What You Will Find in a Canadian Military Service File

As you may already know, military service files contain a wealth of information about soldiers, nursing sisters and chaplains. The files for the First World War have been reviewed and contain an average of 50 to 70 pages.  Later files however, such as the files for those who were killed-in-action during the Second World War, have not been reviewed by the Personnel Records Unit and might contain multiple copies of the same documents.  This is why these files are larger, and may contain up to 400 pages.

Do you really want to view all 400 pages, including duplicate copies?

Probably not. That is why Library and Archives Canada (LAC) created the “Genealogy Package”, which offers a selection of the most relevant documents in a file to help you discover the story of an individual during their service time.

You can read how to order the Genealogy Package in our online article “How to Order Military Records from the Personnel Records Unit”. However, in case you are wondering what kinds of documents are included in a Genealogy Package, we have included the following list outlining the most common documents for the army, the air force and the navy.

The Army

Attestation paper, dental record, discharge certificate, DVA counselling, interview report, medal card, medical record, occupational history form, part II orders, particulars of family, pay-related documents, personnel selection record, soldier qualification card, war bonds correspondence.

The Air Force

Dental record, discharge certificate, DVA counselling interview report, enlistment form, medal card, medical record, occupational history form, particulars of family, pay-related documents, personnel selection record, RCAF card/service card, war bonds correspondence.

The Navy

Dental record, DVA counselling interview report, enlistment form, medal card, medical record, occupational history form, particulars of family, pay-related documents, personnel selection record, record of service card, true certificate of service, verification form (medals), war bonds correspondence.

Are you interested in ordering a military service file? Did you know that you can help make a broader range of LAC holdings available to others? You can do this by choosing the PDF option (either the URL link by email or the CD) when you order a complete file—for example, a soldier’s file from the First World War. The images you request can then be repurposed for use on LAC’s website, whenever permissible. Help us build LAC’s digital collection; the URL link will save you money on shipping fees too.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Nitrate Film Preservation Facility

In our last article we discussed the Gatineau Preservation Centre. Today, we would like to introduce to you LAC’s Nitrate Film Preservation Facility.

Colour photograph of the exterior of a building. Front: Parking lot area; Back: Main entrance to the building

Exterior view of the LAC Nitrate Film Preservation Facility

Did you know that a portion of LAC’s film and photographic negative collection is nitrate-based? The collection consists of 5,575 reels of film, dating from as early as 1912, and close to 600,000 photographic negatives. Because of the potential for nitrate-based cellulose film to combust if storage temperatures are too high, LAC chose to house this material in a facility that provides a stable, cold, dry environment essential for preservation.

Colour photograph of light boxes on a table. Nitrate negatives are on top of the boxes. Back: Three people standing next to the table.

Light boxes displaying nitrate negatives, some of which show obvious signs of deterioration

This collection captures some of Canada’s most significant moments up until the 1950s when the medium became obsolete. Among the materials preserved at the new facility is one of Canada’s first feature films, Back to God’s Country, along with works produced by the National Film Board of Canada and photographic negatives from the collections of Yousuf Karsh.

The Nitrate Film Preservation Facility, which opened in 2011, is an eco-designed building with various sustainable features that include a “green” roof, well-insulated walls to reduce energy consumption, high-efficiency mechanical systems to reclaim energy, and technology to reduce water use.

Colour photograph of workers at a nitrate work station. Front: A female employee handling a nitrate negative; Back: A group of people discussing another nitrate negative.

Nitrate Film Preservation Facility work station

The state-of-the-art facility also features a range of technical innovations that meet the current standards for preservation environments and provide the required fire prevention and protection measures. The building is also equipped with 22 individual vaults, specialized monitoring and an exterior buffer zone of land for added security.

For more photographs of the Nitrate Film Preservation Facility, visit Flickr!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at LAC: The Gatineau Preservation Centre

National Capital Region map displaying Library and Archives Canada buildings

National Capital Region map displaying Library and Archives Canada buildings

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) provides services to the public at the 395 Wellington Street building in downtown Ottawa where most of the published material and microform collection is housed. One main challenge in serving the public is that the archival material must be transported from five different storage facilities to be available for consultation in Ottawa in a timely fashion. That said, the best solution for avoiding any delay in accessing the records you need is to plan your visit and order the material ahead of time.

Also, did you know that there are other LAC facilities throughout Canada? Some buildings are for staff offices, while others are dedicated to the management and preservation of LAC holdings. Let’s begin by exploring the Preservation Centre, which is about 25 kilometres away from downtown Ottawa.

