Where Were My Parents? – The National Registration in Canada in 1940



Although I attended Terry Schwan’s presentation “How I Broke Through a Brick Wall Using the National Registration of 1940” at the 2019 Ontario Ancestors Conference at London, Ontario, I did not at that time seek copies of my parents’ registrations. I was not in Terry’s position as I did not feel that any information contained in their registrations would break any brick walls for me.

Fast forward to the 23rd of February 2020 and Candice McDonald’s post Researching 20th Century Ancestors with the 1940 National Registration File. If you are unfamiliar with the National Registration of 1940 read her blog post or check out this Library and Archives Canada blog post.

Since my attendance at the 2019 conference I have been building direct line ancestor stories. With that in mind I came to the conclusion that I should request copies of my parents’ registrations because they might provide information of which I was not aware. I started my planning notes to prepare to send in requests for both of my parents registration forms then realized that I would have to wait till after my mother’s birthdate this September in order to request copies of hers [20 years after death]. Since that date is rapidly approaching I decided that I might as well compile the information for both requests anyway. I have copies of birth certificates, a marriage license, and death information so the remaining challenge was figuring out where they lived in 1940.

Both of my parents were born in the west but ended up in Ontario. My mother’s family had given up homesteading in Saskatchewan and had returned to Ontario circa 1919. Although she had achieved her Collegiate Institutes, High Schools and Continuation Schools of Ontario Certificate, her lot in life was to go directly to work instead of to high school. My mother worked as a domestic in a number of locations as testified to by envelopes and letters she left behind. Prior to 1940 she was working in Toronto as a domestic. My father, on the other hand, came east to Ontario circa 1941. They both worked in the war industry after 1940, my mother at Small Arms in the rifle barrel making factory and my father at Victory Aircraft.

The 1940 Canada Electors’ lists, searchable on Ancestry.ca, came to my rescue.  I found a Miss Laurel Sims, domestic, at 15 Castle Frank Crescent, Electoral District of Rosedale, City of Toronto. She was listed after John R. Harper, and his wife, Mrs. J., at the same address so presumably they were her employers.

Finding my father in the Electors’ lists was a different adventure. He was born at Yorkton, North West Territories [now Saskatchewan) and resided near Saltcoats, Saskatchewan on a farm for his early years. By the time he was 13 he was employed in the family’s shoe and harness repair shop in Saltcoats. From there he fanned out and was employed in logging camps in the winter and road construction or farm crop harvesting the rest of the year.  I figured that he would use his mother’s house as his “permanent” residence. Searching on his name, John Donald Campbell, givens together and separate, produced a slew of hits but not the one I wanted. I then searched on Ellen Campbell, his mother’s name. No hits ensued. I then tried Alexander Thomas his younger brother’s name and was successful. Alex Campbell, labourer; Mrs. Nellie Campbell, widow; and my father Donald Campbell, labourer, were listed as living in Saltcoats, Electoral District of Melville, Saskatchewan. When I filed my request I included information about their marriage in Toronto in 1942 and their purchase of a house there shortly afterwards.

My request for my father’s National Registration form has since been sent. I will attempt to wait patiently over the potential 60 day wait noted in the response to my request – realizing that the present coronavirus pandemic may increase that wait period.

Hopefully all of my readers are keeping safe during this pandemic and perhaps even getting some time to do genealogical research and writing. If you have your children home from school, this might be the time to train them to work for you!

Alan Campbell
Ontario Ancestors
© 2020



5 thoughts on “Where Were My Parents? – The National Registration in Canada in 1940

  1. Very interesting article. You’ve renewed my interest in this resource. All four of my grandparents were born 1873-1894 and two widowed grandmothers were born 1849-1871 so I should be able to use the online application. Thank you for posting your research method and the blog links to Candice McDonald and the LAC.

  2. Thanks for the reminder, after searching for over 20 years for info on my Ukrainian grandparents, a guru of Ukr. genealogy told me of this registration – I sent for what might be available and received many pages – names of their parents, that I would never have found and much more. Great resource.

  3. Thanks for providing links to my blog post Alan. I myself had put off applying for this for quite a awhile. I’m very glad I did. My copies did not include parents names unfortunately, but they did have a wealth of other information. Because I was worried about violating any copyright restrictions, I did not post images of my great grandparents’ forms. But it was well worth the money. Thanks again.

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