by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
Compulsory registration of all persons in Canada, age 16 years and over, was in effect during the First World War and again during the Second World War. Information compiled included the name, address, age, date of birth, country of birth, citizenship, year of immigration, marital status, state of health and occupation of each registrant. Most Doukhobors in Canada accepted registration, albeit reluctantly. Others refused, regarding registration as another form of military conscription. The following article describes the National Registration records and where they may be located.
1918 National Registration
A National Registration was held throughout Canada during the First World War. This began with the establishment of the Canada Registration Board by Order in Council P.C. 404, dated February 23, 1918. The purpose of the registration was to provide an inventory of manpower available for military service and essential industries. All persons over age sixteen (with the exception of cloistered nuns, persons on active military service and inmates of prisons and asylums) were required to register on June 22, 1918. Each person was asked their name, address, age, date of birth, country of birth, citizenship, year of immigration, marital status, state of health and occupation. Registration cards were issued to each individual and they were required to carry them at all times. Failure to do so resulted in charges being laid.
Many Doukhobors were apprehensive about registration and suspected that it was a prelude to conscription which trampled the Doukhobors’ exemption from military service given them by Order-in-Council P.C. 2747 of December 6, 1898. To discuss their concerns the Doukhobors sent delegations to Ottawa. There, the Attorney-General assured them that their promise of exemption would be respected. The government also agreed to let Doukhobors appoint their own Deputy Registrars to register their people in all their districts. As a result, most Doukhobors reluctantly accepted the wartime measure of registration.
Unfortunately, the records compiled for the National Registration during the First World War were not retained. However, many individual registration cards have survived among family papers and memorabilia. Researchers who come across these cards should take steps to ensure their preservation.
1940 National Registration
A similar National Registration took place during the Second World War. This began with the passing of The National Resources Mobilization Act on June 21, 1940. All persons over age sixteen (with the exception of cloistered nuns, persons on active military service and inmates of prisons and asylums) were required to register on August 19, 1940. Each person was asked their name, address, age, date of birth, marital status, number and relationship of any dependants, country of birth, name of parents, citizenship, racial origin, year of immigration, year of naturalization, languages spoken, education, general health, disabilities, occupation, work experience by type, mechanical or other abilities, wartime circumstances and previous military experience. Registration cards were again issued to each individual and they were required to carry them at all times. Failure to do so resulted in charges being laid.
Again, most Doukhobors were apprehensive about national registration and suspected that it was a prelude to conscription. Again they sent delegations to Ottawa; again they were given strong assurances; and again Doukhobor leaders asked for an arrangement to register their own people, saying that many would not cooperate with a registration conducted by the government. At first government officials resisted the idea of a seperately conducted registration, but after repeated pleas they agreed. As a result, over 11,000 Doukhobors were registered. Only the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, who numbered about 2,000 at this time, refused.
Every Doukhobor when coming before their Deputy Registrar was instructed to bring with themselves an affirmation proving that they were a member in “good standing” meaning that they had paid their dues to a recognized Doukhobor society. Consequently, many Doukhobors rushed to pay their dues to the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ or to the Society of Independent Doukhobors. It is known that membership in recognized Doukhobor organizations rose markedly.
Copies of the 1940 National Registration records still exist. The information is confidential but may be requested from Statistics Canada for individuals who have been deceased for more than twenty years. Proof of death is required, either a dated newspaper obituary or a copy of the death certificate. Requests should also provide full name, place of residence in 1940, and identifying details such as approximate age. For online ordering information including a sample of the questionnaire form, see the Canadian Genealogy Centre. Inquiries may also be forwarded to:
Census Pension Searches Unit
Census Operations Division
B1E-34 Jean Talon Building
There is a fee to obtain the 1940 National Registration records. A standard fee of $48.15 ($45 search fee and $3.15 GST) is charged for each search undertaken that is successful in locating the requested record. Should the search fail, this amount will be refunded.
- Hanowski, Laura, Tracing Your Saskatchewan Ancestors: a guide to the records and how to use them (Regina: Saskatchewan Genealogical Society, 2000).
- Hawthorn, Harry B., The Doukhobors of British Columbia (Vancouver: The University of British Columbia, 1955).
- Janzen, William, “The Doukhobor Challenge to Canadian Liberties” in Koozma Tarasoff and Robert Klymasz, Spirit Wrestlers, Centennial Papers in Honour of Canada’s Doukhobor Heritage (Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1995).
- Munk, M., (National Archives of Canada) Memo to J. Kalmakoff Re: 1918 and 1940 National Registration, February 10, 1999.
- Tarasoff, Koozma J., Plakun Trava, The Doukhobors (Grand Forks: MIR Publication Society, 1982).
This article was reproduced by permission in the Dove No.54 (Saskatoon: Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan, Jan. 2002).