate Court of Carleton County, 1840 to 1902. A nominal list is available at the beginning of each Register. The microfilms are not digitized. They must be viewed on site at Library and Archives Canada.
  • List of microfilm reels and content

    Microfilm M-5477, Register A, 1840 to 1860, pages 1 to 251

    Microfilm M-5477, Register B, 1860 to 1873, pages 1 to 566

    Microfilm M-5477, Register C, 1873 to 1879, pages 1 to 558

    Microfilm M-5499, Register D, August 30, 1879 to March 10, 1886

    Microfilm M-5499, Register E, March 15, 1886 to December 10, 1888

    Microfilm M-5500, Register F, December 13, 1888 to October 30, 1890

    Microfilm M-5500, Register G, October 30, 1890 to December 2, 1892

    Microfilm M-5501, Register H, December 5, 1892 to June 23, 1894

    Microfilm M-5501, Register I, June 26, 1894 to March 17, 1896

    Microfilm M-5502, Register J, March 21 1896 to July 23, 1897

    Microfilm M-5502, Register K, July 23, 1897 to December 15, 1898

    Microfilm M-5503, Register L, December 15, 1898 to May 17, 1900

    Microfilm M-5504, Register M, May 18, 1900 to January 3, 1902

See the Archives of Ontario website for information about how to access their microfilm copies of Carleton County Surrogate Court Registers.

Other resources

Visit Ontario Public Libraries to find a library in the province. There might also be a local archives in the area where your ancestors lived.

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