06 November 2013

Ancestry.ca to offer free online access to historic military records: 7-12 November

The following is an Ancestry.ca notice offering free online access to historic military records to help Canadians discover their military ancestors for the first time.

TORONTO (November 6, 2013) – In honour of Remembrance Day, Ancestry.ca, Canada’s leading family history website, is giving Canadians the chance to discover the military hero in their family by providing free access from November 7 to 12 to more than 4.4 million online military records from some of its most popular collections, some of which are available free for the first time.

Each Remembrance Day, many Canadians remember the sacrifices and bravery of those who served their country in times of battle, especially those with ancestors and family who fought in wars past and present. Surprisingly, a large number of Canadians don’t know if they have anyone in their family to remember at this time. According to a recent national online survey, almost one-third of Canadians do not know if any of their ancestors fought in either the First or Second World Wars.

“For Canadians, Remembrance Day marks a time of reflection about the soldiers who fought, and in many cases died, for their country. Unfortunately too many of us don’t even know who these people are,” says Lesley Anderson, a genealogist and Content Specialist at Ancestry.ca. “We are thus happy and proud to be able to provide Canadians the chance to look into their past to discover whether their ancestors were among the many that fought in the great wars that defined our nation. It is our pleasure to share these collections in the hope that Canadians will discover more details about their ancestors and the lives they lived.”

The military records free to view cover the First and Second World War, the Rebellion of 1837 and the War of 1812. They highlight the everyday lives of soldiers who served their country, some even before they had a country to fight for. The records include military awards, service records and information on pay, which will provide Canadians with a greater understanding of the men and women who fought in the conflicts. Men like Frank Brown.

The story of Frank Brown
Frank Brown was born on December 18, 1893 in Waterford, Ontario. A prolific writer of poetry, he had two wishes near the start of the First World War; first, to join his comrades in battle and second, to have his poems published. Both of his wishes were granted, but sadly he only lived to see one fulfilled.

After enlisting and joining his fellow troops in England, the well-liked Brown soon won an early promotion to Sergeant thanks to his sharpshooting skills. Shortly after, his first wish was granted when on February 3, 1915 he joined Captain Talbot M. Papineau and the Third Company of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry in the trenches in France.

During his first day, the soldier-poet fired approximately 80 rounds, estimated to be as much as the rest of his company put together. Now being known to the Germans as a great shot, it is suspected that he drew the attention of German sharpshooters, and at about 3:30 p.m. that afternoon Sergeant Frank Brown was struck in the head. He died instantly and with no pain.

His second wish was granted soon after his death. Brown’s sincere, strong and musical poems were published in a book titled Contingent Ditties and Other Soldier Songs of the Great War, by Frank Brown.  

The story of Sergeant Frank Brown is an example of some of the stories that are waiting to be discovered on Ancestry.ca, and for the 54 per cent of Canadians that claim to have an ancestor that fought in the First or Second World War, these records can provide vivid details into their lives as soldiers. For the 30 per cent of Canadians that do not know if they have an ancestor in the military, these records can bring that history to light.

The collections that will be offered for free from November 7th to 12th include the following:

Canada, Military Honours and Award Citation Cards, 1900-1961, containing almost 70,000 records documenting awards and honours received by Canadian service personnel, both men and women. Some records include valuable and rare information on the soldiers’ next of kin, a physical description, their home address and an account of the meritorious action.

Canada, Nominal Rolls and Paylists for the Volunteer Militia, 1857-1922, contains more than 1.6 million records that provide detailed information about a soldier’s everyday life, including payroll. The records also include travelling expenses, battalion or regiment, rank, pay for the use of a horse and signature of the member for received pay. These small details can help paint a richer picture of the day-to-day routine of Canada’s servicemen and women.

Canada, War Graves Registers: Circumstances of Casualty, 1914-1948, contains almost 30,000 records of military burial documents from Canada, as well as casualty records from the U.S., prisoners of war and members of the Australian Air Force, Polish Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force.

Canada, CEF Commonwealth War Graves Registers, 1914-1919, contains over 56,000 records from the War Grave Registers for service personnel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) who died during the First World War in Belgium, France and the United Kingdom. These registers were used to record the final resting place of the soldier, nurse or other individual, and to record the notification of the next of kin.

Canadians looking for information about their ancestors, or for those who want to start their family tree for free can visit www.ancestry.ca. Those who want to explore the military heroes in their family tree can do so by visiting www.ancestry.ca/honouryourheros.

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