First World War
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has an extensive collection of material relating to the First World War.
On this page
Before you start
If you are doing genealogy research, gather information such as:
- approximate date and place of birth
- whether the person served in the army, navy or air services
For other historical research, it is helpful to know the name of the regiment, unit or ship.
Places to look
Here is information about our collections.
1. Military service files
Our records include personnel files of many men and women who served in the war.
Personnel Records of the First World War
This database allow you to search for files in the following Record Groups (RG):
- Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF): soldiers, nurses and chaplains (RG150)
- CEF volunteers who were rejected at Valcartier (RG 9-II-B-13)
- Non-Permanent Active Militia (RG9 II-B-7)
- Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Newfoundland Forestry Corps (RG38-A-2-e)
- Imperial War Service Gratuity Files (RG9 II-F-10) These files relate to Canadians who served with the British forces
Royal Canadian Navy Service Ledger Sheets, 1910 to 1941
This database relates to naval personnel (RG150, Accession 1992-93/170). Only the ledger sheets are included in the database. The database help page explains how to search for other navy service files.
Courts Martial of the First World War
This database relates to CEF service members. It only includes references for the courts martial files that have survived (RG150-8).
Other records relating to service
Our First World War: Personnel records page includes other records with information about individual service members, such as:
- records relating to Indigenous veterans
- Air services
- prisoner of war records
- hospital records
2. Death registers, war graves registers and death cards
We hold the following series of records:
3. War diaries
These are the day-to-day descriptions of CEF units in active service. They contain information about the location of a unit and its military operations. The diaries rarely mention individuals by name, with the exception of some references to officers. The records are digitized.
War Diaries of the First World War explains more about the records and how to access them.
4. Sailing lists
Our collection of sailing lists (RG9-II-B-3), are arranged by battalion or unit. They usually indicate the ship, date and port when the unit left Canada. The lists include details about each individual on board, such as name, rank, country of birth and former corps.
To see the digitized lists:
- Go to Collection Search
- Select Collections and Fonds database.
- In All these words enter the word nominal plus the battalion number or the unit name (examples 34th, Ammunition Column, Lord Strathacona’s Horse)
- In Specific terms, select Finding aid and enter 9-24
5. Ships logs
Ship logs are the official records of Canadian naval vessels, including minesweepers, trawlers and submarines. They contain information about:
- routine activities at sea and in harbour
- weather and sea conditions
- ship movements
- details of operational exercises and special events such as visits by senior military personnel
There is little or no personal information about individuals in these logs.
Search for ship logs in Collection Search:
- Click on Advanced search
- Select Collections and Fonds database
In All these words, enter the keyword RG24, the word log and the name of a vessel
Examples of keywords:
- Niobe, Donnacona, TR 17, CD 24
These records are not on microfilm and not digitized.
6. Military medals, honours, and awards
This collection includes First World War cards, relating mainly to CEF members. Most of the cards contains a typed citation concerning the reason for the honour or award. Many of the citations are the same as what was published in the Canada Gazette or the London Gazette. However, some cards contain unique information.
Not all of the cards explain the reason why the honour or award was granted. For example, after March 1918 commanding officers did not provide specific details relating to the men they recommended for the Military Medal.
Note that these cards include only honours and awards, not service and campaign medals.
The cards can be searched in our Military medals, honours and awards, 1812–1969 database.
7. Personal papers, diaries and correspondence
We have some personal correspondence, papers, journals and diaries of some war veterans. You can use Collection Search to look for these items.
- In Database, select Collections and fonds
- In All these words, enter a person’s name
- In Any of these words, enter keywords such as diary, journal, letters, papers
8. Photographs and maps
We hold several collections, including:
You can search for other photographs and maps, including trench maps, using relevant keywords in Collection Search. From the results page, click on “Maps” or “Photographs” in Type of material to limit the search results.
9. Documentary art and posters
We hold a number of posters and documentary art related to the war. You can find them using Collection Search. Try keywords such as war, poster, postcard, sketchbook, painting, portrait or broadside. From the results page, click on “Art” in Type of material to limit the search results.
10. Published sources
We have a large number of published sources about all aspects of Canadian involvement in the war. You can search Aurora to find these publications. Try keywords like:
- Canada First World War
- World War, 1914-1918
- veterans Canada
- a specific battle or place
The most comprehensive publication is the Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, by G. W. L. Nicholson. It includes detailed maps and accounts of battles. It is digitized by the Directorate of History and Heritage.
There are also regimental histories for many of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units. We have prepared these lists of examples from our Aurora catalogue. Copies of these books are also available in other libraries.
11. Other records
There are many other records relating to the war in these government record groups:
- Department of Militia and Defence (RG9)
- Department of National Defence (RG24)
- Department of Veterans Affairs (RG38)
- Ministry of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada (RG150)
You can look for records using Collection Search. Try keywords relevant to your search such as the name of a military branch or unit or the type of record:
Here are just a few examples of the types of records we hold:
- Casualty lists
- Part II daily orders
- Infantry historical records
- Canadian Expeditionary Force in Siberia
- War service badge number ledgers
- Navy orders and regulations
Access the records
Records that are digitized
If you find a record of interest, there may be a digital image. Some of these are available through Collection Search. Others, particularly digitized microforms, are available through Héritage.
Records that are not digitized
References in Collection Search show if a record is open (access code 90) or restricted (access code 32). To find the access code in an item description, click on Ordering and Viewing Options, then Conditions of access.
If the item is restricted, use the ATIP tool to request a copy.
For records that are not digitized and not restricted, you will need to see them in person. If you cannot visit us in person, you may want to order copies or hire a researcher.
We have many blog posts related to the war, including: