Thursday, 17 September 2015

Ancestry adds Canada, WWII Service Files of War Dead, 1939-1947

Ancestry have just released a collection of service files for Canadians who died in service during the Second World War. It gets three stars.

I and a few colleagues had an advance opportunity to try the database. While we had a few suggestions for improvement the overwhelming reaction was:
  • Wow!
  • Nice collection. Super images.
  • What a great set of records – the standard dry things you expect to find in military files and then you find the touching letter from a mother wanting more information on her son who is missing in action. 
  • Being able to search on just the name of small communities will be great help in finding family members researchers may not know about.
Brilliant (as they'd say in Britain).

These are from case files of Canadian military personnel killed in the Second World War and compiled by Library and Archives Canada. It consists of selected documents from the soldier’s larger service file - I don't know what's missing. Each case file may include attestation papers, military history, medical information, death certificates, photos of soldiers, and other documents.

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission 45,368 Canadians lost their lives in WWII. This collection contains files for nearly all of those individuals but "only about 29,000 records have been indexed thus far."  There will be an update.

You can search by various indexed fields. I was able to find a Canadian born in my home town in England who served with the Winnipeg Grenadiers, R.C.I.C. He was killed in December 1940 in Hong Kong having recently been married. There's information like the name and address of close relatives in England.

There are two entry points to the file. Either start at the attestation paper or click on "View Folder Cover" which gets to the start of the file where you may well find photos.

Information from Ancestry is the collection will be used by Canadian schools as part of WWII curriculum sponsored by Library and Archives Canada.

UPDATED  The index and images will be made available for free to all users, but I suspect free access will be limited to those in Canada as was the case with the 1921 census on Ancestry. Kudos to LAC for negotiating that with Ancestry.   (This does not currently seem to be the case)


Leanne Cooper said...

The files are not currently free to users, not even those in Canada. I searched for my uncle, who enlisted at the age of 17 (he lied on his attestation papers) and died at 18. He shows up, but I need a paid subscription to view the file (which I don't currently have). I have already accessed the paper files at LAC, so it will be interesting to compare what's in the digitized file to what's in the paper file.

Susan Gail Roger said...

I have a paid subscription to Ancestry, but only for the UK, as that is the bulk of my family and ancestors. According to Ancestry, I need a World Wide subscription to view these files.

Anonymous said...

These are not the complete service files, only selected documents of primary interest. The actual files are much larger.