A few months ago I sent for the military records of my father's brother, Clarence E. McGinnis. I knew Uncle Clare had been in WW2 as I have several photos of him in uniform. But I never knew where he served, what unit he was in, or what he did during the War.
World War 2 Canadian records are restricted. Note that there are no access restrictions on the service files for members of the Canadian Armed Forces who died in service. But the restricted records can be accessed with a bit of time. They are worth the time spent to obtain them, as they can include documentation about enlistment, discharge, military units served with, and may also include other documents concerning medical history, medals awarded, personal evaluation reports and dental charts.
Library and Archives Canada holds military service files for those who served after 1918. Their website explanation of who can access what files and how to obtain them is a bit confusing, so I'll share with you what I did. It was simple.
I wrote a one page letter requesting the complete military service files for [individual's name] who was born [individual's full birth date or estimated year] in [name of city/town plus county and province in Ontario] to parents [names of father and mother].
I included my uncle's death date and a photograph of his tombstone as proof of death. Interestingly enough they actually returned the photo to me!
That was it. I mailed the letter and photo to
ATIP and Personnel Records Division
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4
You can also fax your request to them at this number: 613-947-8456
Your request can be written as a letter or you can print off a blank copy of the Application for Military Service Information form [PDF file 663 KB] also available in Rich Text Format [RTF file 44,516 KB], which should be filled in, signed and sent by mail or fax.
After a wait of about 5 months a very large package arrived with Uncle Clare's complete military file. I estimate there are about 80 or more pages. The wait was not unexpected as it is made clear on the Library & Archives Canada website that they are backlogged and requests can take up to 6 months to fill.
There was a lot of interesting information in the military file for Uncle Clare - such as details of his work history prior to enlisting. It include what he was paid! I wish my dad's files had been as complete.
I am really pleased to have some more details to add to my knowledge of my uncle. I knew him quite well but he never spoke of his military service or his early years. I suppose I was too young for him to think I'd be interested.
But I'm really enjoying reading through his files to find out where he went during the war (to England and France) and what he saw and did during that difficult time.
For more information on finding ancestors who were in the Canadian Military during other years you might want to check out The Canadian Military Project.
For WW1 personnel files you will be able to view these online very soon. Library and Archives Canada is busy scanning and uploading the full files to the online CEF Searchable database.
Other WW2 Links
Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead
Last Post: Legion Magazine
Since 1928, Legion Magazine has honoured those Canadians who have served their country by publishing in print short death notices for Royal Canadian Legion members with military backgrounds, Canadian war veterans and Legion members with police service.
Books of Remembrance
The seven Books of Remembrance housed in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower of the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are illuminated manuscript volumes recording the names of members of the Canadian Forces and Canadian Merchant Navy killed on active service in wartime, and in other conflicts. Once you find your relative's name, you can view the actual page and you can also find out the exact date when that page will be displayed in the Peace Tower.
Canadian Virtual War Memorial
The names inscribed in the Books of Remembrance can also be found in the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.
Learn more about Canadian genealogy research from these webinars in the Legacy webinar library: http://familytreewebinars.com/canada
Lorine McGinnis Schulze is a Canadian genealogist who has been involved with genealogy and history for more than thirty years. In 1996 Lorine created the Olive Tree Genealogy website and its companion blog. Lorine is the author of many published genealogical and historical articles and books.