New Research Guides Online!

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the launch of two new guides: Guide to Sources Relating to the Canadian Militia, 1855–1988 and Guide to Sources Relating to Canadian Naval Vessels, 1909–1983. The guides were originally compiled over many years by the late Barbara Wilson (1931–2014), an archivist with the former National Archives of Canada, now Library and Archives Canada.

Guide to Sources Relating to the Canadian Militia, 1855–1988

This guide is an indispensable starting point for researching the records that document Canadian militia units. It is a unique finding aid that brings together, by militia unit name, references to records and files scattered throughout several different archival fonds held at Library and Archives Canada.

Guide to Sources Relating to Canadian Naval Vessels, 1909–1983

This guide is an indispensable starting point for researching the records documenting Canadian naval vessels that served with the Royal Canadian Navy. It is a unique finding aid that brings together—by ship’s name—references to records and files scattered throughout several different volumes of archival fonds of the Department of National Defence.

How to find out if a war diary from the Second World War is on microfilm

The article War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war explores war diaries, their usefulness and how you can access them. Now, you may wonder: In what formats are they available?

Most First World War Army diaries have been digitized. As for Second World War diaries, some were microfilmed, but many are available in their original paper format only.

To find out if a war diary from the Second World War is available on microfilm, you must perform a search in the Archives Search database. After you have selected the relevant diary title, just refer to the Conditions of access section of the archival description.

For example, the war diaries of the 1st Armoured Car Regiment (Royal Canadian Dragoons) for September and October 1945 are accessible on microfilm reel T-12563.

Although some microfilm reel numbers are not entered in the Archives Search database, we have created a list of reel numbers that you can consult on-site at 395 Wellington Street, in Ottawa, or by contacting Reference Services.

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

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!

War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war

Are you curious to discover what battles an individual fought in? Or what a unit did during the First or Second World War? Or maybe what regions a person travelled through with their unit?

In the first post, we suggested Published Histories. If there is no published history, or it is not detailed enough, then War Diaries may help.

War Diaries are the day-to-day log of a unit’s activities. For the Army, the official term is “War Diary.” For the Navy, the official term is “Ship Log” and for the Air Force it is “Operation Record Book.”

The Advantages of War Diaries

  • They provide the most complete first-hand record of how and where the unit was deployed;
  • They provide information that may not have been included in a published history.

To search for War Diaries, please use our Archives Search database.

For more details on War Diaries, visit our Military Heritage website.

Remember

  • War Diaries are not personal diaries. They rarely record information about individual soldiers.

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

Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war

Are you curious to discover what battles an individual fought in? Or what a unit did during the First or Second World War? Or maybe what regions a person travelled through with their unit?

If so, you have two main options, Published Histories and War Diaries. This post will focus on Published Histories.

For an easy-to-read overview of the unit’s activities, we recommend starting with Published Histories. These books are often called “regimental histories.” They cover the history and activities of the unit. The level of detail varies for each history. Some books include a variety of information such as pictures, maps, lists of unit members, and quotes from unit members.

The Advantages of Published Histories:

  • easier to read than War Diaries
  • contain a variety of information
  • can usually be sent to your local library via interlibrary loan*

You can search for these on our Library Search database by using the unit’s name.

For other suggestions of books on military units, we recommend our online exhibition, entitled From Colony to Country: A Reader’s Guide to Canadian Military History.

Our next post will discuss your second option: War Diaries.

(*) Update: End of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Services

ILL services at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) will end in December 2012. Users of LAC‘s current services should note the following dates:

  • November 13, 2012: End of loan requests from international libraries.
  • November 16, 2012: End of renewals. All items loaned after this date will be non-renewable.
  • December 11, 2012: End of loan requests, location searches, and ILL-related photocopying services.

LAC‘s ILL listserv (CANRES-L) and Canadian Library Gateway will also be archived in December 2012.

LAC will continue to facilitate interlibrary loan activities among other institutions through the ILL form in AMICUS, and through ongoing administration of Canadian Library Symbols.

Through our modernized service channels, LAC will emphasize increased digital access to high-demand content. LAC is working with Canada’s ILL user community in order to inform this approach to accessing the institution’s unique holdings.

For more information, please visit “Interlibrary Loan at Library and Archives Canada“.

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