Canada Military Records

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Military records identify people who served in the military or who were eligible for service. They may be very useful for genealogical research of the families of Canada, especially the detailed service records of the 20th century. The Family History Library has few records of the regular Canadian military establishment, which began in 1870 when British troops were withdrawn. Before that, French or British forces provided national defense.

Military History

Canada was involved in the following military actions:


Fall of Acadia. The last French forts in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia) were surrendered to the British.


French and Indian War. (Seven Years War.) Battles of Quebec (1759) and Montreal (1760) determined that Canada would be British rather than French.


U.S. Revolution. The American Revolutionary War decided the independence of 13 former British colonies in North America.


War of 1812. War between Britain and the United States confirmed the separate existence of the United States and the future Canada.


Rebellion of 1837. An abortive uprising in Upper and Lower Canada was quickly suppressed by local militia and British regulars.

1866, 1870

Fenian Invasions. At two different times a few hundred Irish nationalists invaded Canada from the United States but were repulsed by local militia.


Withdrawal of British Forces from Canada. With the exception of two battalions at Halifax, all British army units were withdrawn from Canada. Defense was turned over to the militia.


North-West Campaign. Canadian militia from many provinces participated in defeating Louis Riel’s rebellion.


Boer War. About 7,400 troops from Canada served in the South African War; 242 died.


First World War. During World War I more than 628,000 Canadians joined the armed forces. Two-thirds served overseas; 60,661 died.



Second World War. Of the 1,086,000 Canadians who served, 49,000 were women. War dead were 41,992. Following the Second World War, many women and children relocated to Canada. They were known as Canadian War Brides. For more details, click here.

Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead.  Over 1,159,000 men and women served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War (1939-1945) and 44,093 people lost their lives.  Through this online database, researchers can access references to the service files in the Department of National Defence Fonds (RG 24) for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who lost their lives during this conflict.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has an online register which can be searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War.

For more historical information about Canadian wars and campaigns, see:

Morton, Desmond. A Military History of Canada. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtig Publishers, 1985. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2mdm; .)

Fryer, Mary Beacock. Battlefields of Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1986. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2fm; .)

A bibliography of published military histories is:

Cooke, Owen A. The Canadian Military Experience, 1867–1983: A Bibliography. 2d ed. Ottawa: Directorate of History, 1984. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M23c 1984; .)

Find military histories in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:



Military Records

Muster rolls that list names of 19th-century militia members can be useful locating tools. Pension records can give information about your ancestor’s military service and sometimes about his family. Land was sometimes awarded for military service or as partial compensation for property lost or destroyed in war. See "Land and Property" for a description of land records.

Most 18th- and 19th-century records of military units were kept by the War Office and other offices in Great Britain. There are some records in French archives. The National Archives of Canada in Ottawa has copies of many of these records and is attempting to acquire others.

The National Archives of Canada has the records of the British military and naval forces stationed in British North America. These records are in Record Group 8. The Family History Library has some of these records and their indexes. See:

National Archives of Canada. RG 8, Series I ("C" series). British Military Records, "C" Series, 1757–1899, Located at the National Archives of Canada. Ottawa: Central Microfilm Unit, Public Archives of Canada, 1966–91. (On 571 Family History Library  Microfilms beginning with film 1683760; .) This collection of records includes correspondence of the Military Secretary of the Office of the Commander of the Forces in British North America, records of the Canadian Command from 1785 to 1883, records of the Nova Scotia Command from 1762 to 1899, and miscellaneous records from 1757 to 1896. The miscellaneous records include some American Loyalist regiment muster rolls from 1777 to 1783 and muster rolls of some Canadian militia units for the War of 1812 and the Rebellions of 1837 to 1838. Muster rolls may show each soldier’s name, regiment, and the dates and places he served. The index includes about 500,000 entries to subjects as well as to military members’ names. It covers only correspondence of the Military Secretary and the miscellaneous records series.

For more information on British military records, see England Research Outline (34037).

Military Records before 1774

The Family History Library has only a few records of military units during the French regime, pre-1763. One famous regiment from France, the Régiment de Carignan, came to Canada in 1665. Of the 1,300 soldiers in this unit, 412 remained in Quebec to become the ancestors of many French Canadians. The names of some of the officers and soldiers are in:

Roy, Régis, and Gérard Malchélosse. Le Régiment de Carignan: Son organisation et son expédition au Canada. (The Carignan Regiment: Its Organization and Its Expedition to Canada) Montreal: G. Ducharme, 1925. (Family History Library Call No.971 A1 no. 14; film 1320669 item 19; .)

