Course:ARST573/Military & Secret Service Archives

From UBC Wiki

This wiki provides a brief introduction to the world of military and secret service archives in Canada, The United Kingdom, and The United States. As government agents, both military and secret service archives are typically found under the umbrella of public archives. As public archives, accessibility is a primary concern. Privacy and Freedom of Information laws must also be enforced. Military archives are discussed with special emphasis on personnel records due to the popularity of genealogical research. Secret service archives are discussed with special emphasis on balancing the necessity of national security against Freedom of Information laws.

Military Archives

Military archives consist of records that pertain to the armed forces of a nation. This includes records created by the military and/or records that pertain to the military, either at the organizational level or at the level of the individual soldier. Military records are typically contained within central government archives such as Library and Archives Canada, The National Archives in Britain, and the National Archives and Records Administration in the United States.[1] However, private collections of military records are also quite common.[2] Universities, museums, libraries, veteran's groups and private households may maintain collections of military records.[3] For profit companies such as Ancestry also maintain collections of military records for genealogical research.

Canada: Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

According to their website, “Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive collection of records of the Canadian men and women who have served their country in the military and in the early years of the North West Mounted Police. There are records relating to Loyalists, the War of 1812, the Rebellions, the South African War, the First World War and the Second World War, many of which are featured in databases, research guides and virtual exhibitions. The records include muster rolls, military service files, unit war diaries, medal registers, photographic collections, documentary art and posters, as well as published sources.”[4]

There are several databases which provide access to Canadian military records, including:

  • Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War - This is a listing of microform numbers. Each number links to a Circumstances of Death Register which consists of several hundreds of forms listing the circumstances surrounding the death or presumed death of Canadian soldiers. The forms can be viewed as JPG or PDF files. Unfortunately, OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is not possible with the PDF files making it impossible to search the Registers.In order to locate records of interest users must know the microform number and the page number of the Register.[5]
  • Courts-Martial of the First World War - This is a database that can be searched by name, regimental number(s), unit, and/or offence. The original records are not displayed. Instead basic information such as name, rank, and date are displayed along with information on the file, microfilm reel, and finding aid that pertain to the information. Information on offences is typically limited to a numeric code.[7]
Nursing sisters of No.10 Canadian General Hospital, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
  • Faces of War - This database consists of almost 2500 images from the Department of National Defence Collection at LAC that depict military life during WWII. The database can be searched by keyword or phrase and results can be refined by branch (Army, Navy, Air Force), geographic location, or photographer. Search results include a descriptive title of each image (including whenever possible the names of those in the photograph), the date, location, photographer, identification number, and a thumbnail image. A link is also provided to the source of the information which provides more archival information such as access conditions, copyright information, and a physical description of the photograph.[8] This database also links to the virtual exhibit Faces of War
  • Photographs: Canadian Nurses - This database contains a selection of approximately 200 photographs of nurses with descriptions. “These photographs cover various themes, dating back to the early 1900s, including the South African War, outpost nursing, nursing education, and hospitals.”[9] The collection can be searched by keyword or browsed by theme. The database is not being updated.[9]
  • Medals, Honours and Awards - This database allows the user to search Medal Registers, Citation Cards, and various other records of military awards. The user can search the database by name, rank, regiment, and/or event/time period. Results are displayed in the same format as the Courts-Martial database (see above). Some of the results also contain a link to a digitized image of the original record.[10]
  • North West Mounted Police (NWMP) - Personnel Records, 1873-1904 - “This database contains references to the personnel records of the more than 4000 men who served in the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) between 1873 and 1904. The records provide an unparalleled insight into the life and career of those who served on the frontier police force and on the early development of Western Canada and the Yukon. The files often contain personal correspondence, clippings and other information about the individual (sometimes even after his discharge from the force).”[11] The database is not being updated.[11]
  • Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead - This database provides access to the service records of the 44,093 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who lost their lives in WWII (available in the Department of National Defence Fonds, RG 24). The database can be searched by name, service number, or keyword. Results display basic information such as date of birth, date of death, rank, and information that can be used to order copies of the original file. The vast majority of the original records are not digitized but those that are can be searched for and viewed online using this database.[13]
  • Soldiers of the First World War - Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) - “Over 600,000 men and women enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War (1914-1918) as soldiers, nurses and chaplains. The CEF database is an index to those service files, which are held by Library and Archives Canada.”[14] The database can be searched by name or regiment number. Results show basic information, such as name and regiment number, along with scans of Attestation Papers. A small percentage of the service files have been fully digitized and contain scans numerous military forms such as medical/dental examinations, pay forms, casualty forms, training forms, and discharge forms. [14]
  • Soldiers of the South African War (1899 - 1902) - “The South African War, 1899-1902, is a key event in the military history of Canada. It was the first time in its history that Canada dispatched troops to an overseas war. A total of 7,368 Canadians and 12 Nursing Sisters served in South Africa. This research tool brings together three groups of records pertaining to the South African War: the service files, medal registers and land grant applications.”[15] The database can be searched by name or regiment. Results display basic information and in the majority of cases digitized versions of the original documents are available. [15]
  • War Diaries of the First World War - “This database contains the digitised War Diaries of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units. From the start of the First World War, CEF units were required to maintain a daily account of their “Actions in the Field.” This log was called a War Diary. The War Diaries are not personal diaries, rather they are a historical record of a unit’s administration, operations and activities during the First World War.” [16] The database can be searched by unit, full date or just the year. Results include reference and finding aid information, file name, dates, and links to digitized copies of original documents. [16]

