We must Name them to truly Remember!

Armistice Day

Canadian actor and artist R.H. Thomson embarked on a Remembrance Day art installation to Commemorate and name those who made the ultimate sacrifice during the First World War.  His belief, we cannot truly remember if we see the dead as an unnamed collective.  I must concur!  As Canadians we have yearly sat through somber school and community ceremonies but it seems only now a more recent trend to actually acquaint youth with the individuals who gave their lives.  Through the study of wartime letters, the biographies of individual soldiers, visits to European monuments and battlegrounds, and the recreation of World War trenches, students are being immersed in the lives and experiences of soldiers.  It is an admirable educational evolution!

619 636 Canadian soldiers enlisted during the First World War, 59 544 lost their lives and in World War II 1.1 million Canadians served.  The numbers are astounding and few family genealogies are untouched by these all encompassing wars meant to end all wars!  Over a decade ago when I began my personal family history journey delving into the lives of my WWI CEF ancestors was costly and time consuming.  While the Library and Archives of Canada provided an online index, one still had to send in a records request, wait for the requests to be processed, and pay substantial amounts of money for files to be copied and mailed, or later scanned and emailed. 

Thomas Carter WWI crop

My Maternal Great Grandfather Thomas Carter


The fantastic news has been that for the last five years a Library and Archives Canada project has digitized Canada’s First World War service files in their entirety and made them available online!  You can read about the digitization process on the LAC blog.

Most genealogist will be familiar with the information I am presenting in this article however I think the interest in this family research may extend beyond those regularly involved in genealogical pursuits.  My hope was that in spreading awareness regarding the increasing accessibility of these records the general public will learn how easy it can be to become acquainted with their ancestors.


One can access the Personnel Records of the First World War database and search by surname and first name and/or your ancestor’s regimental number.

WWI search

You will be presented with a listing of those entries matching your search from which you may select.

WWI listing

The entry for your selected soldier will include some indexed details, a digital image of the soldier’s initial Attestation Papers, and a link to a PDF of the soldier’s complete service file.

WWI Entry

(As an aside, the example I have used is that of my great great uncle, a casualty of the gas attack at the Battle of Ypres in 1915.)

These records may provide one with an initial introduction to one’s ancestor, or perhaps fill in the missing pieces regarding his service.  I will write further articles expanding on this path of discovery later this week.

Not one Canadian veteran remains from the First World War.  As time plods on fewer and fewer remain from the Second World War, and perhaps it is those ancestors who fought during WWII with which one is intrigued.  Many soldiers returned with stories to tell, while trauma prevented others from telling the tales of their experiences.  Many Canadians may have known their parents, grandparents, or great grandparents who fought in the second world war but may have known little of their wartime experiences, the battles they fought,  and the places they were stationed.  The privacy act in Canada is quite stringent and perhaps the idea of these restrictions has deterred people from thoughts of requesting this more recent information.


My Uncle Wilfred Crown in Italy during WWII

An online database index exists for those killed in action during World War II.  Copies of these records may be ordered traditionally through the “how to obtain copies” link on the main database homepage.  These are open records and anyone can request these with only the archival reference information.

All other WWII service files are classified as restricted.  This only means they are not accessible to all.  If the veteran is living he or she is the only one with access to his/her personal file.  The file could then only be released with the written consent of the veteran.

If however the veteran has passed less than 20 years ago limited personal information may be released to immediate family members with proof of relationship and proof of death.  Immediate family can include spouse, parent, sibling, child, or grandchild.

The files of veterans who passed more than 20 years ago can be requested by anyone with proof of death.  This can include the photo of a headstone or an obituary which are often easy to obtain.  All it takes is the completion of a simple application form.

Again, it can take a great deal of time for WWII service file requests to be processed and filled.  The application for may be mailed or faxed and Library and Archives Canada send a confirmation letter.

LAC letter

The copies of the service records follow within 6-12 months’ time.  This may seem a long wait however the records are provided free of charge which is an amazing public service in my estimation!

This Remembrance Day do something different.  Though we continue to thank the collective of veterans and military personnel, stop and take a moment to look at the individuals who comprise that collective. Discover their unique experiences and personalities, and bring them to life for yourselves, your families, and your children!

Being remembered is living forever!


Browsing the 1666 Quebec Census


If you, as I, have sprung from the earliest of French-Canadian roots you may be overwhelmed by the vast expanse of records.  While it is always heartening to see that research sources abound it can also be daunting wading through the piles of paper, the websites, the book stacks, to piece together the stories of our ancestors and decipher the validity of sources.

