If your ancestors lived in Canada, you may find that the country's military records could be very helpful in tracing your family tree. Find out how to access these records, and learn more about what kind of information they contain.
Finding Military Records from Canada
The best places to look for Canadian military records include:
- The Library and Archives Canada is perhaps the best source for information about your ancestors in the Canadian military. This is the place to find class lists from military colleges, British military and navel records pertaining to Canada as well as many helpful articles about using military records in your genealogy research.
- The Olive Tree Genealogy has an excellent collection of military records from the War of 1812. Here, you'll find muster rolls of Canadian volunteers for the conflict, as well as pension records for widows and names of prisoners of war.
- The Canadian Military Heritage Project also has a wealth of information about Canadian armed service members. This site can help you find what you need at the Library and Archives Canada, and they have a long list of record locations for all major Canadian conflicts.
- The Veterans Affairs Canada keeps a website for the Books of Remembrance. These books contain the names of every Canadian service member who lost his or her life while fighting for his country.
- The Canadian War Museum is a great source for information about Canada's many conflicts and wars. You can find out what your ancestor was fighting for and gain a better understanding of the scope of the conflict.
When searching for your Canadian ancestors who served in the military, it may help to keep the following tips in mind:
- Find out as much information as you can about the date of service. If you can pinpoint a specific war in which your ancestor fought, you'll have more success locating the military records for that individual.
- If possible, try to determine the military branch of which your ancestor was a member. Together with the approximate dates of service, this information will dramatically improve your search results.
- For perspective, consider learning as much as you can about the war in which your ancestor fought. This will help make your research more real and meaningful and will provide an added dimension to your genealogical files.
- Keep at it! It may take a while to sort through Canadian military records for your ancestors, but the information you find will be well worth the work involved.
Canadian Military History
Prior to the Confederation of Canada in 1867, many Canadians served in the British and French armed forces, as well as in local militias. They helped to defend the territory from invading countries, the United States, and native people. Many Canadians fought against the Americans in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
After 1867, Canada developed a national volunteer militia, which defended the country against threats like the Fenians, an Irish radical group bent on invading Canada from the south. This militia, as well as other subsequent ground forces for the defense of Canada, are often called the "Canadian Army."
The Royal Canadian Navy was formed in 1910, and the Royal Canadian Air Force began in 1924. All three branches of the Canadian military were consolidated in 1968 to form the Department of National Defense.