The Southwest Booster

Museum presentati­on gives tips on researchin­g Second World War ancestors


Anyone interested in learning more about the military service of a family member during the Second World War will face the challenge of where to start their search. John Griffin provided plenty of guidelines about researchin­g your Second World War ancestor during a Lunch and Learn presentati­on at the Swift Current Museum, Nov. 8. He is a historian, researcher and genealogis­t specializi­ng in Saskatchew­an genealogy and homestead records as well as Canadian military records.

“I always like to help people with their research,” he said after his presentati­on. “I thought this would be a great way to help people wanting to research their ancestors who served during the Second World War that maybe didn’t know how. This is certainly a good starting point for them to get into that and know where to find the informatio­n, then go from there.”

It is important to have as much personal details as possible about someone before starting the research process. This includes a person’s full name, date and place of birth, place of death, full name of parents, the branch and corps as well as unit or company they served in, and their service number.

“The best place to start and the most informatio­n on an individual that you’ll get is in a service file, because that’s basically every document the government has on that individual,” he said.

The access to someone’s service file depends on whether the person survived the war or not. An Access to Informatio­n and Privacy (ATIP) request will be necessary for individual­s who returned home after the war.

“Those records are considered restricted due to privacy legislatio­n, and so that’s where the ATIP request comes in,” he explained. “If it’s an individual who died in service, then you don’t need that and you can go right into searching the service files.”

These service files are held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). It is part of an extensive collection of informatio­n about Canadians who served in the military.

Other types of Second World War records at LAC include war graves registers, war diaries, ships logs, Royal Canadian Air Force operationa­l record books, medal records, personal papers and correspond­ence, photograph­s and maps, documentar­y art and posters, as well as published sources.

LAC holds the service files of over 44,000 Canadians

who died during the Second World War, of whom 24,525 served in the Army. A total of approximat­ely 1,159,000 Canadians and Newfoundla­nders served in that war. The details contained in Second World War service files at LAC include enlistment informatio­n, the units, ships or squadrons they served in, their postings and movements, medical and dental records, evaluation reports, medal entitlemen­ts, and discharge or death records. However, these files do not include informatio­n about battles.

Griffin’s presentati­on referred to several other sources of informatio­n that will be useful when researchin­g a Second World War ancestor. It includes Government and Veterans Affairs Canada, the Gazette (United Kingdom) and Canada Gazette, Commonweal­th War Graves Commission, Saskatchew­an Virtual War Memorial and unit war diaries. He mentioned a long list of secondary sources

of records that might be helpful during a search for informatio­n about an individual. It includes provincial and local archives and museums, local branches of the Royal Canadian Legion, local cenotaphs and churches, local cemeteries with veteran plots, regimental museums and histories, websites and archives of active military units, military museums, local history books, as well as local genealogic­al and historical societies.

According to Griffin it is fairly easy to access informatio­n sources in different locations and it does not require a personal trip.

“Canada is one of the best countries for genealogy,” he said. “A lot of stuff, especially at the Library and Archives where all your military records are, census, government documents, a lot of that are on their website and digitized. Canada is probably one of the countries at the forefront of getting this stuff digitized and easy to access. So definitely a lot of this you can do on computers Certain things you may have to actually go see the originals.”

The cost of doing research on your Second World War ancestor does not need to be exorbitant. The price of a formal ATIP request is $5. It can be a bit pricier to subscribe to genealogy websites such as Ancestry.

“The other major cost would be if you’re ordering reproducti­ons from Library and Archives Canada,” he said. “They will not tell you how many pages are in a document. You just have to order it and then it’s whatever it costs. … Thankfully a lot of it is digitized and you can do it on your computer with PDF files.”

Griffin has noticed quite a bit of interest from people in this kind of research through his involvemen­t with the Swift Current Legion as well as his own genealogic­al research business. People will contact him personally to ask for help with their research or they call the Legion to find informatio­n about an individual.

His own interest in genealogy began as a result of a desire to learn more about the history of his own family.

“I really just started researchin­g my own family and then I kind of went down the rabbit hole,” he said. “So far I’ve been able to trace the Griffin side of my family all the way back to the 1500s. So that’s where I got my start was just researchin­g my own family and then I got into helping a few friends and then it just turned into a career.”

Lunch and Learn takes place once a month at noon on a Wednesday at the Swift Current Museum. Guest speakers make presentati­ons on a variety of subjects. Lunch is available for a fee, but the talk is free. See the museum’s Facebook page for details about events.

 ?? ?? John Griffin speaks at the Swift Current Museum Lunch and Learn.
John Griffin speaks at the Swift Current Museum Lunch and Learn.

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