Researching a Family Military History with Carol Reid
Presented by Carol Reid from the Canadian War Museum on October 17 to an interested group of GVHS members and friends about military genealogy.
Original Power Point file available for download.
An introduction to online resources relating to Canadian Military service records.
- Provide an outline of some on-line resources for pre-First World War military records, First and Second World Records and other websites.
- Knowing even a little about the individual you are researching helps and a good starting point is family documents.
- The next step is The Library and Archives Canada's Genealogy Centre (LAC).
Pre-First World Was on-line sources
- Prior to the First World War the service records were not detailed and often consisted of muster or pay lists or medal rolls. LAC holds copies of these if the individual served in Canada and this website explains what is available: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/military-peace/index-e.html?PHPSESSID=m0nf9jd6bci6jgek3paj1ba0t1
- LAC has also scanned all the service files for those who served in the South African War www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/south-african-war/001002-100.01-e.php
- If the person served in the British Military outside of Canada then The National Archives (TNA) near London, England, is a great source of records www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records
What can you actually find when you have just a name and a date? Such as the case with this photos, where all we had was "Captain George Piers, Halifax, 1857".
With Piers' information and using Army Lists, Ancestry, published histories of the Nova Scotia Vital Statistics website we were able to determine the following information:
- Captain George Piers was born on 7 February 1830 in Nova Scotia an died of influenza in Halifax on 29 October 1910 at the age of 80. His father was born in Nova Scotia and his mother in England. A Wesleyan Methodist, and a merchant by trade, he was married to Emily Ann (who passed away in Halifax on 15 May 1919 at the age of 82 of pneumonia) and the father of six children: Edith, Ada, Annie, Temple Foster, William and Emily Alberta. He was a company commander in the Halifax Volunteer Battalion, and in 1866 was called out on active service to protect the border against Fenian invasion. Both George and Emily were buried in the Camp Hill Cemetery, Halifax.
First World War on-line resources
- Military service files are available from LAC and are searchable from their on-line database called "Soldiers of the First World War database", www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/cef/001042-100.01-e.php
- The navy and air force are not on-line but are available upon request.
- Also available on-line are battalion war diaries www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/archivianet/02015202_e.html
First World War published resources
- The Canadian War Museum's Military History Research Centre holds dozens of unit histories, published memoirs, nominal rolls and general histories. Their catalogue can be searched from home at catalogue.warmuseum.ca. The Centre is open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4:30 pm and while they don't lend directly to individuals, many of the books are available through an inter-library loan with your local library.
Second World War published resources
- Unfortunately most of the Second World personnel records are closed for the life of the individual plus 20 years, BUT if you can prove that someone has been gone for 20 years or more you can order a copy of their file: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/022-909.007-e.html
- The files for casualties are available: www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/war-dead/001056-100.01-e.php
Casualties of War
The following slides illustrate online documents
Consulting the Soldiers of the First World War database and looking at the attestation paper for my grandfather we can tell that William Thomas Kendall was born in Enfield, Middlesex, England on 19 December 1887, his next of kin is his mother Mrs. L. Kendall who was living in Mount Dennis, Ontario at the time he enlisted. He was single, 26 years old, 5'3”, (my mother always claims he was a tall man!) an electrician and had served with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery for three years prior to enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 25 September 1915 at Valcartier, Quebec and his service number was 5704. If we then go to something like Ancestry and the census records we can tell that he was one of four children of Frederick and Louis Kendall, living in All Saints Parish of London, England and that William was working as a railroad messenger in 1901 and he came to Canada in 1909.
For someone like Richard Rowland Thompson, about whom much has been written, you can still start from the beginning and look at his South African War service file, without leaving home, thanks to LAC. Looking at his on-line file you find out that Thompson was 22, single, had light brown hair and blue eyes, was 5'6', a medical student and born in Cork, Ireland and that his next of kin was his mother back in Cork, he enlisted in Ottawa on 18 October 1899. His file also tells us he was of good intelligence, of a nervous temperament and was generally healthy, that he served with the 2nd Special Service Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in South African, was entitled to the Queens South Africa Medal with the clasps: Paardeberg, Driefontein and Cape Colony. We also learn that he was discharged on 16 October 1900 and was then commissioned in the South African Constabulary before taking up employment with the DeBeers Company in South Africa and that he had been awarded one the Queens Scarves and that he had been nominated for the Victoria Cross.
- Honours awarded to the RCN during the Second World War rcnvr.com
- Royal Canadian Legion Last Post www.legionmagazine.com/lastpost
- RCAF Honours and Awards airforce.ca/honours-awards/search-awards-database
- The Canadian War Museum has a collection of 144,000 newspaper clippings from the Second World War called "Democracy at war". This has been digitized and is fully searchable on-line www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/newspapers/intro_e.shtml
- LAC has a selection of First World War records digitized and on-line. www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cenotaph/index-e.html
On-line resources continued
- The London Gazette, search on names to see when someone was promoted, mentioned in despatches or awarded medals and honours www.london-gazette.co.uk
- The National Archives in the US www.archives.gov/veterans/
- Canadian Military Heritage Project www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~canmil/index.html
- For Newfoundland soldiers ngb.chebucto.org/NFREG/index1.shtml
- Ancestry is an excellent resource www.ancestry.ca
- as is Find My Past www.findmypast.co.uk/home.jsp with links to various census
- Provincial vital statistics websites such as www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/access/vitalstats.aspor archives.gnb.ca/Archives/Default.aspx?culture=en-CA
On-line resources continued
- A list of recipients of the French Croix de Guerre www.ww2awards.com/award/42/abc
- The Canada Gazette www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/canada-gazette/001060-100.03-e.php
- A British military genealogy website www.military-genealogy.com/
- The LAC's Genealogy Centre www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/index-e.html
- A British genealogy website www.freebmd.org.uk/
- An American Genealogy website usgenweb.org/
On-line resources continued
- The Red Cross in Great Britain www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/Museum-and-archives/Resources-for-researchers/Volunteers-and-personnel-records
- Holocaust survivors www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/its/
- The National Archives in the UK has excellent on-line resources www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline
Not all military records are on-line but hopefully these links will point you in the right direction to start your research into someone's military history.