The digitization of Canadian First World War Services Files by Library and Archives Canada is the Government’s most significant contribution to the centenary of the First World War. The work began in the summer of 2014 and to date 36% of the 640,000 Service Files are online and are freely available for download.
The Service Files are being digitized in alphabetical order and surnames up to and including “Griffin” are now online. But what if you’re researching one of the 7,000 soldiers named Smith, one of a dozen Wooley’s or the lone Zook?! When will your service file be digitized and available to download? Should you wait for the free copy or should you jump the queue and pay to have it digitized sooner? If you choose the latter you’ll need to time it right, as pointed out in a LAC news article:
While 75% of the collections will always be open, LAC will not be able to accept requests to consult documents in person, nor take orders for copies for a period of up to 4 months on the portion of the collection being digitized.
To help those struggling with these questions I’ve crunched the numbers and have come up with an estimated release schedule from now to December 2018. LAC has stated they will complete the project by the end of 2018 and in order to meet this target they need to digitize and upload an average of 11,300 Service Records per month. The number of Service Files uploaded in the past 12 months, as indicated on their Blog published on or around the 15th of every month, shows LAC is on track to meet their target.
Table 1 shows my estimate of which surnames will have been digitized and uploaded by the middle of each month. It’s based on the required monthly average and the figures shown in Table 2. This second table shows the total number of Service Files for each surname beginning with ‘A’, ‘B’, etc. and is based on the results returned by LAC’s own search engine.
I must stress that these are estimates and in no way have they been endorsed, or even acknowledged, by Library and Archives Canada. Nevertheless they may prove helpful to those of us waiting patiently (or not) for their soldier’s service file to appear online.
We all must keep in mind that this is a fantastic initiative and the work being carried out today will be of immense benefit to military and family historians for decades to come. And spare a thought for the digitization team who this time next year will begin scanning Service Files of tens of thousands of Canadian Mc’s and Mac’s, a task that will take the better part of three months to complete.
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