Ledger Sheets for Canada’s Navy

GenealogySiteThe following Roots to the Past column originally appeared in November 2013.

There’s a new way for Canadians to search for ancestors who were naval veterans. On November 2nd, the Library and Archives Canada launched an index to the Ledger Sheets for the Royal Canadian Navy. In total, there are16,788 references to military personnel who served in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Naval Reserve between 1910 (when the Canadian Navy was established) and 1918. Some records for those who enlisted between 1919 and 1941 are included.

The personnel service records within the data are referred to as Navy Pay Ledger Sheets, but they rarely contain information regarding pay. The database contains information on officers, cadets and non-commissioned sailors who served in the RCN, Naval Reserve and the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve. It summarizes an individual’s record of service, including postings at land bases and on ships.

Some individuals have two service numbers and two ledger sheets because they transferred between the Navy and the Naval Reserve. Records are fairly complete from 1910 until the end of the First World War, but every individual who served didn’t generate a ledger sheet. There is no explanation given for these missing records.

The basic information found for an individual is name, service number(s), date and place of birth, occupation and religion. Not all information is available for everyone. A copy of a person’s record can be obtained by using the information in this index to make a request to Library and Archives Canada. More can be learned about this on the search help page.

The search help page also provides a history snippet on our navy. The Naval Service Act of May 4, 1910 led to the creation of The Canadian Navy, and a year later, the “Royal” was added to make it the RCN. This force replaced England’s Royal Navy which until then maintained security in Canadian Waters.

The Royal Canadian Navy also took over command of the Royal Navy Dockyards in Halifax, NS, and Esquimalt, BC.

The first acquired war ships were HMCS Rainbow and HMCS Niobe. The Niobe patrolled the waters along Canada’s eastern coastline during the early part of the First World War. Anchored in Halifax Harbour in December 1917, it suffered damage and several crewmembers were killed during the Halifax Explosion. It was decommissioned in 1920, the same year HMCS Rainbow had been. Being Canada’s first large war ship, the Niobe still remains a symbolic ship to the navy, and many artefacts from it are on display in museums across the country.

HMCS Sackville at Port Halifax

In May 1914, the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve (RNCVR) was formed. As if a mistake was made during the first naming, nine years later, it was replaced with the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR). It was manned by part-time citizen sailors.

Acronyms can be overwhelming when it comes to the military, but The Military Abbreviations (WWI to present) – Canadian & Commonwealth (http://www.heritagecharlotte.com/documents/Military-Abbreviations.pdf) will help decipher the string of letters.

[NOTE (updated November 2013): The Military Abbreviations List on Heritage Charlotte site is no longer available. However there is a new, extensive list at Library and Archives Canada]

Three hundred and seventy-nine men had joined the Royal Canadian Navy by the start of the Great War in 1914. More than 9,500 had served by the end of it.

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Diane Lynn Tibert is a writer based in central Nova Scotia. Her alter-ego is Diane Lynn McGyver. Her short story collection Nova Scotia – Life Near Water is available as an eBook at Amazon. It will soon be available in paperback.

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