Parish registers are an important source for information on births, baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. For you to locate relevant records, you must know the place and the religious denomination of a person. Religious denomination is indicated in Census records.
The first parish registers were created in Europe in the sixteenth century. The first Europeans to arrive in Canada continued this practice of creating parish registers. The first parish register was created in Quebec City as early as 1616; the oldest record dates back to 1621. Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.
There is no central repository for parish registers in Canada. Many are in the custody of individual churches, church archives and provincial/territorial archives, or they have not survived.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Library and Archives Canada holds only a small collection of parish registers, none of which are comprehensive for any region. Most are transcripts rather than originals, available on microfilm and listed in our Checklist of Parish Registers. Due to the heavy volume of inquiries we receive, we are unable to conduct searches in parish registers; however, microfilm copies may be borrowed through the inter-institutional loan arrangement.
Our holdings can be identified by using Archives Search. Select “Textual material” to limit your search. Keywords: name of place or religious denomination with "church records," "registres de paroisses," "registers of births," "marriage records," "registers of marriages," "death
registers," "burials," "baptisms," "baptêmes," "mariages," "sépultures"
The descriptions of the records are written in the language of the actual parish registers.
Some of the church records have nominal indexes. To provide better access to those indexes, the information they contain has been entered in a database that will expand slowly over the next few years.
An online database is available for some Ontario Wesleyan Methodist baptisms.
The Université de Montréal's database Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Research Programme in Historical Demography includes Quebec Roman Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials as well as Protestant marriages from 1621 to 1849.
Research in Other Institutions
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, holds microfilm copies of church records of various religious denominations from countries around the world. In particular, they hold an extensive collection of Roman Catholic parish registers for the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.