Marriage records before 1869 when civil registration in the Province of Ontario became compulsory are unfortunately far from complete. Before civil registration started, records of early marriages are to be found mainly in Church Registers, now lodged in archives such as the New Connexion Methodist records for Waterdown, held by the United Church Archives, Victoria University, Toronto.
Many records are lost, incomplete, or in such poor condition that they are virtually unreadable. Even the history of religion in Canada has affected the keeping of records — denominations have merged, or separated, or disappeared, and this has had a direct bearing on the existence of such records and their accuracy.
Not all ministers were allowed to perform marriages; for example, before the Marriage Act of 1831, Baptist ministers were not permitted by law to perform marriages. The previous Marriage Act of 1798 in Upper Canada allowed marriages to be performed by other denominations in addition to Anglicans and Roman Catholics. However, it specified these other denominations as Church of Scotland, Presbyterians, Calvinists and Lutherans: the Baptists were not mentioned, and this led to complications for them. Some Baptist ministers were able to convince local authorities they were Calvinists within the meaning of the Act, and obtained permission to officiate at marriages. Others could not succeed in doing this, and still others were not prepared to forswear their religion even to the extent of claiming to be Calvinists. The numbers who managed to get around the law increased over the years, and the Act of 1831 simply legalized a position which already existed!
Newspaper announcements are another source of early marriage records. This Heritage Paper lists notices found in Upper Canada and Canada West newspapers that record the marriages of East Flamborough Township residents.
Abbreviations used in the newspaper listings:ult. – last monthinst. – current monthC.A.Y. – Colonial Advocate, YorkC.G.T. – Christian Guardian, TorontoC.A.T. – Correspondent and Advocate, TorontoE.T. – Examiner, TorontoC.T. – The Church, TorontoT.H. – Toronto HeraldC.C. – The Church, CobourgReferences:“Marriage Notices of Ontario 1830-1859” – William D. Reid“Ontario Marriage Notices” – W. Wilson
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, January 1983.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1983, 2020