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World War One

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Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)

Over 600,000 men and women enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918) as soldiers, nurses and chaplains. At the time of enlistment the recruits filled in a two-sided Attestation paper which included the recruit’s name and address, next-of-kin, date and place of birth, occupation, previous military service and distinguishing physical characteristics. If the man had been drafted into the CEF under the provisions of the Military Service Act of 1917 there was a one- sided form. Each recruit was assigned a regimental number. Officers did not have a regimental number unless they enlisted first as privates or non commissioned officers. Officers completed a one-sided form called the Officers’ Declaration Paper.

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) database

Is an index for the service files held by Library and Archives Canada for the soldiers, nurses and chaplains who served with the CEF. Scanned images of most of the Attestation papers are available in the database. More will be added as the scanning project continues. LAC has stated to add digitized copies of the service files to the database.

Courts-Martial of First World War

Is a database is at “Ancestor Search”. One can find the name, regimental number, rank, time in the service and nature of the offence. This is followed with the file number and the Library and Archives of Canada microfilm number. One can order the microfilm through Interlibrary Loan.

  • If you can’t find a name try spelling variations or combine given names and initials.
  • The ages given may not be correct. Check the War Diaries for details about military operations.
  • The records for those who served with British forces are found in England.
  • Read the Search Help section for more details about the records.

War Diaries

The War Diaries are the daily account of each unit’s “Actions in the Field.” The diaries are arranged by regiment number. If you do not know the regiment number note regimental number for the recruit and then check “The Regimental Number List of the Canadian Expeditionary “found on the “Search Help” section. Digitized images are found of the diaries are found online at “Ancestors Search.”

Ship Logs

The Ship Logs for Canada’s naval vessels that served in World War One are found in Library and Archives Canada. In order to find the log you need to know the name of the ship. Directions for how to find the logs are found on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website. None of the logs have been microfilmed but copies can be obtained from the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force did not exist during World War One. Those who served would have served with the Royal Flying Corp, the Royal Naval Air Service or the Royal Air Force. Their records would be found in the National Archives in England. Check the Air Force Association of Canada section for more information.

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)

The Royal Canadian Navy was formed in 1910. The records for those who served in World War One are found in Pay Ledger Sheets (RG 150, 1992-93/170), which consist of single over-size pages that summarize each individual’s service, including the names of all ships and shore bases on which he served.  Directions about how to find the records are found in at the Canadian Genealogy Centre.

Further Reading

  • Nicholson, G.W.L. Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919.
    Ottawa: Queens’s Printer, 1962.
  • Spencer, William. Air Force Records for Family Historians.
    Kew: The National Archives, 2000.
  • Wright, Glenn. Canadians at War 1914 – 1919: a research guide to World War One service records.
    Milton, Ontario: Global Heritage Press, 2010.
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