Members of the Carignan Regiment are listed in:

Lost in Canada? vols. 8–10(August 1982 to May 1984). (Family History Library Call No.971 B2Lc; 41 Microfiche 6048073; )

For more about records of French military in Quebec, see Quebec Research Outline.

There are some records of the regular British units and their officers (but not enlisted men) who fought against the French before 1763 and against the American revolutionaries between 1774 and 1783. The Family History Library has copies of some of these records, which were originally kept by the War Office in Great Britain. See the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:


The Loyalist Era, 1775–1789

Loyalists are those residents of the British North American Colonies who did not join the American Revolution between 1775 and 1783 but remained loyal to the king of England. In the strictest sense, Loyalists are only those who served in a Loyalist corps in the Thirteen Colonies. The American Loyalists who actually served the Crown must be distinguished from the more numerous "late Loyalists" who came from the United States beginning in about 1790 for land or other economic opportunities.

During the war and especially at its close, some Loyalists went to Britain or other colonies, but many fled to Canada. There is no master list of all the names of American Loyalists who came to Canada. Historians do not agree on the total number. Some sources say fewer than 20,000, others say more than 40,000. A head count in peninsular Nova Scotia in 1784 showed about 17,000 members of Loyalist families in that area alone, but some Loyalists had already left there for other places in British North America, and a few hundred more were to arrive in Nova Scotia in 1785.

Many lists of names of Loyalists and their families have been reconstructed from a variety of sources, including military muster rolls and pay and provisioning lists. Some muster rolls have been abstracted, indexed, and printed in the following books:

Clark, Murtie June, comp. Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War. 3 vols. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1981. (Family History Library Call No. 975 F2cm; .) Each volume has more than 9,000 names. Volume 1 lists Loyalists from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. Volume 2 gives members of units from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia who served in the South. Volume 3 includes muster rolls of Loyalist regiments from mainly New York and New Jersey, some of whom served in the North during the early part of the war and were then transported to Georgia or the Carolinas to serve there. Many Loyalist soldiers who served in southern campaigns were later evacuated with their families to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Many of them eventually found their way to Quebec and Ontario.

Fryer, Mary Beacock, and William A. Smy. Rolls of the Provincial (Loyalist) Corps, Canadian Command, American Revolutionary Period. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1981. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2f.) This book lists more than 1,100 names. Entries may include each soldier’s age, height, country of origin, and length of service. The men who served in these corps from New York and other northern areas often settled with their families in Upper Canada (Ontario) after the war. An index to this book is:

Index to Rolls of the Provincial (Loyalist) Corps, Canadian Command. . . N.p.: Halton-Peel Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society, n.d. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2f Index.)

Regimental histories and muster listshave been published for some individual units. An excellent example is:

Cruikshank, Ernest A., The King’s Royal Regiment of New York. 1931. Reprint. Edited and indexed with the addition of a master muster roll by Gavin K. Watt, Toronto: The Ontario Historical Society, 1984. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2ce 1984.) This work contains information about American Loyalists who were mostly recruited in the Mohawk Valley of upper New York. It contains more than 1,700 names.

A Loyalist list, dating from 1783 or 1784, is:

Fitzgerald, E. Keith. Loyalist Lists: Over 2,000 Loyalist Names and Families from the Haldimand Papers. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1984. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2fe; two microfiche 6010886; .) The names in this book are from:

Sir Frederick Haldimand: Unpublished Papers and Correspondence, 1758–84. National Archives of Canada, Manuscript Group 21. (Not available at Famiily History Library.) The papers have additional information that the above list does not, including muster rolls, provision lists, compensation claims, subsistence lists, lists of disbanded troops, and lists of prisoners of war.

Biographies of some Loyalistscan be found in:

Sabine, Lorenzo. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with an Historical Essay. 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1864. (Family History Library Call No. 973 F2sLb . Volume 1 only on film 928084 item 2.)

For additional lists, see the research outlines of the provinces.

