Guest blogger and Ancestry Canada Advisory Board Member: Gary Schroder
Ancestry and other genealogical organizations, archives, societies, and libraries have a wide variety of databases with digitized images on their websites. Sometimes variations of these databases can be found in more than one place with varying information. The point of this article is to show how using Ancestry’s excellent databases can solve genealogical puzzles. I am going to use two Canadian Military Databases to illustrate this point.
Case One: What did William Alfred Auger do to be awarded the Military Medal for bravery at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April of 1917?
Before the WWI service files were digitized, I obtained from the full service record of just over 70 pages of my relative, William Alfred Auger (1873-1957), who served in the 28th Battalion (Northwest) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force from Library and Archives Canada. He was born and died in Essex, England, but prior to WWI he was living in Western Canada. When the war started, he joined the Canadian Army. His file told me all kinds of interesting facts about his military career including that he had served with South African Constabulary during the Boer War (I later obtained his file from the South Africa Archives) and that he was awarded the prestigious Military Medal for bravery in the field for his actions at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. His military service file did not give any clue as to what his actions were at Vimy Ridge.
The website of Library and Archives Canada indicated they had a collection of Military Honours and Citation Cards for the period 1900-1969 and that most of the cards were for the Canadian Army for WWI. However, they had not digitized these cards. Looking on the Card Catalogue on Ancestry under the heading Canada Military there was a database entitled “Canada, Military Honours and Awards Citation Cards 1900-1961” (not 1969). A quick look showed there was the Card for W.Auger. He had saved various horses from certain death in the battle due to his courageous actions. There is something very touching about him protecting the horses.
Case Two: Who was the Mr. Meredith killed in WWII?
I remember when I was a small child brief mention of the fact that my uncle by marriage, Arthur Charles French, had a sister, Marjorie French, who had been married to a man named Meredith, but that he was killed in WWII. Who was this person? When and where was he killed? Was he in the Army, Navy or Air Force? An examination of the Drouin Collection of Church Records on Ancestry showed that Marjorie French married a Frederick James Meredith in 1939 at Montreal’s Trinity Anglican Church.
Now that we knew his name, it should have been a simple matter to go to Library and Archives Canada and look at the database of digitized files of WWII Service Records of the Dead. All the other Merediths were there, but there was no digitized file for Frederick James – just an index entry. I thought that perhaps the paper copy of his file had disappeared or had been damaged.
Recently, I was looking at Canadian Military Databases on Ancestry and noticed one titled, “Canada, World War Two Service Files of War Dead 1939-1947”. I searched Meredith and there was a copy of the digitized service files of Frederick James Meredith. There were 63 pages of documents. He had served in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada. He was a Lieutenant and
was killed on March 2, 1945 near Udermerbruck on an assault on the Hochwald Gap. The files included records such as his original attestation form, a form listing his family members, his identity card with a very good photo of him, a list of his effects recorded after his death, and a copy of the telegram notifying the military of his death. He was originally buried in a small cemetery near Udermerbruck but his body was removed later to the Grosbeck Canadian War Cemetery.
The moral of the story is always look at variations of what you may think at first is the same database you have seen elsewhere.
Gary Schroder has been the President of the Quebec Family History Society since 1995. His first known ancestor to set foot in Canada was his 3x great grandfather Cornelius Flynn – from Cork in Ireland – who arrived in the Port of Quebec City in 1805. Gary has been a Member of the Special Advisory Board of Library and Archives Canada, a frequent guest on Canadian Radio and Television and a research consultant on the American, British, and Canadian versions of “ Who Do You Think You Are?”. His primary research interests are Canada, England, Ireland, and British Military resources for genealogists.