A birth record would be a birth registration, birth certificate, or baptismal certificate.
Birth registrations are recorded at, or near, the time of birth by an 'informant'. Historically the informant was usually the father, doctor, or a male relation of the parents.
Birth certificates are copies of birth registrations, issued by the government. For genealogical purposes if you have a birth registration you don't necessarily need a copy of the certificate. However, if you do need one, they can be purchased from the Office of the Registrar General. Be sure to order a genealogical certificate as the other certificates are shorter and don't include all the information available on the registration (i.e. they may only offer name, date & place of birth).
Baptismal certificates are created at the time of baptism (usually within 6 months of birth, but not always!) by the church. See Church Records for more on this type of certificate.
Below is information on how to obtain a birth registration. Birth certificates are only available through the Registrar General's Office for a fee, and baptismal certificates may be available through church records
Where you'll find the birth registration you're seeking depends on the year of birth...
In the early days of settlement in Upper Canada, births weren't registered by the Government. To find a record of birth, if there is one to find, you will have to delve into Church Records.
1869 – 97 years ago
In 1869 The Vital Statistics Act was passed requiring all births, marriages & deaths to be registered with the provincial government*. Even though this Act was enacted in 1869, it wasn't enforced until the 1880's. Therefore, the records for the first twenty or so years of registration are not complete. Unfortunately you won't know if your ancestor was, or wasn't, registered unless you undertake a search of birth registrations.
*The provincial government was that of Ontario, not Canada. Therefore, if you're seeking information on vital statistics you would inquire at the provincial (Ontario) level, not at the national (Canada) level.
97 years ago - present day
Under privacy laws all births registered within the past 97 years remain in the custody of the Office of the Registrar General. They are not available for public search. (See 'Where Can I Find It?' below for more).
Birth registrations available on microfilm have been indexed. 1869-1895 registrations were indexed at the same time. Therefore, you can look at the “S” microfilm and see an index of all registrations that begin with the letter “S” for the years 1869-1895. This isn't the case for all letters though (the letter “M” is spread out over 7 microfilms with 1880, 1882, and 1883 each indexed on their own!)
Registrations after 1895 were indexed individually. The index to 1896 is one microfilm with all surnames A-Z. The same with 1897, 1898, and so on.
The index will give you the following information:
Surname & First Name is the name of the child born. The index will not give you the names of parents, you must obtain the actual registration for that information.
Sex: M (Male) or F (Female)
M: Refers to the month of the birth
D: Refers to the day of the birth
Y: Refers to the year of the birth
REG: Is the registration #
Year: Is the year the birth was registered (not always the year of the birth)
Once you have this information, you would take the Registration # and the year of Registration and locate which microfilm you need to view the actual registration. The Archives of Ontario website will help you with this. It also gives an explanation of the indexes and how to use them.
Things to remember:
Spelling! Variations, incorrect spelling, phonetic spelling, etc. Check all possible spelling variations of the name you're seeking. Also keep in mind that some names are out of order (not alphabetical). If you're seeking SMITH, check all the “S” surnames.
Human Error! These indexes were created by people and are subject to human error. A registration may have been accidentally skipped; i.e. just because it's not in the index, doesn't mean there isn't a registration.
Late registration! Not every birth was registered immediately. If you don't find the person you're seeking in the year you believe they were born, check the index for the next year. The birth may have been registered the following year.
Delayed registration! If your ancestor required proof of birth at some point in their life, but had been born prior to registration, they may have applied for a delayed registration. There isn't a quick search for this though - you'll have to check each index for each year.
If you don't find the registration you're seeking in the year you think it should be, check a ten year period of five years before and five years after.
Information given is dependent upon the year of registration:
Child's Name - 1869+
Child's Place of Birth (township/town, county) - 1869+
Child's Exact Place of Birth (i.e. street address) - 1908+
Child's Sex - 1869+
Date of Birth - 1869+
Date of Registration - 1869+
Father's Name - 1869+
Father's Occupation - 1869+
Mother's Name - 1869+
Mother's Maiden Name - 1908+
Mother's Marital Status - 1908+
Mother's Occupation - 1908+
Mother's Previous Spouses - 1908+
Parents Date of Marriage - 1908+
Parents Place of Marriage - 1908+
Informant's Name & Residence - 1869+
Informant's relation to child - 1908+
Name of Physician in Attendance - 1908+
Keep in mind that these registrations are COPIES of the original. At the end of each year any births registered would be copied into a book and sent off to the government. This book is what was microfilmed and made available for you to search. So there may be transcription errors.
The examples below show different types of registrations. By clicking on the examples you will see a larger version with one registration highlighted.
The example from 1887 has six registrations per page.
The examples from 1899 have registrations in list form, two pages wide, and had room for twenty-eight registrations per double page. The example on the left is page one, the example on the right is the continuation.
|1899, Page 1|
|1899, Page 2|
If you have an Ontario birth registration that is different from these examples, please consider sending it in to be included as an example.
Archives of Ontario
Any institution (i.e. Library) that subscribes to Inter-Institutional Loan (not just in Canada! Ask at your local library or genealogy society)
LDS Family History Centres worldwide
1869 – 97 years ago, registrations & indexes have been microfilmed and are available for viewing at:
Registrations of births within the past 97 years are not available unless...
you are applying for your own registration
the person named on the registration is deceased and you are next-of-kin or executor (proof is required)
To apply for the birth certificate of someone born within the past 97 years you must fill out a form and send it to the Office of the Registrar General (form & address available at this link)
Each year, usually in May or June, the Archives of Ontario releases the birth registrations of those born 97 years ago.
Registrations from 1869-1913 are now online at Ancestry.ca (subscription required). There are also several free access volunteer projects that have transcripts of Ontario birth registrations online (see links below), but it's hit or miss.
What should you do if you can't locate a birth registration? Try one of these alternate resources for a record of birth:
Adoption In Ontario... A Brief History
Vital Statistics Forms
Questions & Answers