Monday, May 18, 2015

Searching the Files of Rejected CEF Volunteers

Sometimes, despite everything we do and know, we can have problems when following instructions given to us by another researcher as we try to duplicate a search result. A few weeks ago I helped another researcher in her attempt to search a collection on the Library and Archives Canada web site. She had sent a query to LAC and the instructions sent back looked like they should have worked but she was just not having any luck.

It all started off with receiving instructions on how to search the Files of rejected CEF volunteers. The description of this collection, from the LAC web site, is as follows:
"Sub-series consists of personnel files belonging to CEF volunteers who were not sent beyond Valcartier, generally on medical ground. Shortly after the British declaration of war in August 1914, Canada offered an initial contingent of twenty-five thousand men for service overseas. Volunteers gathered at a hastily-erected camp at Valcartier, Qu├ębec, prior to being despatched overseas in October. Most files contain simply an attestation paper. Completed at the time of enlistment, it indicated the recruit's name and address, next-of-kin, date and place of birth, occupation and previous military service, and distinguishing physical characteristics. In the case of those rejected on medical grounds, the reason is recorded on the attestation paper."
As you can see, this collection can be quite useful in finding out more about those that volunteered yet were not fit to serve overseas.

The instructions to search this collection is to go to the Advanced Search page, enter in the MIKAN number of 136933 and also the last name. Should be simple, right?

Regrettably it wasn't. Below is my search using the MIKAN number and the last name. The initial query was to look for records concerning George John Seale in this collection. Instead of using his full last name I used '*' as a wildcard just in case there was a spelling issue. The result was not what was expected:

"Library and Archives Canada Archives Search - Advanced using MIKAN number." Library and Archives Canada.

"Library and Archives Canada Archives Search - Advanced using MIKAN number search results." Library and Archives Canada.

So where do you go from here?

I decided to just search on the MIKAN number and it brought me to the description page for that collection and I then clicked on the "3280 lower level description(s)" link to see what was going to be shown.

"Library and Archives Canada - Description of MIKAN 136933." Library and Archives Canada.

"Library and Archives Canada - MIKAN 136933 Lower Level results." Library and Archives Canada.
Now I wasn't about to go through all the 3,280 possible lower level records to look for the person that may or may not be there but what I was looking for was something that may be common to all of them. Notice that "RG9-II-B-13, R180" appears in all the search result entries. Let's give that a try for the search instead of the MIKAN number.

"Library and Archives Canada Archives Search - using RG9-II-B-13, R180." Library and Archives Canada.
"Library and Archives Canada Archives Search - using RG9-II-B-13, R180 search results." Library and Archives Canada.
That worked much better! There isn't a George Seale in the list but there is a George Searle. Since this isn't a digitized collection, without ordering the record, we don't know if this is a transcription issue or it is a different person. However, a check of the Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918 database would seem to indicate that there were also several George Searles that enlisted in the CEF. Unfortunately the resulting page in the "Files of rejected CEF volunteers" collection for George Searle doesn't provide a regimental number or any other descriptive details and without seeing the records we just don't know if this is the right person.

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