First World War

The digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) files is underway and a substantial number will be available on our website by the end of the summer as part of the Government of Canada First World War commemoration initiative. Additional files will be available in the fall and winter months as the CEF digitization initiative is a priority for us.

Image of Recruitment poster. First World War - Enlist! New Names in Canadian History : recruitment campaign.

Enlist!
New Names in Canadian History.
Source

Mary Riter Hamilton: Traces of War
Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force
The Battle of Passchendaele: Resources

Genealogy and Family History

Canadian Expeditionary Force

Library and Archives Canada holds the personnel records for the 600,000 Canadians who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918). To identify the file references for nurses, chaplains and soldiers, you can search our Soldiers of the First World War database. 

As part of the 100th anniversary commemoration of the First World War, LAC is digitizing the remaining 640,000 CEF members’ personnel service files. To be able to perform this major undertaking, LAC will temporarily close portions of the CEF service files, with 75% of the collection remaining open at all times during the project. The first series of files is expected to be added in 2014. At the end of the project, expected in 2015, Canadians will have unprecedented access to this rich resource and will be able to research high-quality digital copies of the more than 650,000 service files for free. For more information on this initiative, please consult the Fact Sheet: Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files.

To identify the file references for nurses, chaplains and soldiers, you can search our Soldiers of the First World War database.

 
If you order a copy of a file, the following information pages will help you interpret the documents:
 

Aboriginal Soldiers

Other references to aboriginal soldiers can be identified using the Government of Canada Files database (Archived).
 

Keywords: surname of the person and "soldier"
Record Group: 10

Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps

Library and Archives Canada holds microfilm copies of the military personnel files of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps. References to those files can be identified using the Government of Canada Files database (Archived).
 
Keywords: surname of the person and "Newfoundland"
Record Group: 38
 
Please take note that the documents for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on microfilm are not available for loan from Library and Archives Canada. The Family History Library has a copy of these microfilm reels.

Imperial War Service Gratuity files

Some Canadian residents who served with the British Imperial Forces during the First World War received a gratuity from the Canadian government. Those Imperial War Service Gratuity files are found in our Department of Militia and Defence fonds (RG 9 II F10). References to those files can be identified using the Government of Canada Files database (Archived). Use the Detailed Search Screen.
 
Keywords: name
Finding Aid: 9-56

Air Forces

The Royal Canadian Air Force did not exist at this time and those wishing to serve in the Air Forces would have joined the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Air Force (RAF). Library and Archives Canada does not hold personnel records for those individuals.
 
Library and Archives Canada does hold some nominal rolls of Canadians who served with the RFC and RAF in the following series. Those lists are not available on microfilm; they must be consulted onsite.
 
  • RG 24, vol. 23195: E to H and I to M
  • RG 24, vol. 23196: A to D and N to W
  • RG 24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 1: Acland to Luxton
  • RG 24, acc. 1995-96/670, box 2: Macaskill to Zieman
 
Personnel files for the RAF and RFC are in the custody of the National Archives in England. The records are described in their guide: Royal Air Force and predecessors.

Naval Forces

Library and Archives Canada holds the following records for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Naval Reserve.

Royal Canadian Navy Service Ledger Sheets (RG 150, 1992-93/170)

The service ledger sheets consist of single over-size pages that summarize each individual's service, including the names of ships and shore bases. They are arranged by service number in 27 volumes. 
 
These ledger sheets have been indexed by name in the following database. Consult the database Search Help page for information about the records, how to obtain copies and other sources for naval personnel records.
 

Service Files (RG 24, 1992-93/169)

These files are more administrative and financial in nature than the service ledger sheets. Most files contain a variety of documents, which may include enrollment applications, discharge or demobilization forms and separation allowances. They usually average from 25 to 50 pages. Some files relate to enrollment in the Royal Naval Air Service. First World War files are open to the public without access restrictions.
 
References to the service files are found in Finding Aid 24-167. The references can be identified using Archives Search. In the search box enter the Finding Aid number and the name such as:
  • 24-167 William Smith
  • 24-167 Jean Simard
If the individual continued his service after the war, his First World World records may be in his post-1918 file.
 
Service records for those who served in the Royal Navy are in the custody of the National Archives in England and can be searched online.
 

Armed Forces of Other Countries

Australia

Austria

France

Germany

Great Britain

Surviving personnel records for members of the British Forces, including the Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force, are in the custody of the National Archives in England (formerly the Public Record Office). Use their Family History Military Guide to identify military records of interest to you.

Ireland

New Zealand

Poland

The Polish Army in France (Blue Army or Haller's Army)
Haller's Army Index

South Africa

SANDF Documentation Service Directorate, (Personnel Division)
Private Bag X289, Pretoria, 0001, South Africa:
fax: +27 12 323 5613
(Mail or fax inquiries only)

United States

Research Online

Related Topics