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Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History


Canadian Military History: An Overview
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War of 1812
Personal Stories

The War and Family History

The War of 1812 was fought in an era before the modern systems of personnel files for soldiers were created. Although the careers of officers in the British and American regular forces can be reconstructed from official officers' lists (see the General part of these pathfinders), for militia officers and men of the British regular army, the fencible regiments, the militia, the Royal Navy and the Provincial Marine, one must rely mostly on manuscript documentary evidence such as muster rolls and paylists to determine service. Timothy Dubé's and Glenn Wright's articles provide some guidance to the plethora of this type of evidence.

Lists of recipients of medals demonstrate the presence of an individual in a campaign or battle and usually indicate to what unit he belonged. Barbara Wilson's index to the Military General Service Medal rolls is a most useful guide. More limited lists of recipients in individual battles have also been published, such as that appended to Donald E. Graves, Field of glory, listed in The War on Land and Joint Operations section, for Crysler's Farm and Châteauguay. It should be remembered that the campaign medals were only awarded many years after the events and usually only to survivors.

Only in 1875 did the Canadian government begin to address the question of a pension for surviving veterans of the War of 1812. The resulting lists printed in Sessional papers are an important source of genealogical information.

The researcher in family history should also consult the other sections of this pathfinder. A great wealth of family history information is available in general histories of the war and its Individual Battles and Campaigns. Several Websites have made genealogical information on the war available through the Internet.

* Canada. Parliament. -- Militia pensions : War of 1812-15 : return for 1876-77 : statement showing the names of all veterans who have proved their rights to partake in the grant of $50,000 voted last session by Parliament in favor of militiamen of 1812-15, and the action taken in each case during the current financial year; also the names of all those who have applied for a pension and upon whose cases no decision has been given. -- Sessional paper, no. 76. -- Ottawa : Queen's Printer, 1877. -- 109 p. -- Also published in French under the title: Document de la session, no 76

  • This list was published regularly in Sessional papers for many years after 1877. New names were included as further elderly veterans realized that they were eligible.

*_____. -- Statement shewing names, ages and places of residence of all militiamen of 1812-13 who have applied to the Imperial government, through the Department of Militia and Defence, for a pension or indemnity; in reply to an address of the House of Commons of the 8th February, 1875. = État des noms, âges et domiciles de tous les miliciens de 1812-13, qui ont demandé au gouvernement impérial, par l'intermédiare du département de la Milice et de la Défense, une pension ou indemnité; en réponse à une adresse de la Chambre des Communes du 8 février 1875. -- Sessional paper, no. 25. -- Ottawa : Queen's Printer, 1875. -- 15 p. -- Also published in French under the title: Document de la session, no 25

Dubé, Timothy. -- "Documenting the service of British and Canadian military forces, 1775-1815". -- Northwest Ohio quarterly. -- Vol. 64, no. 2 (Spring 1992). -- P. 56-65

_____. -- "Tommy Atkins, we never knew ye : documenting the British soldier in Canada, 1759-1871 : military organization and the archival record". -- Canadian military history. -- Vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1995). -- P. 113-120

Facey-Crowther, David R. -- The New Brunswick Militia commissioned officers' list 1787-1867. -- Fredericton, N.B. : New Brunswick Genealogical Soc., 1984. -- 431 p.

  • See also his M.A. thesis The New Brunswick Militia : 1784-1871. -- Univ. of New Brunswick, 1965

Gray, William. -- Soldiers of the King : the Upper Canadian Militia, 1812-1815 : a reference guide. -- North York, Ont. : Stoddart, 1995. -- 288 p. -- (A Boston Mills Press book)

Irving, L. Homfray, comp. -- Officers of the British forces in Canada during the War of 1812-15. -- [Welland, Ont.] : Welland Tribune Print., 1908. -- 309 p. -- Also reproduced in microform format: CIHM microfiche series, no. 72066

Jonasson, Eric. -- Canadian veterans of the War of 1812. -- Winnipeg : Wheatfield Press, 1981. -- 70 p.

Lauber, Wilfred R., comp. -- An index of Essex & Kent militia records. -- Chatham, Ont. : Kent Branch, Ontario Genealogical Soc., 1995. -- 1 vol., unpaged

Legault, Roch. -- Les aléas d'une carrière militaire pour les membres de la petite noblesse seigneuriale canadienne de la Révolution américaine à la guerre de 1812-1815. -- [Montréal] : Université de Montréal, 1986. -- Thèse, M.A., Université de Montréal, 1986

Lépine, Luc. -- Les officiers de milice au Bas-Canada, 1812-1815 = Lower Canada's militia officers, 1812-1815. -- Montréal : Société généalogique canadienne-française, 1996. -- [306] p.

_____. -- La participation des Canadiens français à la guerre de 1812. -- [Montréal] : Université de Montréal, 1986. -- Thèse, M.A., Université de Montréal, 1986

Stewart, Charles Herbert. -- The service of British regiments in Canada and North America : a resume, with a chronological list of uniforms portrayed in sources consulted : based on regimental histories held in Department of National Defence Library. -- Ottawa : Queen's Printer, 1962. -- Various pagings. -- (Department of National Defence Library publication, no. 1)

  • This guide is useful in determining which British regiments served in North America during the war and where they were stationed.
  • The reading lists of regimental histories are very dated.

Stray, Albert. -- "Canadian Volunteers burn old Niagara". -- Canadian genealogist. -- Vol. 6, no. 4 (December 1984). -- P. 220-242

  • Joseph Willcocks and the Canadian Volunteers serving with the U.S. forces.

_____. -- "The Lincoln militia". -- Canadian genealogist. -- Vol. 7, no. 4 (December 1985). -- P. 207-221

Wilson, Barbara, comp. -- Military General Service, 1793-1814 (Canadian recipients), Egypt Medal, 1882-1889 (Canadian recipients), North West Canada, 1885 : index to the medal rolls. -- London : Spink, 1975. -- 191 p.

Wright, Glenn. -- "Nineteenth century military records in the National Archives : an introduction". -- Families. -- Vol. 33, no. 4 (1994). -- P. 213-221

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