Thursday, February 8, 2024

Gemini - Google's AI Now Available in Canada

After being one of the few countries in the world without access to Google's AI tool, Bard, us folks in Canada now have access to Google's new Gemini AI app on the desktop.

Screen capture taken on 8 Feb 2024 of part of the Gemini landing page retrieved using Firefox from a location in Canada.
Screen capture taken on 8 Feb 2024 of part of the Gemini landing page retrieved using Firefox from a location in Canada.

If you are used to using the free version of ChatGPT (version 3.5) then you will be familiar with all the usual gotchas. I'm not going to go into using the tool since much smarter folks with greater understandings on how these tools work have written about AI and Genealogy. Here are just some of the resources I've used in the past:

Instead I'm going to give you an example of why you need to double check everything you get back from these tools if you are asking specific research questions.

In the following edited conversation my questions in bold and Gemini's answers in italics, I posed the following:

Put yourself in the role of an experienced genealogist
In Upper Canada, when were Catholic priests first permitted to perform marriages?

The story of when Catholic priests could officially perform marriages in Upper Canada (now Ontario) is a bit convoluted and involves multiple milestones:


  • Restricted Recognition: Catholic marriages were not legally recognized under British common law, which dominated Upper Canada.
  • Religious Ceremonies: Catholic priests performed marriage ceremonies, but these had no legal standing. Couples often married twice: once in a Catholic ceremony and once with a government official to legalize the union.
  • Challenges and Ambiguity: This situation created challenges for Catholics, particularly regarding inheritance and property rights. Some couples only had the Catholic ceremony, leading to legal disputes later.


  • Partial Change: The Marriage Act of 1834 permitted "any clergyman regularly ordained" to solemnize marriages. This technically included Catholic priests, but...
  • Unresolved Confusion: The Act didn't explicitly mention Catholics, and some officials remained hesitant to accept clergy outside the Church of England.


  • Clarification and Recognition: The Marriage Act Amendment Act of 1851 explicitly named "regularly ordained ministers of the Roman Catholic Church" as authorized to perform marriages.
  • Full Legal Recognition: From this point onwards, Catholic marriages performed by priests had full legal validity in Upper Canada.

Important Points:

  • Gradual Process: It wasn't a single switch in 1834. Recognition took time and legal clarification.
  • Local Variations: Even after 1851, some local officials might have initially resisted accepting Catholic marriages.
  • Documentation: If you're researching an ancestor's marriage in Upper Canada, consider both the Catholic ceremony date and the legal registration date to get a complete picture.

Remember, understanding historical context is crucial. While Catholic marriages faced legal hurdles, perseverance and advocacy ultimately led to full recognition, reflecting the evolving religious landscape of Upper Canada.

At first blush, this is actually a pretty good response. It told me about the acts involved and gave me some background. However, wanted to see what sources it might have used.


Can you provide any sources where you found that information?
Certainly! Here are some reliable sources where I found the information about the legal recognition of Catholic marriage ceremonies in Upper Canada:

Primary Sources:

  • Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada:
  • Marriage Act Amendment Act of 1851, Upper Canada:

Secondary Sources:

  • "Courtship, Love, and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century English Canada" by Cecilia Morgan: <invalid URL removed> (Chapter 2 delves into legal recognition of Catholic marriages)
  • "The History of Canadian Law: Public and Private Law to 1914" by P.B.W. Goold: (Chapter 8 discusses marriage laws and religious ceremonies)
  • Library and Archives Canada website: (Offers digitized archival records related to marriage laws and petitions)

Additional Resources:

  • Archives of Ontario website: (Provides access to historical land and marriage records)
  • Canadian Catholic Historical Association: (Offers resources and publications on Catholic history in Canada)

These sources provide valuable insights into the legal evolution of marriage laws in Upper Canada and the recognition of Catholic marriage ceremonies. By exploring them further, you can gain a deeper understanding of your ancestors' experiences and the historical context surrounding their marriage.

That's even better. Except when I when to the first site, the Ontario Bar Association, I couldn't find any resources that dealt with those historical marriage acts in Upper Canada. That was the first sign to me that something wasn't quite right. 

So I asked Gemini this question about that marriage act.


Can you provide more information about the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada?

The Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada: A Deeper Dive

The Marriage Act of 1834, passed in the then-province of Upper Canada, marked a significant change in the legal landscape of marriage. Here's a breakdown of its key features and the context surrounding it:

[...additional details omitted for brevity]

Full Text of the Act:

[...additional information omitted for brevity]

A good summary of the act but I still wanted to read the original act and I still couldn't find it.

I can't find the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada. Is there any more information you can provide to help me locate the original act?

