***** Military Monday: First World War Personnel Files Hidden in Plain Sight

Rare is such a significant resource found.

It’s a large cache of unexplored records — tens of thousands of military personnel files, the majority of which deal with Canadian military service during the Great War. To be clear, these are not the “CEF Service Documents” that Library and Archives Canada (LAC) now has online under the title “Personnel Records of the First World War.”

Would you be particularly interested in a nursing sister who served?

If so, you’ll be delighted to learn of the article Hidden in Plain Sight: The Militia and Defence Headquarters Personnel File Series, 1903 to 1938, by Paul Marsden and Glenn Wright, published in Canadian Military History, Vol 31, No 2 (2022).

Many of the records are available as online images at Canadiana Heritage, and a large number have been name indexed and included in Collection Search on the Library and Archives Canada website. That’s particularly the case for the nursing sisters, except those with surname O and P whose records were lost. The search result will provide the microfilm number on Heritage and the range of images for that person.

If familiar with old microfilm records — and these files were filmed in 1948-49 — you won’t be surprised to “encounter pages which are all white or all black or documents which appear to have been moving when filmed. Occasionally, you will find a corrected image a couple of pages later, but that is the exception. With some effort and image editing software, we were able to make many of the illegible pages legible. Patience is a necessary virtue in using some of these files.”

The nursing sisters are just the tip of the iceberg. Over six thousand files are indexed; many more remain unindexed. Aside from First World War nurses, there are 626 files relating to members of the Canadians contingents and the South African Constabulary in the South African War.



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