Canadian military records go back to the days of New France, in the 1600s. There has been a military presence in Canada since those days. And, of course, Canadian history is peppered with skirmishes between the French and soldiers of other countries (the main one being Britain) attempting to wrest control of the colonies away from them by military force.
Military records arising from the New France era can be of great interest to genealogists, for the simple reason that French soldiers and officers were encouraged to settle in Canada, once their tour of duty was over. Some researchers feel that as many as ¼ of the military men did so.
These records therefore could provide some interesting clues as to as ancestor’s life in the military prior to settlement in Canada, and where he came from in France.
Having said that, I note that very few of the records pertaining to the time period when Canada was a French colony have survived. The majority of the Canadian military records that do exist for this time period are records with respect to officers. Those records may provide information such as age, place of origin, date of death, and details about promotions, pay and pensions, land grants, and other legal documents.
Montcalm leading his troops at the Plains of Abraham, by Charles William Jeffreys. Public domain.
There are some French-language Canadian military records which provide the names, but little else, of French soldiers who served in Canada. The following record fonds from the Library and Archives Canada may be of assistance:
Death of General Wolfe, Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Painting by B. West, about 1770.
The Battle of the Plains of Abraham is generally regarded as the pivotal point in the Seven Years War (known in the United States as the French and Indian War) between the French and the British for control of North America.
After a three-month siege by the British army and navy, the 15-minute battle on September 13, 1759, resulted in the British gaining control of the French fortress just outside Quebec City. Casualties from that battle included both French General Montcalm and British General Wolfe.
Although the War continued another four years, French forces were unable to retake the fortress, and ultimately, under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, the French ceded control of their eastern territories in North America to the British. The document was also signed by Spain and Holland, countries which also had colonies in North America.
"Apres Guerre", engraving by Richard Short, an officer in Wolfe's army, about 1769. Shows the devastation caused by the British bombardment of Quebec City immediately preceding the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Public domain.
Did you have ancestors who fought in this battle? You may be able to find out, by checking the following sources at Library and Archives Canada:
Go to 'Canadian Military Documents: British Rule'
Go to 'The American Revolutionary Way: Fighting for the British'
Go to 'Canadian Military Documents: World Wars I and II'
Go to 'Canadian Military Documents: An Introduction'
Go from "Canadian Military Records: New France" to Home Page
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