From 1840 to 1968, divorces in Canada were granted by private acts of the Parliament of Canada. Before 1867, only five divorce acts were passed and published either in the Statutes of the Province of Canada or in the Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada.
From 1867 to 1968, a person wishing to obtain a divorce was first required to place a notice of intent to petition the government for an Act of Divorce in the Canada Gazette and in two newspapers in the district or county where the petitioner resided. It was to appear for a six-month period.
The petition would contain details such as the date and place of the marriage, and events surrounding the demise of the marriage. In the case of adultery or bigamy, a co-respondent was often named. If, after consideration, the petition was allowed, Parliament would pass an Act of Divorce nullifying the marriage. Between 1867 and 1963, a transcript of the Act was published in the Statutes of Canada for the current year. Then, between 1964 and 1968, the transcript was published in the Journals of the Senate of Canada.
The transcripts include information from the petition:
This research tool provides access to a database containing 12732 references to the transcripts of the acts of divorce published in:
Each volume was consulted in order to identify the names of the petitioner, of the spouse and the citation number for each act.
The search screen allows you to search the name of the petitioner and/or of the spouse. You can enter a surname and/or given name.
Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only.
Women are identified by maiden name, if the maiden name was provided in the divorce act.
When you have entered your search terms, click on "Submit query". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
How to Interpret the Results
Your search results will be posted as a list showing the following fields:
You can export the results to a diskette or to your own computer.
References have been extracted from different official publications of the Government of Canada. The Year refers to the issue of a specific official publication in which the act was published. The Citation is the number of the private act.
How to Obtain Copies of Divorce Acts
Library and Archives Canada and many libraries in Canada hold copies of the official publications of the Government of Canada that contain the acts. Each act consists of one page, available in English and in French. You must provide the exact title of the publication, the year and the citation number in order to obtain a copy of the act.
You can use the AMICUS database to find out which libraries hold copies of those publications. Use the AMICUS No. provided below. Click on Locations and then on the library code in the left hand side column to obtain more details such as address and contact information.
Statutes of the Province of Canada
AMICUS No. 3491267
Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada
AMICUS No. 6146031
Statutes of Canada
AMICUS No. 3438274
Acts of the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada (Statutes of Canada)
AMICUS No. 5911801
Acts of the Parliament of Canada (Statutes of Canada)
AMICUS No. 86816
Journals of the Senate of Canada
AMICUS No. 33173
You can also order copies from Library and Archives Canada by using the Order Form for Photocopies and Reproductions.
Please include the complete reference citation as it appears in the database and the relevant AMICUS library number from the above list.
You can obtain a certified copy of a divorce act for legal purposes from the Senate of Canada. Write to:
Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel
40 Elgin Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A4
The Senate of Canada holds the original divorce files, but they are closed to the public.
Divorce proceedings were also handled by the provincial courts. Consult Divorce to obtain more information on additional resources to find divorce records.