The United Kingdom (UK): The National Archives (TNA)

The military records held at The National Archives are spread throughout the fonds of numerous government offices including, but not limited to:

Only about 5% of the records held by The National Archives may be accessed online, the rest are only available in paper form.[17] The National Archives produces several online research guides designed to help researchers locate military service records which may be spread out across several archival institutions.[17] The majority of military personnel records from WWI have been destroyed or damaged over the years due in large part to the bombings that took place during the Second World War.[18] Only about 40% of the records survived the bombings, many of which are significantly damaged.[18] Military service records from WWII and later are only available through the Ministry of Defence.[18] These records are not open to the general public and may only be accessed by the person who served or their next of kin.[18] “The records of soldiers who served in the guards regiments (Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh) are accessible by writing to the appropriate Regimental Headquarters.”[18] Some of these records were also destroyed during WWII at which time they were stored in the Guards chapel.[18]

The vast majority of military service records issued prior to WWI (1914) that are still available today are accessible through The National Archives.[19] Despite the fact that Britain has had a regular standing army since approximately 1660, few personnel records remain from before the 18th century.[19]

The United States of America (US): The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

NARA is the official repository for the records of discharged US military personnel.[20] Copies of military service records and pension and bounty land records can be ordered online from NARA. [21] Military records are housed at three separate facilitiesː[22]

1. Washington, DC (Old Military Records) holds records such asː
  • Volunteer enlisted men and officers whose military service was performed during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the Federal interest, 1775 to 1902
  • Regular Army enlisted personnel, 1798–October 31, 1912
  • Regular Army officers, 1798–June 30, 1917
  • Navy enlisted personnel, 1798–1885
  • Navy officers, 1798–1902
  • Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel, 1798–1904
  • Those who served in predecessor agencies to the US Coast Guard, 1791–1919
  • Confederate Army, Navy, and Marine Corps (Civil War)[23]
2. College Park, MD (Modern Military Records)has records relating to WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.[24]
3. St. Louis, MO (National Personnel Records Center) holds records such asː
  • Army officers, July 1, 1917–September 30, 2002
  • Army enlisted personnel, November 1, 1912–September 30, 2002
  • Air Force officers and enlisted personnel, September 25, 1947–September 30, 2004
  • Navy officers, January 1, 1903–December 31, 1994,
  • Navy enlisted personnel, January 1, 1886–December 31, 1994
  • Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel,January 1, 1905–December 31, 1998
  • Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel, after January 1, 1898
  • Civilian employees of Coast Guard predecessor agencies, 1864 to 1919[25]
Acknowledgement of service obligation signed by Elvis Presley

Personnel Records

The National Personnel Records Center holds all military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century (records created prior to WWI can be found at the Washington, DC location).[26] They also store medical records for all persons (military and non-military) treated at military medical facilities.[26] Given the sensitive nature of these records, information is only made available upon receipt of a written request and in accordance with privacy laws.[26] The National Personnel Records Center has made nearly 1.2 million official military personnel files open to the public.[27] The files are those of former U.S. Navy enlisted personnel who separated from service between 1885 and September 8, 1939 and U.S. Marine Corps enlisted personnel who served between 1906 and 1939.[27] “A selection of approximately 150 military personnel records of prominent individuals, who have been deceased for 10 years or more were also released to the public.”[27] Some of the files include: Dwight Eisenhower, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Kerouac, Frank Capra, and Jackie Robinson.[28] [27]

