From Enlistment to Burial Records Part II: The Canadian Forces in the Second World War

For many Canadians, Remembrance Day on November 11 is evocative of the selfless contribution of the Canadian Forces. The eleventh day of the eleventh month
brings to the forefront the memory of those who died while serving their country in the Armed Forces. Each year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives countless queries about military services files of individuals who served after 1918 (including the Second World War).

Once again, our experts have put together some answers to many of the most frequently asked questions. Keep in mind that, in addition to consulting the content below, a great place to begin your research is on our Genealogy and Family History’s Military pages.

– Is the person still alive? When did he/she serve?

Access to personal information included in a person’s personnel file requires that his/her signed consent. If you served in the Canadian Forces, consult our Canadian Forces after 1918 section to find out how to request copies of your own service file.

Tip:

If the person is deceased, the date of death has an impact on what information is released.

If the individual died less than 20 years ago, limited information may be released to the immediate family. Proof of death and relationship must be provided.

There are no restrictions on access to information relating to an individual who has been deceased for more than 20 years. Proof of death is required.

Newspaper obituaries are a key tool in genealogy and help when researching military service files. Our online catalogue AMICUS can be searched to locate and borrow newspapers.

Consult our article “How to Find a Canadian Newspaper on Microfilm” for more
information.

If the person died while in service between 1939 and 1947, the service files are open to the public. References to those service files can be found in our Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead database.

Consult our article “How to Order Military Records from the Personnel Records Unit” to learn how to obtain a copy of these files.

– Beyond the service files:

Once you have a copy of the service file, some questions will be answered but other questions will arise: In what battles did the person serve? Where is he/she buried? Our previous article “From Enlistment to Burial Records Part I: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War” describes key sources that are equally relevant to post First World War research, such as War Diaries, Veterans Death Cards, and Medals, Honours and Awards databases.

– Even more places to look!

Finding aids such as The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and our article on “Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” contain a wealth of information on military activities.

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

From Enlistment to Burial Records: The Canadian Expeditionary Force in the First World War

Each year, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) receives countless questions on how to locate military services files, such as:

  • How do I find out more about a soldier (or a nursing sister) in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF)?
  • When and where did he enlist?
  • How old did the soldier say he was? (Many underage soldiers gave an earlier year of birth when they enlisted)

A great place to begin your research is on our Genealogy and Family History’s Military pages.

To help guide you through the process, our experts have put together the following explanations.

Attestation papers

Also known as “enlistment” documents, these records indicate the date and place of birth, the marital status and the name and address of the next of kin.

The Soldiers of the First World War database contains references to more than 600,000 people who served during that conflict. Most of the corresponding attestation (enlistment) papers can be viewed online, including those of the Nursing Sisters.

To learn more, consult our article “Canadians and the First World War: Discover our Collection”.

Service files

These records contain key documents such as record of service, casualty form, discharge certificate and medal card. It also provides the name or number of
the unit in which the individual served overseas.

Find more information in our articles “What You Will Find in a Canadian Military Service File” and “Understand the Abbreviations Commonly Found in Military Service Files”.

War diaries

The War Diaries are a daily account and historical record of a unit’s administration, operations and activities.

Consult the War Graves page for information on the burial location of a soldier who was killed in action.

If the soldier survived the war, the Veterans Death Cards give information such as the next of kin, burial location and date of death. The digitized images, which are in alphabetical order, can be navigated in sequential order.

For the soldier who was decorated, a nominal index to medal registers, citation cards and records of various military awards provides further information on many soldiers’ achievements.

Our article “War Diaries: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” can also guide you with your research.

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” and our article Published Histories: Discover what individuals or military units did during the war” will give you more information.

Thematic guides

The Guide to Sources Relating to Units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force
lists references to records and files that complement the research in First World War records. This thematic guide further describes the contribution of most units in the CEF.

Other past articles of interest this Remembrance Day:

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