Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Canadian Expeditionary Force Records

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has begun the process of digitizing the personnel service files of some 640,000 Canadians who served in the army during the First World War. Known officially as the Canadian Expeditionary Force [CEF] since it was under the control of the British, a total of 424,589 Canadian soldiers served in Europe during the war.
The service files in this collection contain up to three dozen different kinds of forms. It includes such things as enlistment records (attestation papers are already online), training records, medical and dental history, hospitalizations, disciplines (if any), pay records, medal entitlements and discharge papers or notifications of death. It also lists what regiment the soldier was located in, but not necessarily where the regiment fought (for that, it is necessary to consult the unit war diaries). In total, there are some 32 million pages of records to be digitized from 640,000 personnel files. This means the average file per soldier is some 50 pages of records, making this a considerable resource. The first 76,000 files have already been digitized and put online. Regular uploads of about 5,000 new files are expected every two weeks. At the current run rate, this means it will take about 4.3 years for all the files to go online (or unfortunately about as long as it actually took to fight the First World War). The digitized records are searchable by name, regiment and rank. Access is free.

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