Nova Scotia Archives

Nova Scotia Births, Marriages, and Deaths

Marriage Registrations ~ 1763-1948

Civil registration of marriages in Nova Scotia began in 1758, with the introduction of procedures for obtaining a marriage licence. The licence was optional, surviving records are incomplete, and 'calling the banns' remained the preferred procedure for formalizing the marriage ritual.

The parallel custom of posting a Marriage Bond, in addition to taking out a licence, also dates from this early period. The bond was an optional adjunct which served to indicate the absence of legal impediments to the intended marriage; an incomplete series of these bonds exists for the years 1763-1864.

Mandatory civil registration of marriages began in 1864 and has continued since, although compliance was not universal throughout the province until the early 20th century.

1763-1864 ('Marriage Bonds')

From 1758, government-issued licences were available as an option for those choosing not to give notice of intended marriage through the calling of banns. As an adjunct to paying the fee for a licence, the groom might also take out a security bond to indicate the absence of any legal impediments to the intended marriage. The bond was for £100 — a significant amount of money which also signaled the groom's sincerity of purpose, social status and ability to pay if he defaulted ('breach of promise').

Over 12,000 bonds survive from 1763 to 1864; because the bond was optional, these records reflect only a small percentage of the actual marriages solemnized in Nova Scotia during those years.

The existence of a bond is not proof that the marriage actually occurred; the bond was optional, not required, and is not a record of the actual marriage. Likewise, the date on the bond reflects the date it was taken out, not the date of any subsequent ceremony. Whether the wedding took place or not, and on what date, can be determined by examining the appropriate church records.

Bonds are not official Vital Statistics records, but are included in this database because of their immense research value.

Marriage bonds normally include the following information, although some details may be missing from early records:

  • name, place of residence, marital status, and occupation of intending groom
  • name and marital status of intending bride
  • date on which bond was taken out
  • name, place of residence and occupation of bondsman — an individual sometimes but not necessarily related to either party, and often a person of community prominence, whose signature confirmed the groom's intentions and further guaranteed his ability to pay in case of default.
  • name of clergyman to whom the licence would be sent — separate pre-printed forms were used for adherents of the established Church of England and for other Protestant Dissenting congregations; those for Dissenters included minister's name and religious affiliation, while those for the Church of England identified name of the parish only.
  • if the parties involved were under the age of majority or in the military, letters of permission were sometimes attached to the bond (these have been digitized and included in the online records)

Marriage registrations normally include the following information for both the bride and groom, although many details will be missing from the early records:

  • place of marriage
  • date of marriage
  • given name and surname
  • trade or profession
  • marital status
  • age
  • religious denomination
  • place of residence
  • place of birth
  • name of parents
  • place of birth (or residence) for parents

Records from 1864 to 1916 are in ledger form, with many entries spread across two facing pages.

Records from 1908 to 1948 are single-page registration forms.


Records remain with Vital Statistics, Service Nova Scotia. Please contact them for further assistance.



Nova Scotia Archives —

Crown copyright © 2024, Province of Nova Scotia.