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!