Personnel records that are less than 62 years old are considered non-archival; this means that only select information can be released to the general public under the Freedom of Information Act without violating The Privacy Act.[29] The Privacy Act protects the rights of the person(s) to whom the records pertain.[29] These persons have the right to access their records themselves and grant or deny access to others.[29] Information that can be released to the general public without consent includes:

Statement of Military Service of Douglas MacArthur
  • Name
  • Service Number
  • Dates of Service
  • Branch of Service
  • Final Duty Status
  • Final Rank
  • Salary (often not included in the records maintained)
  • Assignments and Geographical Locations
  • Source of Commission (often not included in the records maintained)
  • Military Education Level
  • Promotion Sequence Number (often not included in the records maintained)
  • Awards and decorations (eligibility only, not actual medals)
  • Photograph
  • Transcript of Courts-Martial Trials
  • Place of entrance and separation [29]
If the person is deceased:
  • Place of birth
  • Date and geographical location of death
  • Place of burial [29]

Non-Government Military Archives

There are numerous private repositories specializing in military records.[30] Post-secondary institutions, museums,veteran's groups, historical associations, hospitals, and libraries are just a few of the organizations outside of central government that may hold military records.[31] Companies such as Ancestry also maintain considerable collections of military records for genealogical research. As a result of the large number of repositories housing military records, there is significant overlap between repositories.[32] This overlap can result in several problems including:

  • Confusion among researchers who may not know where to go for needed resources
  • Confusion among donors who may inadvertently promise their papers to more than one institution
  • Competition for records may result in them being un-naturally divided between repositories
  • Time, energy, and money may be wasted in the unnecessary duplication of holdings and searches
  • Most smaller institutions lack the funding for conservation services and other important services[33]

Despite these problems many people believe that private repositories play an essential role - capturing records that would not be preserved in the official military archives.[34] Other advantages attributed to private repositories include:

  • Competition forces repositories to narrow their focus so as not to overlap with other repositories, thus in combination a larger field is covered
    Partial Family Tree
  • Where one repository may fail to secure a donation, another may succeed (methods for approaching donors differ)
  • Many donors like to choose the repository for their papers (some donors prefer smaller repositories where their papers won't be ‘lost’ in the larger collection)[35]

Genealogical Research

Military personnel records make up only a small portion of military archives and yet they receive the most attention; this is due in large part to the popularity of genealogy. “Today, genealogy ranks second only to porn as the most searched topic online.”[36] Military archives are often important resources in genealogical research.[37] Military records often provide biographical and medical information which may be of use to researchers seeking to learn more about their ancestors, map a family tree, or trace medical conditions.[37]

For many amateur genealogists, services specializing in genealogy may be preferable to military archives. For example, genealogy websites often compile military records from numerous sources to simplify the research process for users who may not be familiar with traditional archives. Genealogy websites may also improve access to military records; for example, paid websites such as Ancestry are able to digitize military records that would otherwise only be available as paper or microfilm. The search functions of genealogy websites may also be more user-friendly than those available on many archives' websites. A list of the most popular genealogy websites can be seen here.

On the surface the increased popularity of military archives, attributable to amateur genealogists, seems to be a good thing; however, some scholars argue that the increasing popularity of military history has resulted in a lack of professionalism.[38] These scholars suggest that academics are choosing to forego the study of military history due to its popularity among lay people.[38] There is, however, no data to support these claims.


Military archives vary greatly in the accessibility of their holdings. Government-run archives typically provide free access to military records however this is not always the case. In the United Kingdom, The National Archives often requires users to pay a fee to search, view/download, or order a copy of military records.[18][19][17] For example, to view/download a two-page PDF (265 KB) of a WWII medal card the user is required to pay £3.36.[39] The decision to charge for access to certain records appears to be arbitrary and the price does not appear to vary by file size.[17] Furthermore, in order to view digitized documents or order copies the user must create an account with TNA and provide an email address, thus creating a further barrier to access.[39] Accessibility is further hindered by the inability of The National Archives to provide access to military records that are available from for-profit companies. For example, TNA often refers users to paid services such as Ancestry and findmypast due to their inability to provide access to certain military records.[18][19]

The situation is quite different in Canada and the United States where digitized materials are free to view and download without any sort of registration. [40][41] Copies of materials can also be ordered from both LAC and NARA on a cost-recovery basis.[40][41] It is important for public archives to provide free access to its military records to ensure government accountability and protect the rights of citizens.

