Research Spotlight: WWII Service Files of Canadian War Dead, 1939-1947

Written by Aaron, staff member, Halifax Central Library

Ancestry Library Edition is free to use at all of Halifax Public Libraries' 14 branches. Once you've absorbed that awesome fact, read on.

Ancestry Library Edition offers access to billions of genealogical records from around the world, including some important Canadian military service files. (Learn about awesome usage tips shared in a previous article.)

Records of the fallen

Military service files include documents such as attestation forms, medical charts, or active service files that reveal the soldier’s entire experience during the war.

For example, more than a million Canadians served in the Armed Forces during World War II, and around 45,000 lost their lives across the different European battlefields. Recently, Ancestry collaborated with Library and Archives Canada to scan the service files of those who fought and died. Called WWII Service Files of Canadian War Dead, 1939-1947, the records can be searched by name, armed force, serial number, rank or regiment.

What you will find

Service files will vary from person to person. Enlistment forms, service records, death certificates, and (sometimes) photos offer the following details:

  • soldier's name
  • date and place of birth
  • address
  • religion
  • marital status
  • names and birth dates of children
  • military service
  • physical description
  • education
  • occupational history
  • parents’ names
  • next of kin and address


To find the collection on Ancestry Library Edition, you will need to be physically located at a branch of Halifax Public Libraries, or using our WiFi from nearby.

Then, follow these steps:

  • From the Library’s website, click on Local & Family History which is found under Using the Library in the main navigation menu. This will take you to the section of our website that provides resources for historical and genealogical research.
  • Under the section for Virtual Archives you will find a link that will take you to the Ancestry Library Edition website, opens a new window.
  • On the Ancestry website, you will see a search option at the top of the page. Click on it and select Card Catalogue.
  • Once you are in the catalogue, use the keyword search to type in “Canadian Military.” You will get many different databases, and near the top of the list should be the WWII service files of Canadian War Dead. You can then provide as much information as possible about the person you are looking for, and find your results.

Help is available

If you are looking for service files of World War ll veterans, the Library and Archives Canada website, opens a new window has a helpful guide on how to research Canadian Military Heritage.  Look for the link called Requests for Military Service Files.

If you are still unsure about how to access this database, or if you are having trouble finding the right person, you can always book a 1-on-1 session with a staff person who will try to help you move your research forward.