The following is a press release from Ancestry.ca
TORONTO, ON (November 8, 2010) - In honour of Remembrance Day, Ancestry.ca, Canada’s leading family history website[i], today announced the first ever online launch of the largest collection of Canadian military records related to the death and burial of soldiers who fought in the First World War. The company has also announced that select Canadian, US and British military records will be available for free from November 11 to 14, 2010.
The collections, Canada, CEF Commonwealth War Graves Registers, 1914-1919, and Canada, CEF Burial Registers, First World War, 1914-1919 will be of immense interest to the millions of Canadians with ancestors who fought in the Great War. For the 30 per cent of Canadians[ii] who claim not to know whether their ancestors took part, the collections can help them potentially make discoveries about previously unknown military heroes in their family tree.
Individual records contain rich information about the soldiers, such as their unit number, religious affiliation, date of death, circumstances of death, burial and name of nearest relative (next of kin).
The new collections will add to what is already the largest online collection of Canadian military records; one that includes Soldiers of the First World War, which contains the original Attestation Papers of all the 600,000 Canadians who enlisted. Soldiers of the First World War, along with all US and select British military collections, will be free to access from November 11 to 14.
Canada, CEF Commonwealth War Graves Registers, 1914-1919 contains more than 43 thousand records detailing the circumstances of death of more than two thirds of the 60,000 Canadian soldiers who fought and died in the First World War in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom.
Canada, CEF Burial Registers, First World War, 1914-1919 detail the temporary and final resting place of Canadian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. The authorities at the time kept track of the name and place of temporary burial locations. After the war, remains were brought together in the vast national military cemeteries.
Of interest in the collections is the date April 9, 1917, which stands out not only as the first day of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, but also as the date with the most Canadian deaths recorded in this collection, with records of death for 4,344 Canadian soldiers.
The Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought against the Germans in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France from April 9 to 12, 1917. The brave Canadian troops managed to capture the ridge within three days - a key turning point in the War in spite of the massive casualties suffered by the Canadian troops.
September 15, 1916 was another day of infamy, which is reflected in the death records for 1,832 Canadian soldiers. This date marked the last great Allied effort to achieve a breakthrough in the Somme Offensive, in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. Two Canadian divisions were part of the battle that is remembered historically for being the first ever to feature tank warfare.
The collections also provide opportunities for Canadians to learn the details of the death and final resting grounds of some of the key figures of the war, including:
· John McCrae (1872-1918) - soldier and poet; author of the famous poem recited by Canadians of every age at Remembrance Day, In Flanders' Fields
· George Lawrence Price (1898-1918) - the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the First World War. Price was shot and killed at 10:58 a.m., November 11, 1918, just two minutes before the armistice ceasefire that ended the war went into effect at 11:00 a.m.
· Henry Norwest (1884-1918) - the most famous sniper in The Great War, he held a record 115 fatal shots and was often selected for special missions due to his superb stealth tactical skills and expert use of camouflage
These collections were created by the Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, predecessor of the Department of National Defense. Along with all of Ancestry’s military collections, they can now be accessed at www.ancestry.ca/Remember. Members can also visit our tribute page at Facebook.com/ancestry.ca.
Access to this collection, along with the other 128 million historical Canadian records available at Ancestry.ca, is part of the reason the company was recently short-listed by Canada’s History Society for the 2010 Pierre Berton Award, Canada’s top history prize, recognizing excellence in bringing Canada’s history to a wider popular audience.