Secret Service Archives

Secret services typically engage in security and intelligence activities.[42] Their existence is justified by the need to detect and undermine the intelligence-gathering activities of hostile foreign governments, to counter the activities of subversive elements within a society, and to anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks.[42] The nature of security and intelligence activities presents a challenge for archivists: Can we provide access to their records without compromising their ability to operate effectively?

Canadian Secret Service Organizations

For much of Canada's history there was no framework governing security intelligence.[43] Without accountability to the government or the citizens of Canada, corruption was allowed to flourish within the secret service.[43]

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Security Service

For 120 years(1864-1984) Canada's security and intelligence service was part of the mandate of the federal police force.[44][45] From 1920 to 1984, national security was handled by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).[43][46] The RCMP Security Service operated largely removed from the oversight of the government and relations with the government were often strained.[43] The 1968 Royal Commission on Security (AKA The MacKenzie Commission), which recommended that security and intelligence functions be removed from the jurisdiction of the RCMP, was largely ignored.[43] Prior to the late 1970s, “Canada's national security—how it was conducted, managed and maintained—was largely a matter left unspoken at nearly all levels of civic discourse. The inherent and obvious consequence was that an entire area of state power—considerable in its might and scope—was wide open and vulnerable to abuse.”[43] In the mid- to late 1970s several stories of RCMP Security Service misdeeds came to public attention through investigative journalism.[43] These scandals prompted the creation in 1978 of the McDonald Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the RCMP.[43] As part of this inquiry the Solicitor General of Canada, Francis Fox, admitted that the RCMP Security Service had been involved in illegal activities for over two decades.[43]“The McDonald Commission Report, published in 1981, heralded a new chapter in the history of Canadian security intelligence. It called for a new civilian intelligence service, a Parliamentary Committee to monitor its effectiveness and an independent Advisory Council to review its activities.”[43] The commission acknowledged that “balancing the need for accurate and effective security intelligence with the need to respect democratic rights and freedoms could not be adequately resolved as long as security intelligence responsibilities remained part of the federal police force.”[47] In response, the Canadian Government passed Bill C-9 in 1984.[43] The Bill made Canada the first democratic country to establish a legal framework for its security service.[43] In the same year, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was created. [43]

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)

“More than twenty years after its creation, CSIS is a vastly different organization from the one that existed in 1984. The transition from a law-enforcement model to one focusing on intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism was done in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”[48] CSIS is subject to the federal Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.[49] The Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Section of CSIS is in charge of processing requests made under the Acts, providing training on the Acts, and promoting transparency and accountability.[49] The ATIP Section of CSIS also posts summaries of completed Access to Information requests online.[50]A description of CSIS’ records is also made available online to assist users in making requests.[49] The description of records states which records will be transferred to Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and when they can be expected to be transferred.[51] In most cases records are released to LAC after 10 years. [51] However, it appears that a significant portion of records are only sent to LAC if deemed to be of “archival or historic value.” [51] Furthermore, only one group of records has retention and disposition schedules subject to the approval of the Archivist of Canada.[51] This group of records consists of the following:

  • information on individuals who came to the attention of the former RCMP Security Service while carrying out its responsibilities pertaining to informing the government of national security concerns
  • information on individuals who incidentally came to the attention of CSIS as a result of carrying out its mandate
  • information on individuals mentioned in reports related to probable unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, classified information or assets [51]

CSIS retains control of which records they transfer to LAC due to a formal Memorandum of Understanding entered into by CSIS and the then National Archives.[52] In the mid-1990s, CSIS was accused of entering “the new age of access to information and mandatory archival control kicking, screaming, and resisting every step of the way.”[53] Today, CSIS appears to have accepted the necessity of compliance with the Access to Information Act and yet still resists allowing archival oversight of their records retention and disposition schedules.[49][51] As of April 2013, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service fonds consists of 1355.9 m of textual records, 22.6 MB of textual records, and 5466 microfiche records created from 1919 (records of the RCMP Security Service) to 1993.[54] Descriptions of CSIS records are not provided on the LAC website and access to the finding aids associated with this fonds is also severely restricted. [54]

UK Secret Service Organizations

In the United Kingdom, secret service organizations are subject to the Data Protection Act of 1998 which gives individuals the right to apply for access to personal data about them.[55][56] However, exemptions may be made for purposes of national security.[55][56] Secret service organizations are also exempt from the Freedom of Information Act of 2000 and the Public Records Act of 1958 due to reasons of national security.[55][56] This means that UK secret service organizations are not obligated to transfer records to The National Archives.[55][56]

The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

MI6 "collects secret intelligence and mounts covert operations overseas in support of British Government objectives. The parameters for these activities are laid down in the Intelligence Services Act 1994, which states that SIS functions are to obtain and provide information and perform other tasks relating to the acts and intentions of persons overseas:

  • in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the government's defence and foreign policies;
  • in the interests of the economic well-being of the UK; and
  • in support of the prevention or detection of serious crime"[57]

The records retention policy of MI6 is unknown.

