But all is not lost if an event occurred before the province kept civil vital records. During the time before civil registration we can look for church records (baptisms, marriages and burials), newspaper announcements, military records and family bibles.
Below are some of the various online sources for finding the Canadian civil birth, marriage and death documents for your ancestors. Some sites are just indexes, others have the images available but you can't easily download them, some cost money to access the images, and finally some provinces have made the images available for download for free.
Newfoundland and Labrador - Newfoundland's Grand Banks Vital Statistics
Although vital records for Newfoundland and Labrador have been kept since 1891, a majority of records prior to 1948 were copies of church registers. The Newfoundland's Grand Banks Vital Statistics page has transcriptions from many of those church registers.
Prince Edward Island - Public Archives and Records Office
- Births: Civil registration didn't start until 1906 and the birth registrations are under a 120 year privacy restriction so birth certificates are not online.
- Baptisms: up to about 1923
- Marriages: Licenses 1787-1933 and Marriage Bonds 1849-1902
- Deaths: prior to 1906
Nova Scotia - Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics
- Births: 1864-1877, 1908-1913 plus delayed registrations for births between 1830-1913
- Marriages: bonds from 1763-1864 and registrations 1864-1938
- Deaths: 1864-1877, 1908-1963 plus the City of Halifax for between 1890-1908
New Brunswick - Vital Statistics from Government Records
- Late Registration of Births: County Series: 1869-1901
- Late Registration of Births: 1810-1918
- County Birth Registers: 1800-1913
- Provincial Registrations of Births: 1898-1918
- Marriages: 1847-1964
- County Death Registers: 1885-1921
- Provincial Returns of Deaths: 1815-1919
- Death Certificates: 1920-1964
Quebec is unusual in the sense that there was no separation between church and state until fairly recently when it came to registrations. It wasn't until 1994 that the government of Quebec kept separate vital records. Prior to then, the province had the churches send copies of the registers to the government archives. The Drouin collection is the best source for baptisms, marriages and burials. This collection is available on Ancestry in "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967" or via Institut généalogique Drouin.
Ontario - Ancestry's Ontario, Canada Vital Records: Births, Marriages and Deaths collection
- Births: 1869-1913
- Marriages: 1801-1928 (with gaps prior to July 1, 1869)
- Deaths: 1869-1938, deaths overseas from 1939-1947
Manitoba - Genealogy Searches for Unrestricted Records
- Births: 1882-1913
- Marriages: 1882-1933
- Deaths: 1882- 1943
Saskatchewan - Genealogy Index Searches
- Births: 1878-1913
- Deaths: 1878-1917
Alberta is another special case. Prior to 1905 Alberta was part of the Northwest Territories. Some of these records may be available though the Alberta Family Histories Society Resources page.British Columbia - BC Archives - Genealogy
- Births: 1854-1903, baptisms between 1836-1888
- Marriages: 1872-1934, colonial marriages between 1859-1872
- Deaths: 1872-1991
Tip: Know when records were started to be kept by governments so you don't search for documents that don't exist.