The names of German soldiers ("Hessians") who came to Canada after the American Revolution, at the same time as the Loyalists, are listed in:

DeMarce, Virginia Easley. The Settlement of Former German Auxiliary Troops in Canada after the American Revolution. Sparta, Wisc.: Joy Reisinger, 1984. (Family History Library Call No. 971 W2dv; microfiche 6101456.) This book contains about 1,300 brief biographies. They may include each soldier’s former regiment, age at enlistment or discharge, place of settlement in Canada, wife’s name, and date and place of marriage.

Wilhelmy, Jean-Pierre. German Mercenaries in Canada. Translated by Honey Thomas. Beloeil, Qué.: La Maison des Mots, 1985. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2w.) This book contains a history of the German regiments who fought in the American Revolutionary War. An appendix lists the names of more than 200 officers and their regiments.

The Family History Library has records of Applications for Pensions for Widows and Children of Loyalist Officers, 1755–1908 (W.O. 42), arranged alphabetically on eight rolls of microfilm (Family History Library Microfilm nos.857997, 858000, and 866501–866504). These records are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under GREAT BRITAIN - MILITARY RECORDS. These form part of the Great Britain War Office Certificates of Birth, Baptism, Marriage, and Death. The records apply to a small fraction of Loyalist families, but they contain much family information, including a few delayed birth certificates from American states. The records are of families residing in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and other eastern Canadian provinces.

Many kinds of documents are listed in the Family History Library Catalog, Subject section, under AMERICAN LOYALISTS, including:

Muster rolls of American Loyalist regiments that list the names of soldiers and the units they served in. They are on twelve rolls of microfilm (Family History Library Microfilms 928940–928947 and 1689400–1689403). A name index to the military series (of which the Loyalist muster rolls are a part) is Military Index to Record Group 8, Series 1 (formerly the "C Series"). It is available from the National Archives of Canada and at the Family History Library on 89 rolls of film (several mixed ranges of numbers). Film numbers for the index are listed in the catalog’s Place Search under CANADA - MILITARY RECORDS.

Two series of Loyalist claims for property losses suffered at the hands of the American revolutionaries. The claims are dated 1784 to 1787, although some correspondence has later dates. Only a small percentage of the Loyalists submitted claims, and not all claimants had been military members. The claims cover Loyalists residing in Britain, Canada, and elsewhere. They usually give (1) the Loyalist’s former residence in the thirteen colonies, (2) an outline of his personal experiences during the American Revolution, (3) a brief account of his resettlement in what is now Canada, and (4) often some family information about his parents, spouse, or children.

The originals of both series of claims are at the Public Records Office in London, England. They are called the Audit Office 12 series (A.O. 12, or "First Series") and the Audit Office 13 series (A.O. 13, or "Second Series"). The 146 volumes of Audit Office 12 records are at the Family History Library, 31 films (Family History Library Microfilms 1401467–497; ). An index to them is on Family History Library Microfilm 1401498.

The Audit Office 13 series was originally arranged in 140 "bundles," grouped mostly by state of origin of the claimants. They are at the Family History Library (Family History Library Microfilms 366694–869). A surname index to bundles 11 to 140 is on Family History Library Microfilm 366693.

Transcriptions and extracts from both Audit Office series have been published in book form. In 1904 the Archives of Ontario published a transcription of documents now at the Library of Congress in Washington. These are the rough notes of the commissioners sent from London to British North America in 1787 and 1788 to receive claims in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and what is now Ontario. Some details differ from the "official copy" in the Audit Office 12 series. The commissioners’ notes were published as:

Second Report of the Bureau of Archives for the Province of Ontario. Toronto: Archives of Ontario, 1904. (Family History Library Microfilm 1415253 item 13 and Family History Library Microfilm 1415254 item 2; 15 microfiche 6060501.) This work is indexed. The total number of claimants listed is 2,063.

The above book has been reprinted as:

Fraser, Alexander. United Empire Loyalists: Enquiry into the Losses and Service in Consequence of Their Loyalty. 2 parts. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994. (Family History Library Call No. 971.3 A5o 1904; .)

The differences between the official Audit Office 12 series and the Second Report . . . are described in the introduction to:

Antliff, W. Bruce. Loyalist Settlements, 1783–1789. Toronto: Archives of Ontario (of) The Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, 1985. (Family History Library Call No. 971 N29L; six microfiche 6101708.) This source contains transcriptions of about 350 claims that are not in the Second Report.

