Genealogy

There has been a recent increase in interest in genealogy and the study in particular of service histories as they relate to ancestors and family members. This interest has been aided by television programs with that theme, and the proliferation of tools now available to amateur researchers, notably through the internet. The canadiansoldiers.com website has always focused on military, rather than personal or family, history, but due to the overwhelming and ongoing number of requests, the following information is provided in the hopes it may be useful.

Library and Archives Canada

All Canadian service personnel have their surviving records permanently retired to the Library and Archives Canada, a central repository for all branches of government. Before the First World War, with the exception of contingents sent to South Africa for the Boer War, permanent personnel records as we know them today were not created or kept. Earlier records at the regimental or unit level, such as muster rolls or pay lists, were kept, and these may be found in the LAC holdings. They do not contain personal information, and are not indexed, meaning in order to research the service of specific individuals, one would need to know which unit they served in first. It may be possible to research the Militia Rolls for specific counties, if one knows only the place of residence, by access the Department of Militia and Defence series (Record Group 9).

For soldiers serving 1900-1914:

Library and Archives Canada maintains a South Africa War database which includes reference to personnel records, medal registers, land grant applications and correspondence that relates to Canadian soldiers who served in the Boer War. The database may be found at the Library and Archives Canada website:

For soldiers serving 1914-1918 (First World War):

LAC has posted the Attestation Papers (the forms that a soldier signed on being recruited) for every soldier that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force from 1914 to 1918. This was the field force that served overseas during the First World War. Note that many soldiers attested into units that were broken up for reinforcements, and they therefore saw combat or other service with units other than the one they originally joined. The papers are not a complete service history, but one document among many chronicling their service.

The service files of the soldiers who served in the C.E.F. are archived at LAC, and an electronic index to finding them has been provided online:

The files include all pertinent documentation regarding when and where they enlisted, which units they served with, and may include other information regarding medical history, medals and awards, personal evaluation reports, dental history, and other miscellaneous information. Many families report that their relatives did not talk about their military experiences, particularly those who served in war. Service records are not 'sanitized' for the consumption of family by LAC, and prospective researchers are warned to be prepared for the possibility that relatives may have concealed or even fabricated elements of their personal histories. Adverse reports, medical conditions (including venereal disease), disciplinary actions and other potentially embarrassing revelations may all await the researcher.

For those serving after 1918:

Library and Archives Canada holds military service files for those who served after 1918, however, except for those who died in service during the Second World War, there is no online database for these records because of access restrictions. There are no access restrictions on the service files for members of the Canadian Army who died in service between 1939 and 1947, including those killed in action, those who subsequently died of injuries related to service and those who died as a result of accident or illness while in service. As with the First World War, there is an online database:

For all other military service files (1919-1997), including Second World War (not killed in action), access restrictions apply.

Requests for medical and dental records only of Canadian Armed Forces members who were released from service or who died in service more than five years ago are handled by Library and Archives Canada. From the LAC website:

How to Send an Inquiry Concerning Your Own or Another Individual's Records

We try to answer inquiries within 30 days; however, due to the large number of inquiries being received, we are currently experiencing delays in our response times. Clients who submit a written request should expect to wait six months for a response. Priority service is given to people who require documentation to prove that they qualify for pensions, allowances, claims and other benefits, therefore, these types of requests should be clearly identified.

For projects involving research in a large number of files, the request will be assessed by our staff to determine if current resources can accommodate such an extensive commitment.

  • Your request must be signed.

  • To identify a file, we require surname, full given name(s), date of birth, and service number or social insurance number.

  • If you do not know the date of birth, service number or S.I.N. (social insurance number), secondary information (e.g., the names of next of kin, postings, dates of service, place of enlistment) can assist in identifying the correct individual.

  • Consult the section below on Access Restrictions.

  • Please specify what document(s) you require. If you are doing family history research, we recommend that you request a "genealogy package," which will include copies of selected documents from the file that highlight/summarize the individual's service.

  • We do not accept email inquiries for these records. Inquiries must be sent by mail or fax.

  • Your request can be written as a letter or you can print off a blank copy of the Application for Military Service Information form available in PDF or RTF format, which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax.

Inquiries should be sent by mail or fax to:

ATIP and Personnel Records Division
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
Fax: 613-947-8456

Access Restrictions for info on soldiers serving after 1918

  • Access to personal information relating to an individual who is still living requires that person's signed consent.

  • If the individual has been deceased for less than 20 years, limited information may be released to immediate family. Proof of death and relationship must be provided.

  • There are no restrictions on access to information relating to an individual who has been deceased for more than 20 years. Proof of death is required.

Proof of Death: A copy of a death certificate, newspaper obituary, funeral notice or photograph of the gravestone. Note that proof of death is not required if the individual died while in service.

Proof of Relationship: A document that clearly demonstrates the relationship between the individual concerned and the person requesting the record. Both names must appear on the document. A newspaper obituary, baptismal certificate or full-form birth certificate are acceptable. A wallet-sized birth certificate that does not indicate parents' names is not accepted. Please do not send original documents; photocopies are acceptable.

Immediate Family: A parent, spouse, child, sibling or grandchild of the individual.

Should you wish to submit a formal request under privacy legislation, see: Records of the Government of Canada.

Records not Held by Library and Archives Canada

Rejected for active Canadian Armed Forces service on medical grounds: Library and Archives Canada does not hold military personnel records of these individuals. These records are no longer in existence; they were destroyed under a Treasury Board Authority, dated 7 May 1964.

Called up for Canadian Armed Forces service during the Second World War (1939-1945) but never enrolled: Library and Archives Canada does not hold military personnel records of these individuals. These records are no longer in existence; they were destroyed under a Treasury Board Authority, dated 7 May 1964.

Pacific Coast Militia Rangers: These military personnel records were never placed in Library and Archives Canada's custody, and it is our understanding that they no longer exist.

Members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who enlisted for active service but did not go overseas, Newfoundland Forces (Artillery, and Forestry Corps), Navy and Royal Air Force (Newfoundland Enlistments) all during Second World War (1939-1945): For records of these individuals, you should write to:

The National Archives of UK
Ruskin Avenue
Kew, Richmond
Surrey TW9 4DU
United Kingdom

Research Online

Personnel files after 1918 and the personal information contained in them are protected by the provisions of privacy legislation. For the same reason, the database and indexes that are used to identify the files cannot be made available on our Web site. Only staff may access them.

 


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