Ontario Adoption and Guardianship Records

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Archives of Ontario[edit | edit source]

This research guide has information about guardianships and related records at the Archives of Ontario and offers information on agencies to contact about adoption records. Please note that The Archives of Ontario does not have adoption files, only guardianship records. [1]

Library and Archives Canada[edit | edit source]

Between 1869 and the late 1930s, over 100,000 juvenile migrants were sent to Canada from the British Isles during the child emigration movement. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Many believed that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help.
After arriving by ship, the children were sent to distributing and receiving homes, such as Fairknowe in Brockville, and then sent on to farmers in the area. Although many of the children were poorly treated and abused, others experienced a better life and job opportunities here than if they had remained in the urban slums of England. Many served with the Canadian and British Forces during both World Wars.
This database contains the 10,678 names of children that appear in the Boards of Guardians register.

The Records[edit | edit source]

Guardianship Records[edit | edit source]

The Archives of Ontario holds records of guardianships 40 year old and older, with a few exceptions, and some records that are less than 40 years old. Other existing records are at the local courts.

  • Pre-1921 guardianships are often erroneously identified as adoptions, even on the records themselves.
  • Guardianships appeared with the Guardianship Act, 1827.
  • The Act allowed a Probate or Surrogate Court judge to appoint an individual to safeguard the child's "property, person and education" until maturity.
  • If both parents were dead or destitute, a relative or family friend was often appointed guardian.
  • While the child was often said to be "adopted", they had no claim on their guardian's name or estate.
  • After Ontario made adoption easier in 1921, there were fewer guardianships awarded but some guardianships were made as recently as the 1970s.
  • The province-wide Probate Court existed until 1859. The Surrogate Courts, located in each county and district, existed until 1985.
  • Informal "guardianships" could be publicly announced with a deed poll. This is a declaration by an individual of their intentions and/or actions. It was deposited in the local Land Registry Office. Some deed polls may still be held by the Registry Offices.
  • Poor families rarely approached the courts or registry offices. Instead, they made informal arrangements with relatives or friends for the care of their children. Children formally awarded a guardian had no more public support than those left in the care of relatives of friends. In informal arrangements, no official records were ever created.[1]

Adoption Records[edit | edit source]

Adoptions in Ontario are open. The Archives’ staff are unable to answer questions about access to adoption records. Contact the Custodian of Adoption Information (address below.)

  • Before 1921, adoptions could only occur through a statute (act) of the Legislature. They were very rare. See Research Guide 207 for information on how to locate statutes.
  • Under the Adoption Act (April 8, 1921) an application for adoption could be made to the Court. These were heard in the Judge’s chambers and the records were sealed.
  • Today, adoptions can occur through a Children’s Aid Society or a government-licensed private adoption agency.


Adoption files in Ontario contain the Adoption Order, legal papers and/or background information gathered at the time of adoption. While some files have histories of the growing adoptee, older files may contain almost nothing.[1]

Custodian of Adoption Information
P.O. Box 654
77 Wellesley St. West
Toronto, ON M7A 1N3
Canada

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Guardianship and Adoption (Research Aid). Archives of Ontario. http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/access/documents/research_guide_223_guardianship_and_adoption.pdf. Accessed 8 October 2020.