Birth, Adoption and Orphanage Records


A birth or baptismal record generally provides:

  • date of birth and/or baptism;
  • name of the person;
  • name of the father, occupation, place of residence and name of the mother; and
  • names of the godfather and godmother.

Births are recorded in church records  or in civil registers.

As civil registration (birth, marriage and death records) is not a federal jurisdiction, Library and Archives Canada does not hold the civil registers and does not issue certificates. Read more about how to obtain copies of certificates under Civil Registration.

Records of Canadian Births Abroad

The Department of National Defence used to issue a Certificate of Birth (DND419) for Service dependents born outside Canada. The certificates were never permitted to be used as legal proof of birth and have since been discontinued. Also, the Registration of Birth Abroad Certificates are no longer issued.

Only the country in which a person was born can issue a birth certificate. You can request an International Birth Certificate from the registrar in the place where you were born.

If you were born in Germany, you can request more information from the nearest Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany. Information about requesting a birth certificate from Germany can also be found on the Web site of the German Missions in the United States.

If you were born in France, you can request more information from your nearest General Consulate of France.

Dependents born outside Canada to Canadian parents/Service members prior to 1977 can obtain a Canadian Citizenship Certificate, which is legal proof of citizenship. An Application for a Citizenship Certificate must be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Applications forms can be obtained by calling their toll-free number at 1-888-242-2100 or downloaded from their Web site from the Citizenship Applications page.


Library and Archives Canada does not hold adoption records because adoptions fall within the jurisdiction of provincial authorities. Access to those records is restricted to protect the confidentiality of the information they contain.

To trace a biological parent, sibling or child, you are best advised to work through provincial and private associations such as Mouvement Retrouvailles and Parent Finders.

If you know the person's full name, you might try searching the online telephone directories such as Canada 411.

If your ancestor was adopted prior to the early to mid-1900s when provincial authorities became involved in adoptions, children were placed with family, friends or neighbours without documentation by government authorities.

In Quebec, prior to 1847, adoptions can be found in Notarial Records. Private agreements were made between the government authorities and the families and were ratified in a notarial record. Those records are entitled "Engagement," "Accord" (Agreement) and sometimes "Adoption." After 1847, adoption in Quebec became a responsibility of religious authorities running orphanages. Still, private adoption records can be found in notarial records.


Many orphaned and abandoned children were placed in orphanages or children's homes, which were usually run by local municipalities, provincial/territorial authorities, churches or charitable organizations.

There is no central repository for orphanage records in Canada. In fact, many records would have been discarded when an orphanage closed. Orphanages are not a federal jurisdiction, so Library and Archives Canada holds few such records; here are some examples:

Consult the Collection Search database for records on orphanages and use keywords such as the name of the institution.

Between 1869 and the early 1930s, churches and philanthropic organizations based in in the United Kingdom sent more than 100,000 orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Consult our Home Children page for information on distributing homes and other related institutions.

Date modified: