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Researching Military Records

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Presentation for the Moose Jaw Genealogical Society on April 28, 2015. The presentation looks at what are military records, where to look for them, and how to look for additional records to provide context for the military service/personnel files.

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Researching Military Records

  1. 1. Presented by May P. Chan Prairie History Room, Regina Public Library © 2015 Presentation Talkforthe Moose Jaw Genealogical Society Branch April 28, 2015
  2. 2. • Overview – What are military records? Why use them? Where are they located? What are the challenges? • Research Tips • Case Study - WWI • Additional Resources • Question Period
  3. 3. • In genealogy, military records referto service orpersonnel files of the men and women who served theircountry in various military conflicts. • However, military records generally referto all records that are generated managing a military – regimental/unit histories – musterrolls (paylists) – departmental correspondence – maps
  4. 4. • Military service records can yield valuable genealogical information – birth information – residence at time of military service – evidence of family relationships (e.g. names of spouses) – physical attributes – medical conditions – awards received • Note: service records were not only kept forsoldiers, but also forchaplains, nurses and engineers.
  5. 5. • Military records are held by each country that participated in a specific conflict • Military records are typically held in that country’s national archives or library • Note: access to military records vary between different countries
  6. 6. • Australia: National Archives of Australia http://www.naa.gov.au/ • France: Service historique de la Défense http://tinyurl.com/pvdljx9 • Germany: Department Military Archives http://tinyurl.com/mrmmf73 • New Zealand: Archives New Zealand http://archives.govt.nz/
  7. 7. • To help locate military records from other countries, use Cyndis’ List (www.cyndislist.com) and/orFamilySearch Wiki (https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Main_Page ) • Don’t forget to checkout country’s specific genweb pages (e.g. USGenWeb http://usgenweb.org/) ormilitary pages (e.g. Canadian Military Heritage http://tinyurl.com/p5fahxe) foradditional links!
  8. 8. • Not all military records have survived intact (e.g. Only 40% of British army records from1913-1920 have survived) • Information contained in military records vary (e.g. regimental records) • Indexing issues (e.g. names have been misspelled orchanged) • Access to files are not permissible under the privacy legislation, especially personnel/service files
  9. 9. • Service files from 1918 and earlierare considered open with no access restrictions • Service files after1918 are considered restricted – Exception are those individuals who were killed in action (KIA) during WWII – those files are “open” – If they were released fromservice ordied in service starting January 1, 1998 onwards, you need to contact Department of Defence – Otherwise, the contact agency is Library and Archives Canada – Referto above linkforcontact info and documentation required when submitting request
  10. 10. 1. Get as much information as you can about the individual you are researching: – Full name of the individual – Basic vitals (birthdate, birth yearand birth place) – Branch of Service—eg. Army, AirForce, Navy, etc. 1. Don’t forget to lookbeyond the individual’s military/personnel files! Forexample, lookat regimental histories to find out where the regiment was assigned and what battles they fought in. 2. Always record and evaluate yoursources!
  11. 11. READand STRATEGIZE!!! Image Source: http://tinyurl.com/lay5nm4
  12. 12. • Tracing an individual who fought and died in WWI, also known as the First World Warorthe Great War • Began July 28, 1914/August 4, 1914 and ended on November11, 1918 – Because of WWI’s centenary, many of these records are being digitized and made more available on websites • Approximately 66, 655 Canadians were killed and 172, 950 were wounded (Cox, 131) in the conflict • About 19, 666 Canadian soldiers have no known grave (Cox, 131)
  13. 13. Helpful Tip #3: When researching soldiers fromSaskatchewan who died in the conflict, use the Saskatchewan Virtual WarMemorial www.svwm.ca website!
