By Kristen Frame
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a vast collection of published material that includes fiction and non-fiction, newspapers, government reports, Parliamentary debates, maps and atlases, music scores and recordings, and films. This blog article will give you an idea of how this vast collection helps reference librarians to answer research questions.
As a reference librarian, I receive questions on a wide variety of topics, which require different types of published material to answer. I recently received a request to find a copy of a Militia General Order from the First World War. This specific General Order from August 1915 cancelled a regulation that required married men to have consent from their wives in order to enlist. To answer this particular question, I had to make use of multiple sources of published material from our collection.
I began my search with LAC’s bound copies of published General Orders from 1897 to 1945. These can be requested using our online catalogue, Aurora.
I consulted the volume from 1915, but the General Order that cancelled the requirement to have consent from wives to enlist was not in this volume.
Next, I decided to check to see if the Canada Gazette published this General Order, as it regularly published General Orders during wartime. Issues of the Canada Gazette from 1941 to 1997 are available online in our A Nation’s Chronicle: The Canada Gazette database. Again, my search came up empty, as there was no mention of the order in the 1915 Canada Gazette.
My next step was to consult secondary sources (books and articles) to see if any research had already been done on this General Order. I did find references to the General Order in the following publications:
- Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914–1919, Vol. I and Vol. II, by A.F. Duguid, available online from the Directorate of History and Heritage:
- Vol. I: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/themes/defence/caf/militaryhistory/dhh/official/book-1938-great-war-1-1-en.pdf
- Vol. II: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/themes/defence/caf/militaryhistory/dhh/official/book-1938-great-war-1-2-en.pdf
- Nic Clarke, Unwanted Warriors: The Rejected Volunteers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015.
- Desmond Morton, When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1993.
However, these references did not include any information about where—or whether—this General Order was published. This General Order was becoming a real mystery!
At this point in my research, I decided to search newspapers to confirm that this order was passed in August 1915. I searched the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail from August 1915 and found articles from both newspapers reporting that the regulations for enlistment had changed, and men were now free to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force without the consent of their wives (if married) or parents (if under 17).
Orders in Council
Now that I had confirmation that the General Order was passed in August 1915, I felt it was likely that the government did not publish this General Order. But as a last resort, I searched our Orders-in-Council database using Collection Search. At that time, some General Orders were approved by Orders-in-Council. And there it was! At long last, I had found the General Order that cancelled the regulation requiring married men to have consent from their wives to enlist.
As you can see, the General Order was not easy to find. This particular search illustrates how many different kinds of published material can be used to answer a research question.
Do you have a question that could use the assistance of a librarian or archivist? Submit your question in writing to us today .
Kristen Frame is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.