by Jean-Luc Pilon
Archives of Canada in Ottawa holds the original attestation documents filled
in and signed by the young men and women who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary
Force during the First World War, the war to end all wars. It also
contains the enlistment papers of those who had been drafted under the
Conscription Act of 1917 but, for whatever reason, did not present themselves
at the appointed time and place for enlistment. This database constitutes
a very rich body of information for genealogical purposes.
During the fall of 1999 I undertook to comb through all the attestation records relating to Pilons. I knew that my fatherís uncle, Vincent Eugene Auguste Pillon, had been a soldier during the Great War, but I had to further details. My first point of entry into this large body of information was over the Internet since the National Archives of Canada provide access to a computerized database which provides an instant search through the names of the soldiers and provides their serial number and the archive box which contains the file (click here to begin your own search at the National Archives of Canada).
Within a short spans of time, the records are retrieved from their permanent storage facility in Renfrew, the records are checked for sensitive information and once approved, are put at my disposal in the Archivesís reading room. If required, a locker can be made available to allow me to study the documents over a number of days if required.
As I carefully studied each file, I came to realize that there is a small gold mine of information relating a wide variety of topics of interest to the family genealogist. For example, the records contain the soldierís date and place of birth, as well as the name of a next-of-kin who is usually a parent, a sibling or a spouse. In addition, the individualís civilian employment is given and basic physical information (height, eye, hair colour and complexion). With this an other information relating to the enlistment and discharge of the individual, interesting aspect of the persons and the time in which they lived can begin to emerge.
Here, I present a preliminary analysis of the information which I extracted
from the attestion records of 135 Pilons who were members of the Canadian
Expeditionary Force during the First World War. I hope to be able
to add to this presentation with more in depth information relating to
a smaller subset of these soldiers; i.e. those who were wounded or died
in action in France or Belgium. However, that is for another day.
Another Pilon Story
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