Welcome to the largest fully searchable database dedicated to the Canadian men and woman that served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the Great War (1914-1919). This site, like any site on the Great War, relies heavily on the documents database of Library and Archives Canada and other government agencies. What distinguishes this project is the transcription of those records and the normalization of their data elements by the tireless work of our members, students and supporters. Whether you want to look at data on farmers from Ontario or bakers from British Columbia you can rely on stable HISCO mapping of the entries reported on attestation forms.
This site evolved from the personal research work of Marc Leroux into the story of his grandfather in the Great War. That search expanded to the soldiers from his town, and then to soldiers from the area. Over time, a host of other researchers with similar interests joined in and, thanks to Marc’s technical skill, the Canadian Great War Project came to life. Over the following twelve years, contributors from across Canada and around the world continued to transcribe attestation papers, war diaries and other primary source documents. Site members added letters and images and eagerly shared information with any who asked. Linkages were developed to a wide range of other Great War sites.
As the centennial of the Great War approached, it became apparent that over the long term, a permanent home was needed to preserve this growing national treasure house of data. That home would need to demonstrate both a strong commitment to the history of Canada in the Great War, and the technical expertise to continue to improve the usefulness of the site the community of users. The Library of the University of Victoria and the Department of History proved a good match.
Over the past five years, Marc and the Canadian Great War Project have provided exceptional support to the development of two Great War Web Sites supported by the University of Victoria. The first, Birth of a Regiment told the story of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry as it was transformed from a very British regiment to an icon of Canadian nationhood. Later, A City Goes to War focused on Canadian Cities in the Great War while providing a platform for honours history students to sharpen their skills in presenting history on the internet. Both sites drew heavily on data provided by the Canadian Great War Project. In parallel, the Special Collections of the University of Victoria Library launched a series of Great War themed web sites to highlight its own extensive great war collections. Including the Victoria to Vimy Collection and the World of Mary's Wedding.
The success of those preliminary efforts and the well-established record of both UVic’s Department of History and the University Library in the field of digital history led to a series of discussions about long term future of Marc’s marvelous collection. By early 2016 the University of Victoria and Mr. Leroux had reached an agreement in principle that would ensure the preservation and enhancement of the site. Although title would be transferred to the University of Victoria Library, the site would remain free and open to all and welcome continued support of both current site members and new researchers who might join in the future. Although the formal handover of responsibility took place in early November 2016, Marc Leroux continues to be actively involved as a member of the project steering committee.
The financial support of Veterans Affairs Canada also enabled us to engage additional support for web site design and data normalization.
The original database contained details on approximately 170,000 Canadians that fought in the Great War. With this release we have taken the opportunity to expand the original database by merging Marc's data with the entire collection of CEF records as made publically available by Library and Archives Canada. This brings the total number of people that this release contains to 630,249.
We have already begun the process of normalizing the data. Occupations, ranks, locations (born, enlisted, buried, etc.), and regimental structures will receive significant attention over the next few weeks and months. We have nearly 20,000 distinct representations of 'location', 7,000 different occupations, and many dozen interpretations of what constitutes rank (which is no where near as straightforward as you might expect). While time-consuming, the normalization of this information will allow us to provide more accurate searches as well as add some exciting features.
While we work on normalizing the data, we will also be busy incorporating the War Diary data from Marc's original site. This data set is quite different from the more intimate information we have about the people. Ledger-like and highly structured in nature, the dominant features of this collection are weather, location, and daily events. Sound dull? You won't think so when you see what we have in mind!
For all email contact please ensure that you include “CGWP” in the subject line.
For general queries contact: Jim Kempling
To report bugs or technical issues contact: Greg Newton