  14. 14. Source: Saskatchewan Virtual War Memorial www.svwm.ca
  15. 15. • Charles MacVicarBAYNE’s military file • Attestation (enlistment) papers • Service File • Wardiaries and Unit Histories • Cemeteries and Battlefields • OtherMilitary Records – this will depend largely on the individual’s service file • OtherGenealogical Records
  16. 16. This database will enable you to locate eventually both the attestation papers and service files of those who served in the CEF.
  17. 17. • Service file only provides you with where and when the individual served and what happened • To understand why a unit was sent to a particularbattlefield, you need to track down the regimental histories http://tinyurl.com/k453eko
  18. 18. • Wardiaries can only be searched by unit name, date orby the yearonly • No full text search of the images • If you don’t know the specific unit’s name (e.g. Regina Rifles), start with the generic name of the unit (e.g. 5th Battalion)
  19. 19. • CEF authorized 260 numbered infantry battalions but only 52 battalions were sent to the battlefields – it helps to know what unit yourancestorfought in • handy online guide courtesy of Wikipedia http://tinyurl.com/qeuj3uw • Cox, 144-147: brief description about the organizational structure of the CEF with a 2 page chart with divisions included which battalions • Not all of the regimental diaries have been digitized!!! Depending on the regiment, you may need to plan a trip to Ottawa to view the microfilm orhire a researcher • Amount and level of detail of content in the wardiaries vary greatly
  20. 20. • Internet Archives (https://www.archives.org/details/texts) – some published regimental histories • Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org) – info on specific regiments • Websites on specific regiments • Don’t forget to checkyourlocal public library forpublished books!!!
  21. 21. Don’t forget to lookforbooks, exhibits and maps pertaining to specific battles and battlefields! http://tinyurl.com/mutrkjnhttp://tinyurl.com/kaanyz4
  22. 22. • Was there a death notice published forhim? Checkthe local newspaper. • What happened to his family afterhis death? Checkthe 1921 Canadian census and Henderson’s Directories forMoose Jaw and Regina • Did he have any siblings? Checkthe previous censuses (1916, 1911, 1906, and 1901) • Where did Charles go to high school? Are there any yearbooks with a photo of him?
  23. 23. Categories include: •Draft, enlistment, service •Casualties •Soldier, veteran and prisoner lists •Pension records •Histories •Awards •News •Disciplinary Actions •Photos
  24. 24. The resource is available through yourpublic library and offers: •Revolutionary War Records •History Books •PERSI (Periodical Source Index) – tracking down journal or magazine articles
  25. 25. Cox, Kenneth G. CalltoColours: TracingYour CanadianMilitaryAncestors. Toronto, [ON]: Ontario Genealogical Society, Dundurn Press, c2011. Storey, Neil R. MilitaryPhotographs & How toDate Them. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. 2009. Tait, Janice and David Fletcher. TracingYourTank Ancestors. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Family History, 2011.
  26. 26. Tomaselli, Phil. TracingYourAirForceAncestors. 2nd ed. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Family History, 2014. Wills, Simon. TracingYourMerchant NavyAncestors. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Family History, 2012. Wright, Glen. Canadians at War, 1914-1919: a ResearchguidetoWorldWarIServiceRecords. Milton, ON: Global Heritage Press, 2010.
  27. 27. • When searching a library catalog, here are useful keywords to use: - Name of the conflict (e.g. WWII, BoerWar, etc.) - Name of the regiment (e.g. Princess Patricia) - Name of the battle (e.g. Dieppe) - Military medal(s) ordecoration(s) - Military uniform(s) - Military tank(s), aircraft(s), ship(s), etc.
  28. 28. • Broaden yourresearch – try to understand the context by looking at the regimental histories or the specific battles • Don’t forget that every soldierleft family members behind – what happened to them? • Considerand contribute what you have found out about yourmilitary ancestor(s) to museums, archives, and libraries • Saskatchewan Military Museum – www.saskatchewanmilitarymuseum.com • Saskatchewan Virtual WarMemorial – www.svwm.ca
  29. 29. Email: maychan@reginalibrary.ca Presentation: www.slideshare.net/maychan

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