For many Canadians, Remembrance Day on November 11 is evocative of the selfless contribution of the Canadian Forces. The eleventh day of the eleventh month
brings to the forefront the memory of those who died while serving their country in the Armed Forces. Each year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives countless queries about military services files of individuals who served after 1918 (including the Second World War).
Once again, our experts have put together some answers to many of the most frequently asked questions. Keep in mind that, in addition to consulting the content below, a great place to begin your research is on our Genealogy and Family History’s Military pages.
– Is the person still alive? When did he/she serve?
Access to personal information included in a person’s personnel file requires that his/her signed consent. If you served in the Canadian Forces, consult our Canadian Forces after 1918 section to find out how to request copies of your own service file.
If the person is deceased, the date of death has an impact on what information is released.
If the individual died less than 20 years ago, limited information may be released to the immediate family. Proof of death and relationship must be provided.
There are no restrictions on access to information relating to an individual who has been deceased for more than 20 years. Proof of death is required.
Newspaper obituaries are a key tool in genealogy and help when researching military service files. Our online catalogue AMICUS can be searched to locate and borrow newspapers.
Consult our article “How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm” for more
If the person died while in service between 1939 and 1947, the service files are open to the public. References to those service files can be found in our Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead database.
Consult our article “How to Order Military Records from the Personnel Records Unit” to learn how to obtain a copy of these files.
- Beyond the service files:
Once you have a copy of the service file, some questions will be answered but other questions will arise: In what battles did the person serve? Where is he/she buried? Our previous article “From Enlistment to Burial Records Part I: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War” describes key sources that are equally relevant to post First World War research, such as War Diaries, Veterans Death Cards, and Medals, Honours and Awards databases.
- Even more places to look!
Finding aids such as The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and our article on “Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” contain a wealth of information on military activities.
Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!