Saturday, February 12, 2011

Documenting Southwestern Ontario’s War Dead, 1885-1918

Individuals from this area served in the Northwest Rebellion 1885, the Boer War 1899-1902, and the First World War 1914-1918. There is a huge mass of material out there on these conflicts. Unfortunately there is little online. Some is on microfilm through the National Archives, and the Ontario Archives; and a smattering her and there in local libraries, military museums, and university archives . A great deal  is still in paper form. I find a tremendous amount has yet to be catalogued. This is just a brief description of what is available - a complete list would fill a book. Speaking of books I am going to largely ignore them - check out the library folks!

The Northwest Rebellion:

Soldiers of the Midland Regiment, 1885, Library and Archives Canada
Newspapers are the best place to begin. Assuming that you know where a man was from he would get front page coverage in his local newspaper. Most of the local newspapers have been microfilmed.
Library and Archives Canada : List of Officers and Men Killed and Wounded in the North West Rebellion, 1885.

Library and Archives Canada: Royal Canadian Mounted Police data base.

The South African War:
2nd. Canadian Mounted Rifles, 1902, Library and Archives Canada.
Newspapers are again a good place to begin.
As mentioned in a previous post Library and Archives Canada has “Soldiers of the South African War (1899-1902)” data base. The Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists the Canadian dead of the South African War. Also the collections include Medal registers, records of active service, and other documents from the Ministry of Militia.
Local communities such as London erected memorials to the local men who died in the war.

Face of London's Memorial Listing Men killed in South Africa. Personal Collection.

The First World War:

N.C.O.'s 1st. Battalion, 1919, Library and Archives Canada
If it is one thing that an army is it is a paper producing machine. I would need another life time to become familiar with everything.
Ministry of Militia’s “Official List of Casualties to Members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force“. This is a multi volume compilation. The most complete collection that I have found so far is in the London Room of the London Public Library, London, Ontario. There are volumes missing.
“The Circumstances of Death Registers” are a key source for information on the war dead. If the soldier was killed in action, presumed dead, or missing in action a form was completed and placed in his file to document the circumstances of his death (if known). Later the form was removed from the service files so it is rare to find them within individual service files. They are at Library and Archives Canada.
As with the Boer War the Canadian Virtual War Memorial lists the dead of the C.E.F. I have found some names missing so it is not 100%. If a veteran died due to his wounds after 1918 his file should be there as the Ministry of Militia often contributed to his or her tombstone.
Cities, towns, villages, churches, and universities erected memorials, or memorial plaques, to their local dead after 1919.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains a data base “Debt Of Honour” listing over 1,700,000 men and women from throughout the British Commonwealth. Just to check, I searched for my uncle Bruce Ivan Hillman who died in 1945. Yep, he is there, and it’s accurate.

Library and Archives Canada “War graves registers and other documents” are textual documents grouped into six series depending on the circumstances of the serviceman or woman’s death. They include World War 2 documents.

I have yet to check out the British Archives. For all of this period Canadians served in Imperial forces, and a great deal of documentation is there. Library and Archives Canada has copies of some of the nominal rolls, pay sheets, medal rolls, etc. I do not think though that their collection is exhaustive.
Lastly individuals, communities, and societies (historical and genealogical) have researched and published volumes on servicemen, and women. There are literally hundreds. Many might be in your library - few are online.


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