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Researching Canadian First World War Files

Over the past month or so, I have been searching the First World War files for a very particular person.


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Over the past month or so, I have been searching the First World War files for a very particular person.

I have found the Attestation Papers for that person on the Canada Genealogy Centre website, and it is very good. It provided me with an address, his next of kin, that he was shipped overseas, and in what battalion he was sent with to England.

But when I checked the battalion to see what the battalion did in the First World War - I drew a blank. There simply wasn't any information about that specific battalion on the Internet. They didn't have their history online.

Note that they were over several hundred battalions in the First World War, yet there are few websites dedicated to their respective histories.

So I would have to go to the Library and Archives Canada to search through the 25+ pages or so of his record to see what he had done during the war, and what rank he obtained.

But one website that has its history online is the 21st Battalion

They have a very nice site on the Internet, with headings such as "Soldier's Photos", "Soldier's Graves", "Post Cards of the Great War", "Soldier's Tributes", and other pages including ones for the kit shop, a guest book, and links.

The 21st Battalion was formed in Kingston, Ontario in 1914. Eventually, it went to England and then to France and Belgium where they fought at the Somme, Passchendaele and Arras. It was demobilized in Kingston in May of 1919.

The descendants of the men who were in the 21st Battalion have collected the history of the battalion, gathered pictures of the men, and have visited the gravesites overseas and at home.

They took a terrible toll in the war. During the four years of the war, 5,326 men and officers passed through the ranks, and in the end, 3,328 had either died, were wounded, or went missing.

They have 11 battle honours and over 300 medals and citations to the battalion.

They have a museum and archives at The Armouries, 100 Montreal Street, Kingston, ON K7K 3E8.

Online, they even have a picture of the battalion's mascot - Nan!

If you go to the site, you can see their colours and read about the 21sters Study Group.

The Study Group looked everywhere — in newspapers and cemeteries — for stories and pictures about the 21st Battalion.

Eventually, one of the group, the 21st Battalion historian, Stephen J. Nichol, wrote a book, "Ordinary Heroes".

If you wish to talk to him about the book, he can be reached at

Meanwhile, I went to a Family History Centre conference last month, and the fellow from the Canadian Genealogy Centre who was there said that the complete set of Attestation Papers (this will include medical, promotions, and medal records) of the First World War will be going online this summer at the Library and Archives Canada.

I will tell you when they do!

Source Information: Canadian Connections, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2009.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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