The Security Service (MI5)

MI5 is responsible for providing “protection against threats from espionage, terrorism and sabotage, from the activities of agents of foreign powers and from actions intended to overthrow or undermine parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means.”[58] MI5 chooses to comply with the Public Records Act in identifying records of historical importance to be transferred to The National Archives.[59] MI5 allows staff from The National Archives to regularly sample documents that they have scheduled for destruction to ensure that they are complying with the archives' selection policy.[59] Thus far they have released almost 4000 items to the archives and continue to transfer historical items twice per year.[59] The most recent documents released date to 1958. [59] MI5 carefully evaluates all documents released to the public to ensure the safety of their former employees and prevent the release of sensitive information.[59] Aside from historically important records, the general records policy of MI5 is to only retain records that are required to meet their operational and legal requirements.[59]

US Secret Service Organizations

Declassified CIA Document

In the United States, secret service organizations are subject to Executive Order 13526.[60][61]Executive Order 13526- Classified National Security Information, issued December 29, 2009, “prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism.”[62] Executive Order 13526 replaced “Executive Order 12958 that was issued by President Clinton in 1995 and later amended by President Bush in 2003.”[63] The order is aimed at reducing over-classification and expediting the release of formerly classified materials to the public.[63]According to this order information can only be considered for classification if it falls into one of the following classes:

  • military plans, weapons systems, or operations
  • foreign government information
  • intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology
  • foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources
  • scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security
  • United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities
  • vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security
  • the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction [62]

Furthermore, the order “establishes a National Declassification Center at NARA to centralize and streamline agency reviews of classified materials. The Archivist of the United States is charged with developing declassification priorities with input from the general public and after taking into account researcher interest and the likelihood of declassification.”[63][62] Secret service organizations will be required to to eliminate the backlog of more than 400 million pages of documents awaiting declassification and provide public access to them by the end of 2013.[63] “These include archival records related to military operations during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.”[63] The order also makes it clear that all records created by secret service organizations must be given a declassification date and prohibits dates longer than 75 years except under extraordinary circumstances.[63][62] Under this order, and to a lesser extent its predecessors, most records will be declassified automatically after 25 years.[63][62]

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

“The Central Intelligence Agency's primary mission is to collect, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the president and senior US government policymakers in making decisions relating to the national security.”[60] The declassification and transfer of records from the CIA to the National Archives began in the 1980s.[64] The CIA's Office of Information Management, which was created in 1998, is in charge of their declassification programs and plans.[65] The goal of their declassification programs is to identify and release as much information, as possible as soon as possible, without doing harm to the nation's security interests.[64] The records of the CIA are subject to Executive Order 13526 and the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.[60][63] Under these requirements, they release millions of documents of historical and personal importance every year.[60] The CIA handles thousands of FOI requests a year and maintains an electronic reading room to release materials to the public. [60] Only a portionof the records released via FOI requests are available through the National Archives.[60] Information of general interest is often released via their main website [60]Despite their commitment to improving access to their records,maintaining the secrecy of their sources and methods is still viewed as paramount.[66]The use of redaction allows approximately 50-75% of materials requested via the Freedom of Information Act to be released.[67] Although redaction is costly it is viewed as preferable to operating on a pass/fail declassification system which would only allow approximately 15% of materials to be released.[68]

A Declassified NSA Publication Illustrating Redaction

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS)

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) differ from the CIA in that they focus on cryptology (signals intelligence and information assurance).[69] The roles and responsibilities of the NSA include to “[c]ollect (including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions.”[69] The Central Security Service acts as a liaison between the NSA and the US military.[70] The NSA/CSS reviews and releases records in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and Executive Order 13526.[61] They have transferred more than 1.3 million pages of declassified documents from the pre-World War I period through the end of World War II.[61] In April of 2011 they transferred an additional 50, 000 pages of declassified documents from the period before World War I through the 1960s.[61]Furthermore, in accordance with the federal Open Government Initiative the NSA/CSS tries to identify records of general public interest which they release via their website[61]

