This week we'll be looking at divorce records in Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba
As stated in Part 1, divorce was handled federally up to 1968. But, unlike other areas of Canada, a couple could become legally separated through the province's civil code. These were done by notaries. A notice of action had to be printed in the provincial version of the Canada Gazette, Quebec's Gazette officielle du Quebec. You can find a searchable database on BAnQ. You can download the pages as a pdf or print. The search function is only available in French. The resulting pages will either be in French only, or both French and English, depending on the issue. You will get the name of the petitioner (plaintiff), their spouse (defendant), the court name and district, and the cause number.
As for notarial records, these can also be searched on BAnQ, in their database Archives des Notaires du Quebec des origines a 1936. This also in French only, but is easy to figure out. You cannot search for a particular entry. What you want to do is narrow it down to a particular notary. If you already know who that is, then go through the alphabetical listings under the heading "Par nom". If you don't know who, then narrow down by the region, then district. Then, you can scroll through the images of the notary. These can be narrowed down in different ways, depending on which notary you are looking at. It will be time consuming, but pretty interesting stuff when you get into it.
The other place to look for notarial records is Ancestry's two databases Quebec Notarial Records (Drouin Collection), 1647-1942, and Quebec, Canada Notarial Records, 1626-1935 The first collection is indexed by notary name. The images may not the actual actes, but the indexes made by the notary themselves. It will give you the type of act, the persons involved, and the act number. These are arranged by year. With this information you can then seek the repositories to find the record. Gail Dever at Genealogy a la Carte has a great tutorial on the second database here.
The Superior Court of Quebec handled divorce cases once it fell under the jurisdiction of provincial courts. In order to obtain the records, you must justify your reason for requesting them. I could not find anything stating what restrictions there were to access the information.You will have to go through the courthouse that handled the divorce, and have proof of identity. You can access the contact information for the various courthouses on Justice Quebec's website here
Divorce could be obtained provincially in Ontario from 1931. It is handled through the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice. Divorce files from 1931- 1980 are housed at the Archives of Ontario (AO). It is not so simple as just going there and asking to see them however. You need to have the file number, year of divorce, and the location (county or district) that the divorce took place. If you need to consult indexes to find this information, then you will have to go through some steps:
- If the divorce was between 1931 and May 1949, the index could be at the AO, but it may not. Most of the indexes for this time period are held at the courthouse where the divorce was filed.
- If the divorce was between June 1949 and before July 1968, the AO has province wide indexes on microfilm.
- After July 1968, you must will have to look at the indexes compiled by the Supreme Court. These may be at the AO, or they may only be at the courthouse where the divorce was filed.
Once you have the information you need to give to the AO, you can then proceed to get the information on the divorce. If all you need is a copy of the Divorce Decree, you can request one. Since divorce records are stored offsite, it may take a couple of weeks for this to be ready for you. They will either mail it, or you can pick it up in person. The fee is $33.00. If you need to see the file itself, they you MUST call ahead to arrange for it to be there when you visit. They need a minimum of one business day. The AO has a fantastic research guide on divorce files here. It takes you step by step through the process, and at the end has all the contact information for the various courthouses in the province. If the divorce took place in York County however, there is a separate research guide for that here.
After 1980, you will have to contact the courthouse that handled the divorce proceedings. There does not seem to be restrictions on accessing the decisions of the court. You can also do a search of decisions on the Superior Court of Justice's webpage. When I typed in the search area the keywords "marriage divorce", I got over 4,000 different cases. Of course, you will want to narrow it further by name.
Update June 25: Look to the comments section below for the comment from Yithio. Divorce files up to 1985 are at the AO. And, as I suspected in my section on the Central Registry in Part 2, privacy laws dictate that only those involved in the divorce proceedings can use this resource.
Divorce was handles provincially in Manitoba from 1920, though you may find some as early as 1917. They were handled by the Divorce Court of the Court of Queen's Bench up until 1984. Since then it has been handled by the Family Division of the Court of Queen's Bench. Records have no restrictions to access that I could find.
The Archives of Manitoba has records from 1917-1983. These are divided by region. There are indexes on microfilm that can be viewed on site, or may be available for inter library loan. Check with the Archives on what's available for loan. The records themselves can only be viewed at the Archives. As they are stored off site, they will require two business days notice to have them there for you to view.
For post 1983 records, you will need to go to the courthouse that handled the divorce. the Queen's Court Bench has an online central registry that you can search here. Type in a name and make sure you tick the box "QB Family". It will give you a listing of court cases with that name. By clicking on the case number, it will give you all the file details you need, including the courthouse that handled the case. You can then contact the courthouse for access to the file. You can find locations and contact information of courthouses in the province here.
Next week we'll look at Western Canada.