Canadian records for Genealogists & Family Historians
Passage of the National Resources Mobilization Act on 1 June 1940 was a Canadian government response to the outbreak of war in 1939. Every Canadian over the age of 16 years was required to register in August of 1940, under the National Registration Regulation. The records created between 1940 and 1946 are accessible to genealogists and family historians.
The Act provided for the establishment of a Registration process - supervised by a Chief Registrar for Canada, where every man and woman in the country who was 16 years of age, or older, were interviewed personally. The purpose of the registration process was to identify people and resources that could be placed at the disposal of His Majesty, King George VI, for the duration of the war. No national population census was taken in the spring of 1941, as would normally have been the case, because of the war effort and the existence of this registration process.
The Chief Registrar appointed Chief Assistants in each electoral district in the Country. The Chief Assistants were in turn responsible for engaging Deputy Registrars to carry out the registration process within each electoral district. Interview rooms in public buildings were utilized wherever possible (such as schools), with the thought that each person being interviewed would feel comfortable providing the information required in such a place. A standard, single sheet form was used to gather information.
An advertisement about the National Resources Mobilization Registration process, published in The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ont.) on 12 August 1940, shows that the full registration of every individual residing in Canada was planned to be completed between the hours of 8:00am and 10:00pm on the 19th, 20th, and 21st of August. With some exceptions (below), all persons in Canada who had reached the age of 16 years by August, 1940, British subjects and aliens alike, males and females, were required to register. Announcements about the registration requirement were also posted in Post Offices across the country. Every person who was outside of Canada when the initial registration was completed was required to register within 30 days of returning to Canada. Similarly, those who reached their 16th birthday between August, 1940, and mid-to-late 1946, were required to register within 30 days of their birthday.
While there were some slight differences in the form used for men and women, each person interviewed during the registration process was required to provide:
- their Full Name and Permanent Postal Address;
- their Age (last birthday) and their Date of Birth;
- their Conjugal Condition (i.e. whether single or married);
- the Types and Numbers of Dependents solely supported by the registrant;
- the name of the Country in which they were born, and where each of the registrant's parents were born;
- their Nationality, Year of Immigration and of Naturalization;
- information about Languages spoken;
- information about their Education, Health, and General Physical Condition;
- information about their current Occupation or Business, including the number of years in that situation;
- information about any previous Farming Experience;
- information about any previous Military Service.
The advertisement mentioned above shows an example of the standard questionnaire form that was used.
In most cases a Deputy Registrar interviewed each person as they presented themselves for registration. The Deputy Registrar recorded the details needed for each section, and the the interviewee was required to sign the registration form after the Deputy Registrar was satisfied that all of his or her questions had been thoroughly and truthfully answered.
The date that each individual was interviewed during the registration process was recorded on each form, as was the electoral district, and, sometimes, the exact location of the interview.
Individuals from some institutions in the country might have been declared exempt from the registration process. Certainly persons who were members of the armed forces or a religious order, or who were confined to prisons, penitentiaries, or asylums, were automatically exempt from registering.
All persons who registered were also provided with a small wallet or purse card, upon which basic registration details were written at the time of registration. All persons who registered were legally obliged to produce this card to enquiring authorities (Police, for instance) whenever asked to do so. Many such cards have passed down to surviving generations as cherished artifacts.
The longer interview form as completed at the time of registration contains the most complete information, and can be of great use and interest to Genealogists and Family Historians - an individual's record can sometimes be the only readily accessible source that provides the year of that individual's arrival in Canada, thus permitting a more efficient search for other immigration records. Sometimes an individual's form can provide the only clue to a parent's or grandparent's date and/or place of birth.
The Registration Forms created under the National Resources Mobilization Act were transferred to the care and custody of the Dominion Bureau of Statistics after the war. Any individual who participated in the registration process has always been entitled to access their personal record by petitioning Statistics Canada. Privacy legislation enacted in 1983 permits access to these records by other persons as well - providing certain conditions are met, and upon the pre-payment of a set fee (plus Goods and Services Taxes).
Some bureaucratic hoops must be jumped through, if you wish to obtain copies of an individual's 1940 National Resources Registration record. The conditions for gaining access to a record are not onerous, the principal requirement being that a record will only be released to an individual through a Canadian postal address.
Canadians may apply for a specific record through https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/catalogue/93C0006. Those from outside Canada would find it necessary to engage someone residing in Canada to handle the application process for them.
I'm quite familiar with the requirements. I've obtained copies of individual registration forms for all of my blood relatives who were alive during the registration period. I have also successfully obtained copies of individual registration forms for several clients. I'd be happy process a request for copies on your behalf as well, if you're not a resident in Canada.
Please note - if a person who registered under the National Registration Regulation died prior to 1946, this fact became known to Registration officials, and their interview form was removed from the bank, and destroyed. No interview form survives, then, for people who registered under the regulations any time during or after August, 1940, and the time of their death, if they died before mid-late 1946.