The 1940 National Registration File

Are you looking for a Canadian ancestor or someone who was living in Canada during the Second World War?  The National Registration was a result of the National Resources Mobilization Act, 1940, which enabled the government to identify military and labour resources that could be mobilized for the war effort.

Since most sources for that time period are still subject to access or privacy restrictions under Canadian legislation, Statistics Canada’s National Registration File of 1940 is an alternative to census records that can provide you with some answers. This very valuable source for genealogists and family historians is the result of the compulsory registration of all persons, 16 years of age or older, between 1940 and 1946.

If the person has been dead for more than 20 years, and you can provide proof of death, you can order a search of these Statistics Canada records. Please note that research fees apply.

If you cannot provide a copy of a death certificate, other types of documents indicating the date of death are accepted, such as obituary notices published in newspapers.

The registration included all persons who were 16 years of age or older, except for members of the armed forces and religious orders, or those confined to an institution. If a person died between 1940 and 1946, their questionnaire might have been destroyed. A different form was used for men than was used for women.

The questionnaires provide particulars such as address, age, date and place of birth, general health, and occupation. For immigrants, key details such as the year of arrival in Canada and their parents’ country of birth are given.

The questionnaires include the following details:

  • name;
  • address;
  • age;
  • date of birth;
  • marital status;
  • number of dependents;
  • place and country of birth of individual and his or her parents;
  • nationality;
  • year of entry into Canada (if an immigrant);
  • racial origin;
  • languages;
  • education;
  • general health;
  • occupation, employment status, farming or mechanical skills; and
  • previous military service.

There was a different form for males and females regarding questions about occupation, work history and military service. The records are arranged by electoral district; however, a soundex-format index exists.

Image of a blank form

Sample of questionnaire for men. Courtesy of Statistics Canada.

Image of a blank form

Sample of questionnaire for woman. Courtesy of Statistics Canada.

A similar national registration was undertaken during the First World War, in June 1918; however, those records have not survived.

What if the person is not listed in the 1940 registration?

As mentioned above, perhaps he or she served in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army. Our previous article, From Enlistment to Burial Records Part II: the Canadian Forces in the Second World War, describes how to search for individuals who served in the Canadian Forces.

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

50 thoughts on “The 1940 National Registration File

  1. My mum ordered her record last year upon my request. It arrived quickly & is a very nice addition to telling her story. It also served as a prompt for her to tell me a few stories that had slipped her mind. Worth the effort to make your request, in my opinion.

  2. I was completely on board for ordering three of these records until I saw the hourly research rate. I realize that it takes time and effort to look for things like this, but that is way too extreme for me. I can’t afford to spend possibly hundreds of dollars for only three people. Disappointing. 😦

    • I totally agree. Why Statcan is charging such an outrageous amount, when we do all the initial work. If the files have been set up properly, your search should be quite easy. Why not allow access on line with a cut off year 20 years prior to 2019?

    • I read that its the same privacy act that covers the census records. If this is indeed true than it is ninety-two years after the fact that it should be made available to the public.

    • They will probably not become available in the public domain, because the Canadian Government, along with other governments in the world, has discovered that genealogy is a most popular activity and they can make a lot of money by charging people for access to records.

      • Since Statistics Canada is a government agency, my point stands. Incidentally, the British National Archives do make the equivalent register, the 1939 register, available online and they simply blank out records for anyone who may still be alive, so that their information is not readable and thus protected. So what is Statistics Canada’s excuse for not doing that? If the records were available online there would be no need for staff at Statistics Canada to do the research and thus charge for it.
        There is a principle at stake here. In a democracy, the people should have free access to information about their deceased family members held by government agencies within the confines of data protection for those possibly still living. The records may well be held by Statistics Canada, but the information is NOT their property. It belongs to the people of Canada from whom it was collected in the first place.

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  4. When the active link [ National Registration File of 1940 ] doesn’t work, how does one find the particular page within the LAC website. What did the indexers use?

  5. Perhaps releasing the information of individuals that would be 100+ years old would be beneficial to researchers.

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  7. We are working to digitize the archives of Flin Flon Manitoba. We came accross the registration of a lady who lived in Flin Flon. We have 33,000 items in our archive and this is the first such registration we have found. A small green folder. On the back are two stamps MLCC could you please tell us what these stamps were for?

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  9. Your site seems very good-but help please. How do I find details of family member ? .I have name address etc..
    ( as in letter dated 1943 ) but have been unable to locate any information. Would really like some help Please, regards Margaret

  10. would it be possible to find the name of residents,living at 5,Connaught St. Kingston,Ontario ?
    A Canadian Soldier took a photo and sent it from Germany,by a colleague returning on leave to Annan. The photo was me and my brother,by luck the soldier asked me if I new these boys! The Soldier came to the street where we lived. The Soldiers had been Billeted in our neighberhood. It would be circa 1942-1945. I am now in my 80’s, I have tried quite a few sources over the years,no luck.

  11. Pingback: 1940 National Registration File | Jennealogie

  12. I’m looking for John Joyce that immigrated 1929 from Galway Ireland to Canada, he was born 1909 married in Montreal and had one daughter named Kathleen, I would love to know where the family is buried they were Catholics

  13. What is the fee for the 1940 National Registration record and do you pay when you send in the request or after being advised there is a file. Many thanks.

  14. I am looking for information from the, 1940 National Registration File, about a family who lived in Newburgh, Ontario. The name is Robert Hird, who was born in 1907 in England – which means he was born before the 110 years needed. And he is dead for more than 20 years. So can I receive information about him from National Registration. Where do I write to get it and how much will I owe for the search. Sincerely, Thanks James S. Gilchrist. British Home child researcher.

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  17. ooking for information about Esther Ghent
    Born on: December 20, 1899 probably in Clarassi Moldova
    Died November 1985 Quebec Canada
    Thank you

  18. Hello. I have been trying to trace my grandfather. Samuel Baird. He was born in Drumack. Co Antrim on 29/8/1985.
    I am led to believe he went to Canada in the 1930’s and was in the Canadian Police.
    Do you know of any way or any person who could help me.
    Iam 74 yes old myself and would love to solve this myself.
    Thank you.
    Helen James

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