Summaries of portions of the Audit Office 13 series are in:

Coldham, Peter Wilson. American Loyalist Claims, Volume I: Abstracted from the Public Record Office Audit Office Series 13, Bundles 1–35 & 37. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1980. (Family History Library Call No.973 R2cp v.1; Microfilm 1035626 item 1; two Microfiche 6051361. Other volumes have not been published.) It includes about 2,000 entries and an index to every name.

Another version of information from the Audit Office 12 and 13 series is:

Palmer, Gregory. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Publishing, 1984. (Family History Library Call No. 973 F2sLba.) This book contains about 3,800 entries that are alphabetically arranged. The introduction includes a rather complete list of Loyalist militia units.

For many other records about American Loyalists, see the Family History Library Catalog, Subject section, under AMERICAN LOYALISTS and UNITED EMPIRE LOYALISTS. See the Place Search, under MINORITIES, HISTORY, LAND AND PROPERTY, and other headings.

Several Loyalist lists have been reconstructed from land records. See "Land and Property" in this research outline and in outlines of the provinces. Publications such as The Loyalist Gazette often have articles about Loyalists (see "Periodicals").

These are guides to other Loyalist sources:

Palmer, Gregory, ed. A Bibliography of Loyalist Source Material in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Westport, Conn.: Meckler Publishing, 1982. (Family History Library Call No. 973 F23bL.)

Allen, Robert S. Loyalist Literature: An Annotated Bibliographic Guide to the Writings on the Loyalists of the American Revolution. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1982. (Family History Library Call No. 971 H23L.) This publication lists major theses and a number of secondary sources.

Nineteenth-Century Military Records

The British Army was the military establishment in Canada during most of the 19th century. British units serving in specific campaigns and Canadian localities during 1790 to 1880 are listed in:

Kitzmiller, John M., II. In Search of the Forlorn Hope: A Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments and Their Records, 1640-WW I. 2 vols., supplemental volume. Salt Lake City: Manuscript Publishing Foundation, 1988. (Family History Library Call No. 942 M2kj.) Family History Library microfilm numbers of British War Office records for these regiments are in the supplemental volume. Microfilm numbers are also in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:


Many former British military members received pensions in Canada.The following book lists some names:

Crowder, Norman K. British Army Pensioners Abroad, 1772–1899. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995. (Family History Library Call No. 942 M2cn.) This book contains about 8,000 names of pensioners, about half of whom were residents of Canada. This work indexes selected British War Office Series 120 records of the Chelsea Hospital Regimental Registers of Pensioners (volume 35 on Family History Library Microfilm 854664; volume 69 on film 852021; volume 70 on film 852022.) The book usually shows only the soldier’s name, regiment, date of pension, place of residence abroad, and sometimes death date. The original records on microfilm may also include age and rank when admitted to pension, place of birth, and years of service.

During the 19th century, all Canadian men aged 16 to 60 were required to serve in the sedentary militia. Scattered militia lists give names of some individuals. Some are published in the periodicals indexed in Sykes’ Supplementary Index to Canadian Records (see "Periodicals").

There are few service records for Canadian volunteers who fought in most 19th-century wars, including the War of 1812, the Rebellion of 1837, and the Fenian Invasions of the 1860s. Evidence that an ancestor actually served may be found in family records, biographies, censuses, probate records, civil registrations, church records, and especially in land records if he applied for a military grant.

The National Archives of Canada has medal registers that list names of many who served during the 19th century. These are not complete, since campaign medals were often authorized years after the fact. Military pensions, too, were sometimes authorized many years after service was given. Probably more than 12,000 Canadians fought in the War of 1812, but only 2,500 applied for the pensions authorized in 1875. Pensioners’ names, ages, residences, and former ranks are in:

Jonasson, Eric. Canadian Veterans of the War of 1812. Winnipeg, Man.: Wheatfield Press, 1981. (Family History Library Call No. 971 M2c.)

United States Civil War 1861–1865

Several thousand Canadians served as soldiers during the United States Civil War, most of them on the Northern (Union) side. For example, about 20,000 Canadians and former Canadians served in Michigan regiments. Canadian involvement in the United States Civil War is discussed in:

Winks, Robin W. Canada and the United States: The Civil War Years. 1960. Reprint. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988. (Family History Library Call No. 973 H2wrw.)