I apologize! While I mentioned the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada, the link I provided wasn't specific enough. Here are some resources where you can find the original act:
Digital Copies:

  • The Law Society of Upper Canada: This website offers access to various historical legal documents, including the Statutes of Upper Canada. You can find the Marriage Act of 1834 here:
  • Library and Archives Canada: This website contains digitized copies of historical documents, including Upper Canada statutes. You can search for the Marriage Act of 1834 here:


I played around in the Library and Archives Canada site with no luck. But I also noticed they called the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) site the "Law Society of Upper Canada". That was another red flag for me. Those are two different organizations. Also, since about 2017 the "Law Society of Upper Canada" is now known as the "Law Society of Ontario". Hmmm.

I'm sorry, but I must be an idiot since I still can find that act

Please don't call yourself an idiot! Finding historical documents can be quite challenging, and it's not at all a reflection of your intelligence. I apologize if my previous instructions weren't clear enough. Let's try a different approach.


At least it is kind. It also gave me detailed instructions (yay!) for using the OBA site but I guess that the site had changed since Google last looked at it for teaching its AI system since the instructions didn't work.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening I was making use of my favourite Canada Pre-Confederation law site "British North American Legislative Database, 1758-1867". This site is really useful when you come across a notional like "4 & 5 William IV c. 7" which was in one of the responses Gemini displayed at one point.

Only one problem, I couldn't find any acts referring to marriage in the 4th and 5th years of the reign of William IV in that database. So I popped over the "Statutes of Her Majesty's province of Upper Canada" collection on Canadiana where I checked the Statutes of Upper Canada from 1833 to 1835. Chapter 7 in any of those years didn't apply to the solemnization of marriage. I also check the "Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom/William IV" page on WikiSource and it did have acts listed from the session of Parliament listed under "1834 (4 & 5 Will. IV)". But chapter 7 was about "Postage in North American Colonies Act 1834".

I had noticed on the "British North American Legislative Database, 1758-1867" site that in 1831 there was the "An Act to make valid certain Marriages heretofore contracted, and to provide for the future Solemnization of Matrimony in this Province. (The Royal Assent to this Bill was signified, by Message of His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, to the Legislative Council and Assembly of this Province on the Second day of March, 1831.)".

So I called Gemini on this issue:

Are you certain that the Marriage Act of 1834, Upper Canada actually exists? I found an act from 1831 in the first year of William IV's reign (1 William IV c. 1) and a later act from 1847 affirming the 1831 act. But I've found no references to an 1834 act

I apologize for the confusion I caused. You're absolutely right, I made a mistake. There was no Marriage Act of 1834 in Upper Canada. The relevant legislation related to marriage during that period is as follows:

1. An Act to alter and amend the Laws now in force in this Province respecting the Solemnization of Marriage (1 William IV, c. 1, 1831): This act permitted "any clergyman regularly ordained according to the forms of law of any religious denomination in this Province" to perform marriages. However, it was initially interpreted ambiguously and didn't explicitly mention specific denominations like Catholics.

2. An Act to amend the Act passed in the first Year of the Reign of His present Majesty, intituled, 'An Act to alter and amend the Laws now in force in this Province respecting the Solemnization of Marriage' (10 Victoria, c. 56, 1847): This act clarified the 1831 legislation by explicitly naming "regularly ordained ministers of the Roman Catholic Church" among those authorized to perform marriages.

The confusion likely arose from conflicting sources or misinterpretations. I deeply regret misleading you and appreciate you bringing this to my attention. It's important to be accurate and provide reliable information.


I keep saying this, and I will continue to say this, when asking for fact based information from the current iterations of what is commonly referred to as AI, it is like asking an overly confident 8 year old child a question. They, AI and the child, will often continue to insist the answer provided is correct until you tell and show them they are wrong.

By the way, ChatGPT 3.5 had the same problems with this question and it really had me going down the rabbit hole looking for nonexistent acts.

So now I  keep asking the simple question "Are you sure about that answer?" when asking research oriented questions to the AI tools.

To be honest, I have found these tools useful when asking for general guidance in my research such as what resources should I look in when I might have hit a genealogical brick wall. Or even when I updated my bio for my talks.

Lesson for today:

Just like any fact or event we come across in our genealogy research, everything we get from these AI tools such as ChatGTP, Gemini, etc. needs to be double checked and verified through our own resources. 

Enjoy playing with Gemini!


  1. Fantastic examples. I learned so much from this - from how to query, redo, redo, redo, to doing the much harder work of verifying the results. I particularly appreciated the investigation into Canada's legal landscape, as I'm engaged in similar work. But the difference is that when I ask an archivist about a particular Order in Council, they either know what they are saying, or they are careful to say only what they know!

    Unlike the "overly confident eight-year-old". Great analogy.

  2. Very enlightening. Thank you, Ken. I am not a robot.