Canadian Military Ancestors

October 10, 2017 | Irena

Comments (0)

Second Charlottetown Detachment who volunteered for service with the Canadian Contingent for the war in South Africa (HS85-10-11292).jpg
By George H. Cook -Second Charlottetown Detachment who volunteered for service with the Canadian Contingent for the war in South Africa. This image is part of the Canadian Copyright Collection held by the British Library, and has been digitized as part of the "Picturing Canada" project.
Getting Started

This guide describes resources available at the Toronto Reference Library.

Before beginning, think about the following questions:

  • Was your ancestor a British soldier stationed in Canada or part of the Canadian force?
  • Was your ancestor a professional soldier or an ordinary citizen who served in the militia?
  • In what type of unit did your ancestor serve (cavalry, infantry, etc.)?
  • Was your ancestor an officer or an enlisted soldier?

Noteworthy dates

  • Battle of the Plains of Abraham, 1759
  • Militia Act established the Active Militia in the Canadas, 1855
  • Post-Confederation Militia Act created nine military districts; the Active Militia became the Volunteer Militia and the Sedentary Militia became the Reserve Militia, 1868
  • The last British troops leave Canada, 1871
  • A Canadian contingent is dispatched to the South African War, 1899

Searching the Library Catalogue

Many different subject headings apply to military sources, so keyword searches may be most effective. Choose as keywords the name of the place, the name of the conflict, and/or the name of an armed forces division. Lists of participants will have the subheading Registers. Lists of casualties will have the subheading Registers of dead.

Suggested Subjects and Keywords

Suggested Titles

Armed Forces Lists

These publications list commissioned officers, not enlisted men:

Medal Rolls

Registers of War Dead

Regimental Histories

Other Resources


Additional Resources

Library and Archives Canada, through Ancestors Search, has several searchable Military Databases:

 Friends of Fort York (Toronto) have compiled the British Regiments Contact Project

For further assistance contact:

Answerline: 416-393-7131

[email protected]

Humanitites and Social Sciences Department, Toronto Reference Library 416-393-7175

Use the "Ask a Librarian" feature on