Canada in the First World War

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Where to start

The obvious place to start is with the memorial itself. Take photos of it and the distinguishing features, with a close-up of the inscriptions. Make a list of the names that are on it. The Military Memorials in Canada site has an excellent section on how to photograph a memorial.

While we mostly focus on the public Monuments in town squares or cemeteries, don't forget Memorials can also be found in public and private buildings such as businesses, churches, clubs and sporting centers. These can be as interesting as any official one found in a
town

Note that this site is focused on the Great War 1914-1919, so most of the information that you will find here is related to that period. If you want to know more about this project, please click here.

Finding the men & women

Memorials that list names typically have people from the area that died during wartime. Some also list others that served and died after the end of the war.

For men and women that died in the first World War, the recommended steps are as follows:

First, for any World War 1 names, check the entries on this site. The easiest way is to use the general search engine which allows quite a few options. Put in the name of the person you are looking for and check the results. Note that you will have a few second delay as the database is searched. If the person died during the Great War there is likely an entry that exists. You can also enter in a partial name or the name of the town or area. Depending on what information exists, you might find the person quite quickly. If you know the regimental number or are sure of the spelling of the last name, the Regimental Number/Name search is not as flexible, but is much faster. This search now supports soundex searches on last names,

You can also check the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. Look for names of people that died in the 1914-1930 timeframe. Check the entries and you might be able to spot something that ties that person to the area. Typically there is a "Regimental Number" associated with the name. This number should be noted.

You can also check the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site. This deals with the deaths of all Commonwealth troops and sometimes has more information than the Canadian Virtual War Memorial.

Once you have a Regimental Number you can check the on-line attestation papers at the Libraries and Archives Canada, Soldiers of the First World War site. Once you've found the right record, you will have to find something that will tie the person to the area. This could be the address he head when he enlisted, the address of his parents or next of kin, or his birthday or parents names if you have access to his genealogy.

At times when one cannot find a name, consider looking at similar sounding variations or alternate spellings. It should be remembered some men who were attesting were illiterate while in Quebec the clerks taking down a man's name were usually English speaking and may have anglicized or misspelled a French name. An example can be seen on the Valleyfield Memorial where the inscription reads Sidney Thompson while the actual spelling recorded on the CVWM is Thomson.

If you weren't fortunate enough to be able to identify the person from the Canadian Virtual War Memorial, it may be necessary to go through quite a few Attestation Papers before you find a match.

After you've found a match

Once you are sure you have the right person, see if they already exist in the Canadian Great War Project. The easiest way is to use the Search by Regimental Number or Name, enter in the regimental number (if known) or the last name. If the person was Canadian and died there is a very good likelihood that there is already a basic entry in place. You can fill out the rest of the details by editing the record and filling in the information from the attestation papers, plus any other information you might have about the person. If there is no existing entry, you can create a new one and fill in the appropriate information. Instructions on how to use the insert and edit functions can be found here. Note that you will have to be a registered user and logged in on the site to add or change information. Registration is free and the information kept confidential. More information on registration can be found here.

Information on the memorial

Sometimes you can find information on the memorial from the War Monuments in Canada site or the Directorate of History and Heritage Memorial Site. In most cases you will have to dig through regional histories or contemporary newspaper archives.

Other Resources

If, after everything else, you still can't find a name, or if you have questions regarding the Great War, there are a few other resources that you should consider.

The Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group is a great place to start. This is a message board devoted to the CEF and is frequented by a number of people that have an amazing collective set of knowledge on the CEF. They also have a page on researching World War 1 Canadian soldiers.

The Great War Forum is similar, but encompasses all participants in the war. The focus is primarily British, but you will find experts on Canadian, Australian, French, Belgium and German troops as well.

There is a wealth of information available on the Military Service Records available from the National Archives. These can be ordered from the National Archives using the information supplied here. Brett Payne has compiled the "CEF Paper Trail", a list of CEF related documents, including descriptions

Finally, check out the links section of this site and you will find a wealth of other sites dedicated to various aspects of the Great War.

Abbreviations

A description of abbreviations used on personnel records and military documents can be found here

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