French-Canadian genealogical research can be hampered also by one’s lack of French language knowledge and the fear of accessing records and documents one cannot comprehend.  I would like to encourage researchers to move beyond this fear and discover a world of exciting documents brimming with rich genealogical details.

fah_canadianIn genealogy, as in many disciplines, it is important to be systematic, bearing this in mind I have decided to produce a series of blog posts introducing novice genealogists to specific French-Canadian document-sets, databases, and resources available online.  The hobbiest must understand that genealogical research should venture beyond sites such as Ancestry and Family Search.  Seasoned researchers, especially those who began their research prior to the onslaught of the internet, focus much of their research deep within the stacks of the archives.  Visiting an archive in person is always preferable but today we are lucky to find more and more archives are updating their websites with digital databases, many including images of original documents.

I am planning a series of blog posts regarding specific French-Canadian records and collections available online for those who are newly venturing into French-Canadian research.  Today I will focus on the early Quebec census records which should represent a wonderful starting point for those struggling with the other language-rich French-Canadian sources we will later explore.

The Library and Archives of Canada website is just one place you can access some wonderful online digital databases.  A particular favourite of mine is that of the 1666 Quebec Census which is not indexed but is a collection of browse-able images.  While they may be rather difficult at times to decipher there are some decent online transcriptions which can be used to help you as you work through the originals.  One of these transcriptions can be found on Hugh Armstrong’s Genealogy Site.  The transcriptions are divided by region so you must be sure to match up the correct region to the correct portion of the original census.


Sample page from the 1666 Quebec Census

You will also find the 1667  and 1681 Quebec Census record images.  All these early census records include the names of all household members and ages.  The 1666 census also includes occupations or descriptors.  These records as you should expect are in French however the nature of the census as a listing of names and ages makes them easily comprehensible to even those with little experience of the French language.  They are a fabulous starting point for those breaking into the realm of French-Canadian research.

Some helpful vocabulary you may encounter in the 1666 Census:

travaillant ~ labourer                         Cordonnier ~ shoemaker   macon ~ builder                           charpentier  ~ carpenter                   menuisier ~ carpenter        fils ~ son                                      Sa femme ~ wife                                  habittant ~ settler                boulanger ~ baker       chapellier ~ bricklayer                      fille ~ daughter                      briquetier ~ bricklayer           Domestique Engaigé ~ Domestic    notaire ~ notary

These are just a few words you may encounter.  Use Google translate or go “old school” as I often do and invest in a French-English dictionary.

I look forward to delving further into the topic of French-Canadian online resources, including collections from Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec (BANQ), in future blog posts!


My Persistant Pursuance of a Passion

Dictionary Series - Miscellaneous: genealogy

If it has not already become apparent, I have a true passion for genealogical research.  I believe the appeal is not only in learning the unknown about my own ancestors but rather in the human stories, suspensefully revealed piece by piece, and uncovered through the dramatic building up of clues and information.  Who among us does not enjoy a detective story, a mystery which we have fulfillingly solved ourselves?

However, this preoccupation is less fulfilling without the skills required to obtain those story pieces and to puzzle them together.  Up until January I have been a self-taught magnifying glassgenealogist.  I had the aptitude and I was able to search out the resources to help me develop my abilities.  Webinars, my own trial and error, reading blogs, articles and books have all been my learning tools but in January I decided I wanted to pursue my passion more seriously.  I want to be taken seriously as a genealogist, I want to build credentials, and I want to be able to legitimately provide services and assistance to others in search of their family’s past.

This was the impetus for me to go in search of a Canadian genealogy education program and I was gratified to find exactly what I was looking for: an online certificate program through the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. The National Institute of Genealogical Studies (NIGS) has been offering genealogy courses for over 15 years.  Why I had not thought to pursue this new path of education years ago I cannot fathom.

NIGSThe Certificate in Genealogical Studies — Canadian Records is a 40 course program resulting in a certificate and post-nominals (PLCGS).  I have completed 7 of the 9 Basic Level courses and will be taking the final 2 basic courses this coming month.  Completely online, each course includes module readings, assignments,  an exam, and optional live stream chats.   The program includes required Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced level courses as well as elective courses which can be selected from a wide menu of choices.  Most courses are about two months long however you can work ahead if you wish.  You are allotted approximately 2 years for several of the culminating analysis courses which appear to be more intensive. I enjoy working at my own pace!

I am excelling thus far and more importantly enjoying my learning experience. The director of the program  has been very helpful and personable whenever I have had any questions.  Even if you are not interested in obtaining a certificate you may enroll in NIGS courses individually   or in groupings to further your knowledge and aid in your research endeavours.  Whether you wish to pursue Genealogy as a business professional/academic or you just want to gain quality skills to aid you in your personal genealogy the National Institute of Genealogical Studies could be what you are looking for just as it was for me!

Study 3