Freedom of Information vs. National Security

As the preceding sections have illustrated, the protection of National security often takes precedence over Freedom of Information laws. It is argued that in order to maintain security it is necessary to take pre-emptive actions in the interests of public security and that these actions "depend crucially on obtaining secret intelligence and on the ability to use that secret intelligence effectively." [71] Public and media pressure for openness may damage this ability.[72] A blanket of total secrecy, as is enjoyed by many secret services, is not desirable in a democratic country where government agencies must be held accountable for their actions.[73] The most effective way to promote accountability while maintaining national security may be to appoint a select group of people to oversee the actions of secret service organizations.[74] These people should also be charged with releasing non-damaging materials to the public archives where trained archivists can then appraise the materials.


Military and secret service archives form part of a nation's history may used by the public in several ways:

  • protect citizen's rights (eg. veteran's benefits)
  • protect human rights (eg. prevent harassment)
  • hold military or secret service organizations accountable for their actions
  • academic research (eg. to write a book or a thesis)
  • personal research (eg. genealogy)

The archives also serve as a useful resource for the military to analyze past operations. Governments have long recognized the importance of maintaining military records for this purpose. Thus, military archives have existed for centuries. Moving forward, the primary challenge facing military archives is improving accessibility as the vast majority of archival military records are not yet digitized. Secret service archives, on the other hand, are a fairly recent phenomenon and many organizations are still reluctant to transfer their records. Thus, the primary challenge facing secret service archives is acquiring records from secret service organizations.

Related Pages


  1. Higham, “Military Archives and Military History: A Matter of Perspective,” 270,
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid, 270-271.
  4. “Discover the Collection: Military and Peacekeeping,” Library and Archives Canada, last modified May 2, 2012, accessed March 9, 2013,
  5. “Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  6. “Commonwealth War Graves Registers, First World War,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  7. “Courts-Martial of the First World War,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  8. “Faces of War,” LAC, April 8, 2013,
  9. 9.0 9.1 “Photographs: Canadian Nurses,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  10. “Medals, Honours and Awards,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  11. 11.0 11.1 “ARCHIVED - North West Mounted Police (NWMP) - Personnel Records, 1873-1904,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  12. “Photographs: War Records-Manufacturing (WRM) Series - National Film Board of Canada,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  13. “Second World War Service Files: Canadian Armed Forces War Dead,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  14. 14.0 14.1 “Soldiers of the First World War - CEF,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  15. 15.0 15.1 “Soldiers of the South African War (1899 - 1902),” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  16. 16.0 16.1 “War Diaries of the First World War,” LAC, accessed April 8, 2013,
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 “Discover Our Collections,” The National Archives, accessed March 9, 2013,
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 “Looking for records of a British Army soldier after 1913,” The National Archives, accessed March 9, 2013,
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 “Looking for records of a British Army soldier up to 1913,” The National Archives, accessed March 9, 2013,
  20. Plante, “Military Service Records at the National Archives,” 5,
  21. Ibid, 1.
  22. Ibid, 5.
  23. Ibid, 5-6.
  24. Ibid, 96.
  25. Ibid, 5-6.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 “Military Personnel Records,” NARA, accessed April 10, 2013,
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 Plante, “Military Service Records at the National Archives,” 107,
  28. “Persons of Exceptional Prominence,” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, accessed March 9, 2013,
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 29.3 29.4 “Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)& The Privacy Act,” NARA, accessed April 10, 2013,
  30. Sheppard, "The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London," 190,
  31. Ibid, 192.
  32. Ibid.
  33. Ibid, 193.
  34. Ibid.
  35. Ibid,193-194.
  36. Falconer, “'s Genealogical Juggernaut,” Bloomberg Businessweek, last modified September 20, 2012, accessed April 10, 2013,
  37. 37.0 37.1 “Genealogy Research in Military Records,” NARA, accessed April 10, 2013,
  38. 38.0 38.1 Morillo, "What is Military History?," 2nd ed., 1-5, 121-122,
  39. 39.0 39.1 "Medal card of Faulkner, S N Corps: Military Audit Staff/ Military Audit Staff …," TNA, accessed April 11, 2013,
  40. 40.0 40.1 "Price List and Service Standards -- Regular Copies," LAC, accessed April 11, 2013,
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  42. 42.0 42.1 McCamus, “Surveillance and Accountability in a Democratic Society: An Overview,” 1,
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  72. Ibid.
  73. Ibid, 606.
  74. Ibid.