Searching for Genealogical Information from Divorce Records in Canada
Divorce records can be a good source of genealogical information, giving such information as the place and date of a marriage and the place of residence of one or both partners at the time of the divorce. These details can provide valuable stepping stones to further research into your family history.
The first divorce was granted by the Canadian Parliament in 1841. Between 1841 and 1867, the process of filing for divorce was difficult, lengthy and expensive. As a result, only five more divorces were allowed by the Parliament of Canada in the period between 1841 and 1867 and one of these did not obtain final Royal Assent.
When four of the former provinces of Canada united to form one country in 1867, the courts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia continued to deal with divorces occurring in their jurisdictions, while the Canadian Parliament was responsible for granting divorces in Canada West (now Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec).
The online database, Divorce in Canada (1841-1968) provides information on all divorces that were granted by an Act of Parliament between 1841 and 1968. Anyone may search this database free of charge by following these steps:
Go to: http://www.collectionscanada.ca/genealogy/008/022008-100.01-e.php
Type the name of one or both of the parties involved in the divorce into the search box. If possible, it is better to enter a surname rather than a first name, since a person’s initials are only recorded in certain cases. You may also be able to search under the wife’s maiden name, but this was not always recorded.
Click on the ‘submit’ button
A list of search results will appear. Scroll down the list until you find the divorce that you are looking for. You will find the following information:
Name of petitioner
Name of spouse
Once you have these basic details of the divorce, you can do further research to find out additional information on the divorce and its participants.
One way of doing this is to request a certified copy of the divorce act relating to the divorce. In order to do this, write a letter that includes the name of petitioner and spouse, reference, year and citation from the Divorce in Canada (1841-1968) database and send it, together with your contact details, to:
Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
40 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A4
Telephone: (613) 992-2416
Another way of uncovering further information on the divorce is to search the government gazettes and local newspapers for notices of the intention to divorce. Between 1867 and 1968, it was a legal requirement to advertise your intention to divorce in two local newspapers and the government gazette, Canada Gazette, for six months prior to the divorce. Such notices usually included the following information:
· Names of the participants in the divorce
· The wife’s maiden name (in most cases)
· Date and place of marriage
· The husband’s occupation
· The place of residence of one or both parties to the divorce
· Other circumstances surrounding the divorce. A third party was sometimes named in cases of adultery or bigamy.
Additional information on the divorce can be also obtained by consulting the Statutes of Canada for the year of the divorce if it occurred between 1867 and 1963 or the Journals of the Senate of Canada for divorces granted between 1964 and 1968. In both cases, a transcript of the Divorce Act granting the divorce will be included, giving the following information:
The name of the person petitioning for the divorce and the name of the husband or wife
The place of residence of both parties
The date and place of marriage
The reason for granting the divorce
The Statutes of Canada and Journals of the Senate of Canada can be consulted at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa and at many public libraries throughout Canada. In order to trace a transcript of an Act of Divorce, you will need all of the information from the online database, including the reference, year and citation. The contact details of Library and Archives Canada are:
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
Telephone: (613) 996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777, toll free in Canada and the USA
In order to find out whether the Statutes of Canada or the Journals of the Senate of Canada for a particular year(s) are available at a local library, you can consult the AMICUS database online at: http://amicus.collectionscanada.ca/aaweb/aalogine.htm
With the wealth of online and offline information available, it should be possible to uncover interesting details about the lives of your ancestors.