Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

By Michael O'Leary; The Regimental Rogue

Note: In September 2022, Library and Archives Canada is conducting a rebuild of their website which has rolled the databases and resources linked in these pages into their general search capability. These pages will be updated to reflect those changes as the site restructuring is finalized and links to new start points are stable. Some of the older database search pages are still operating as of 19 Sep 2022.


A new, or renewed, interest in family genealogy, the finding of heretofore unknown family medals or photos, an interest in confirming family stories … there are many individual reasons that generate a desire to search out the story of and research a soldier of the First World War. We all have mental images of that war, provided to us from print and video media our entire lives. The mud of Passchendaele, the images of brutal frontal assaults, the pervasive images of death and misery in trench warfare, but also the persistent songs of the era; Tipperary, Mademoiselle from Armentieres, that set a very different mood. But how close is this imagery, relentless as it is in First World War documentaries and other media, to the stories of individual soldiers? The answer to that question, for each soldier, can only be found through dedicated research into their personal experiences and the activities of the unit(s) with which they served.

The following pages provide a very brief introduction to researching Canadian soldiers of the First World War. It is intended to merely introduce the topic, as a comprehensive treatment would cover many pages and be overwhelming for any new researcher in this subject area. When appropriate, links to further resources will be offered to supplement the treatment given in these pages.

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding assistance I have received from members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group, the Great War Forum and the British Medal Forum for the many topics they have posted on their forums which provided general and individual guidance that I found useful, and sometimes essential, in exploring this area of research. Thanks are also due to the many personal and official web projects that facilitate starting one's research on Canadian soldiers of the Great War on the internet these days.

Part 1: Find Your Man (or Woman)