Opened in 1997, the Preservation Centre is located in Gatineau, Quebec, and is a building within a building. Its outer shell of glass and steel creates an environmental buffer zone for the interior concrete structure which houses the storage vaults, preservation laboratories and a mechanical plant. The mechanical plant is designed to be separate from, but connected to, the records storage and laboratory facilities. This feature separates and isolates the sensitive laboratory and storage functions of the building.

Photograph of the antechamber of the cold stprage vault where colour and black-and-white film records are kept.

Ante-chamber of cold storage vault for colour and black-and-white film records

The individual laboratories are constructed in a village-like setting directly above the three-story vault structure. This permits all LAC preservation experts, approximately 70 in total, to work together under the same roof.

Photograph of the interior of the art storage vault for paintings and other artwork.

Storage – Art Vault. Paintings are stored on mobile hanging racks in an environment of 18 degrees Celsius (+/- 2°C) and 50% relative humidity (+/- 5%). Other multi-media objects stored in this environment include globes and miniatures. The front of the vault provides a work area for collections management activities.

There are 48 vaults for the storage and handling of archival records, each of which measures approximately 350 square metres. They house a variety of archival records in four different storage environments. Each vault is designed to protect documents by eliminating potential threats, by having a sophisticated fire detection and suppression system, and by carefully controlling all materials used inside it to maintain a contaminant-free environment.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

How to Find Photographs Online

Did you know that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) boasts an impressive photographic collection?  Here is just a sampling of what you can discover:

  • Canadian life and culture illustrated in over 25 million photographs
  • A total of 500,000 individually described and searchable photographs
  • Digitized images of 80,000 photographs available online
  • Photo albums arranged by theme on Flickr

Follow these easy steps to get started:

  1. Go to Archives Search.
  2. Enter your keywords in the search box.
  3. From the Type of material drop-down menu, select Photographic material and then Submit. Your search will generate a list of results.
  4. Select the underlined titles to access the full description of a photograph. Descriptive records display images of photographs that have been digitized.



Our Photography  section offers a vast selection of tools and resources to help you discover the LAC photographic collection.

For more information on recent announcements at LAC, visit “News”.

Summary of comments received in French between July 1, 2014 and September 30, 2014

  • A reader from France is asking if he can copy photographs found on LAC website or its Flickr account for a commemorative exhibit on November 11th. He also mentions that he has done research on 3 Canadian soldiers (Kenneth Douglas Stephenson, Fred Plummer and James Archibald Marshall) who died in 1918 and are all buried in the cemetery of La Sentinelle, a locality of the north of France.

How to use the Genealogy and Family History pages

You can access the Genealogy and Family History pages of Library and Archives Canada (LAC) via our Discover the Collection website. Just select the “Genealogy and Family History” tab below the second header in the middle column of the page.

If genealogy is new to you, start with the following sections (located in the left menu).

How to Begin

Are you curious about genealogy? Want to know what it is all about and how you can get started? If so, the What to do first section is for you.


A key section in your pursuit of family history, Topics offers information on the resources you need to fill in your family tree. It covers all topics related to genealogy and even provides subtopics to guide you along.


To find genealogical resources specific to provinces and territories, visit Places. This section includes a brief historical overview of each province and territory, research suggestions, and links to related websites.

Before you start, remember these important tips:

  • Keep a research log to record the various sources you consult (e.g., books, websites). This will help you avoid repeating your work.
  • Ensure your online sources are reliable (e.g., use census, immigration, or other official records). Information found on genealogy websites can sometimes be inaccurate.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has over 2,300 Canadian newspapers dating back to the mid-1700s, which you can access on microfilm reels or microfiche cards. Begin your research with our Geographical List, which provides the titles of community newspapers held at LAC for a given time period.

For example, to find news coverage of Queen Elizabeth II touring Rimouski,Quebec, in November 1951, on her first royal visit to Canada as Princess Elizabeth, you would follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Geographical List and select Quebec.
  2. A list of localities will appear for Quebec. Select Rimouski – Sweetsburg. You will find a list of 14 newspapers for Rimouski,Quebec, with titles appearing in red. Each title is followed by a shelf number (e.g., NJ.FM.2006), a range of dates* (e.g., ja 2001–nov 2004), and an AMICUS number (e.g., AN 9745700).
  3. The fourth title, L’Écho du Bas St-Laurent, shows the range of dates 3 mr 1933–29 av 1970. This means that LAC has that newspaper on microfilm from March 3, 1933, to April 29, 1970.
  4. Now that you have found a newspaper likely to have covered the event in 1951, write down the AMICUS number—in this case AN 7419576. You will need it to order the microfilm reel for consultation.

In the meantime, if you need more information on how to use the Geographical List or how to read an entry, visit our page on Microform Holdings.

*Ranges of dates refer to newspapers held at LAC, not the period of time they were in print.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!