This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents and to our ancestors. If you are related to those listed, I hope this gives you a better understanding of their lives. Feel free to comment on anything posted, especially if you have additional or different information. The posts on this page chronicle my
research journey and provide resources and links. Genealogy is divided by parental lineage into Lowe and Bader. You can access these by
category from the menu and side links. Please be aware that this is an on-going project. Information will be updated as it becomes available.

Journey # 32: Canadian War Diaries Help Build a Story

When I mention "war diaries" to anyone who isn't researching military history, they look confused and wonder if war diaries refer to personal diaries kept by soldiers during a war. But in fact, war diaries refer to the official regimental journals that record the day-to-day activities of a military unit.

For someone researching a relative's service during World War I and World War II, these war diaries provide an account of what happened to the unit and thus to its personnel on any given day.

Click on image to enlarge.
As you can imagine, this is a dream come true for a genealogist wanting to know what their ancestor's life was like. War diaries can at least partially answer the question, "Grandpa, what did you do in the war?" — after grandpa is gone. In my case, that question would be asked to my grandfather, my father and an uncle.

Since Grandpa and the uncle both served in the army, one in the First World War and the other in the Second World War, I am in luck. However, that same luck does not apply to my father. He served in the navy, and unfortunately, there are no war diaries for the navy. A ship's log records the day-to-day activities of the ship but does not provide the level of detail that an army war diary does. And as far as I can tell, ships' logs are not available for genealogy research (at least not yet).

If you had access to a soldier's actual personal diary, then you are very fortunate. If you don’t, the regimental journals — or war diaries — are the next best thing.

The war diaries I was interested in, those for Canadian regiments for World War II, have been scanned and are available online at Heritage Canadiana. However, the scans have not been indexed and the file names offer no clue as to the regiment, date or any other important information a researcher might need (the file names appear to be microfilm reel numbers). To research them without an index means browsing through hundreds or thousands of images until you find the ones related to your ancestor's regiment or unit. 

But don't be discouraged, because others have indexed them for you. A member (or members) of the Canada at War forum has created an index that provides regiment name and in some cases dates to help you narrow down your search.

As I read through the daily entries for my uncle's regiment during the war, I am gradually acquiring an understanding of what it might have been like for my uncle and the other soldiers, at least in relation to the activities carried out by the regiment and its units. And every now and then, the scans include a document showing soldier assignments that include names and even signatures: genealogy gold!

To see documents and information pulled from war diaries, read this military post:


Post a Comment

To prevent spam, your comment must be approved before it appears. Thank-you for your patience.