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Overheard in GenForum: Marriage Licenses for Ontario, Canada, 1920
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

January 06, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: Can anyone help me find a database of marriage licenses for Ontario, Canada in 1920. I am trying to find out where my grandparents were married and as much info as possible. -- Rhyan

A: The Internet is changing how genealogists begin their research on a new line. Instead of planning a trip to the library, many times we start first with the Internet. And we hope that we will find a database that we can search through.

Even if there turns out to be that there are no databases available online, you will find that there is generally some very useful information available. If nothing else, it is possible that you will find details about the coverage different record types offer. You may also learn about different repositories, their hours of operation and their services. Just because the records are not online doesn't mean you can not find people who live in the area and that can be of help.

Even if there turns out to be that there are no databases available online, you will find that there is generally some very useful information available.

Vital Records in Ontario

Registration of vital records was begun on 1 July 1869. Unfortunately it wasn't until about 1930 that complete registration was achieved. However, generally you have a much better chance of getting vital records from the 20th century than those in the 1800s.

There are microfilmed indexes to the births, marriages and deaths available at the Family History Library. These indexes do not go up to the present, however. Currently the Family History Library has the following indexes available:

  • Births, 1869-1900
  • Marriages, 1869-1915
  • Deaths, 1869-1925

Each year, an additional year's worth of records are released. They are not made available though until they have been microfilmed.

What About More Recent Vital Records?

In your case, though, you are searching for a marriage record that is more current than what is currently available on microfilm. Therefore, you will need to contact the Office of the Registrar General to request the marriage that you are in need of.

You can write to them at this address:

Registrar General
189 Red River Road
P.O. Box 4600
Thunder Bay, ON

Or you can can visit them at their web site where among other things you will have access to the*form necessary for ordering certificates.

* This form requires the use of Adobe(r) Acrobat Reader(r) which can be downloaded FREE at Adobe's web site.

Other Possible Resources

If you do not know the city in which the marriage took place, then newspaper records may not be of assistance to you. However, they are often a viable alternative when you know the city or town where the event took place but do not have access to vital records or when vital records do not exist.

Another possibility when dealing with births, marriages and deaths, are church records. It is important to keep in mind that you are more likely to be dealing with baptisms and burials. This means that the dates are likely to be slightly later than the actual dates of birth and death. However, in some cases it may be the only records you will find that prove that your ancestor was born and that he or she died.

Online Avenues

As I mentioned above while we would love to find lots of online databases, very often what we find is information. Information is necessary. If we do not know what records are in existence or how to access them, then we are lost and find ourselves wasting time.

So, you may want to check out some of these sites for additional information:

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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