Service records of some Canadians have been abstracted in:

Johnson, Daniel F. The American Civil War: The Service Records of Atlantic Canadians with the State of Maine Volunteers. 2 vols. Saint John, N. B.: Daniel F. Johnson, 1995. (Family History Library Call No. 971.5 M2jd.) It includes the following information about 2,400 soldiers: name, age, physical description, occupation, Canadian residence, Maine regiment, and service dates.

See the United States Research Outline (30972) and the United States Military Outline (34118) for a discussion of other Civil War records.

Twentieth-Century Military Records

The Family History Library has very few records for Canadians serving during the 20th century. Most of these records are not published and are only in government offices. The Canadian government keeps records of the regular (peacetime) forces and reserve forces for only a limited period of time. Permanent wartime records include records of:

The South African War (Boer War of 1899–1902).

World War I (1914–1918).

World War II (1939–1945).

The Korean Conflict of the 1950s.

Records of World War I and earlier conflicts are available with few restrictions. Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) service records from World War I are available through the Personnel Records unit of the National Archives of Canada. An index to these records is on the Internet at the National Archive of Canada web site (see the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for the address). These service records contain detailed information on each individual’s enlistment and demobilization (discharge). Information may include:

  • Birth date and place.
  • Address at time of enlistment.
  • Name and address of next of kin.
  • Marital status.
  • Occupation.
  • Personal description (eye and hair color, height, weight, and distinctive marks or scars).
  • Religion.
  • When requesting information from the Personnel Records Unit, please include the individual’s name, rank, and regiment (if known).

For World War II and the Korean Conflict, records of deceased military members are available 20 years after their death to members of their families. To request information, state your relationship to the individual and provide as much information as possible, including place and date of the person’s death and perhaps an obituary or death certificate. Send the request to:

Personnel Records Unit
Researcher Services Division
National Archives of Canada
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N3

Telephone: 613-996-7458

The Canadian Agency of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission keeps records and registers of Canadian soldiers who died in World War I and a few records from World War II and the Korean War. Write to:

The Secretary-General
Canadian Agency, C.W.G.C.
66 Slater Street, Suite 1707
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P4
Telephone: 613-992-3224
Fax: 613-952-6826

Many unpublished records of military units in Canada are listed in:

Gordon, Robert S., and E. Grace Maurice, eds. Union List of Manuscripts in Canadian Repositories (ULM). 2 vols., rev. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1975. (Family History Library Call No. 971 A3cp 1975; Microfilm 1036731 items 1 and 2.) The Family History Library has some of the supplements to this book that have been published since 1975.

Military records at the National Archives of Canada are discussed in:

Christie, Carl A. "Military Sources at the Public Archives of Canada," Families.1977, 225–241 (Family History Library Call No. 971.3 B2f.)

For more information about military records, see:

St-Louis-Harrison, Lorraine, and Mary Munk. Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada.12th ed. Ottawa: National Archives of Canada, 1997. (Family History Library Call No. 971 D27k 1997.)

Merriman, Brenda Dougall. Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records. 3rd ed. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1996. (Family History Library Call No.k 971.3 D27m 1996.)

More information is in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:



Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)

Among records of Canadian governmental officials are the personnel files of more than 40,000 former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Structured along military lines, this organization was established as the North West Mounted Police in 1873 to bring law and order to the region between the Red River Valley of the North and the Rocky Mountains.

Although they have sometimes been involved in military actions, such as helping to suppress the North West Rebellion of 1885, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police members now comprise the national police force of Canada. They also contract with provinces other than Quebec and Ontario to provide police protection on a provincial level.

Early personnel files of the mounted police provide each individual’s age, name of next of kin, and previous residence. Beginning about 1900 the files include the individual’s date and place of birth and parents’ names. About 4,500 indexed pre-1904 files are open for consultation at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa. They are described in:

Poulin, Joanne, and Peter Gillis, eds. Records of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1975. (Family History Library Call No. 971 A3pg No. 2.)

Records of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after 1904 are not open for public inspection, but some family information from them may be obtained by writing:


Royal Canadian Mounted Police
1200 Promenade de Vanier
Ottawa, ON K1A 0R2
Fax: 613-993-0260