Jane Naisbett, head of library and archives, is thrilled with their enhanced ability to help genealogists. "It is one-stop shopping for the three collections. Formally we didn't have a lot of space for researchers and not all the archives were retrievable, but now it is all accessible."
The MHRC re-opened earlier this month after five months of closure. It took eleven days to move the collections and the subsequent months to store the collection for public accessibility. The George Metcalf Archival Collection, the Hartland Molson Library Collection, and the MHRC date back to pre-confederation and include military history to the present day. The library's oldest book is British Artillery and dates back to 1628; the oldest photo album dates back to 1860 and covers Wellington rifles; while the strongest part of their collection covers the two World Wars of the 20th century. Since their doors have re-opened at the new location, more than 100 genealogists visit daily.
Naisbett is quick to remind genealogists to contact Library and Archives Canada first (www.collectionscanada.ca) for their ancestors service records, and then visit the MHRC for all the additional information to flesh out their ancestor's military history.
"Our collections include scrapbooks, regimental and squadron histories, log books, letters, recordings, maps, blueprints, photos and even 3-D maps," says Naisbett. They also have information on medals awarded.
The MHRC has had success retrieving photos of family members that served with the Canadian Forces. "We did some searching and, by luck, found a photo of an Australian woman's grandfather. She could only tell us that he was very tall and knew he had his picture taken in an official capacity," recalls Naisbett. We happened to find a photo of three military men, one in the center with his arms around the two on either side of him and he was extremely taller than the two men at his side." A copy was sent to the woman in Australia who was able to confirm that this was her grandfather.
Some British records can be found as well. Many Canadians signed up in Canada but later served with Britain overseas.
The MHRC is free and open to the public. The staff is happy to help genealogists get started on their research and give them as much assistance as possible. It is recommended to make an appointment three working days in advance in order for staff to identify archival items to be retrieved from the collection and have them ready for your visit.
There are no researchers for hire on site; however, Library and Archives Canada has a list of available researchers for hire at their web site who are local Ottawa residents and frequent the MHRC.
For more information, visit the Canadian War Museum web site at www.WarMuseum.ca.