William Beaton’s 1940 National Registration

William (Willie) Beaton has been a genealogy struggle. Actually a DNA struggle as well. I can’t say that I’ve turned over every stone because if that was true, then I might know who his parents were. At least, I hope that that’s what it would mean.

To learn more about William Beaton, I decided to purchase his Canadian 1940 National Registration.

In case you’re not familiar, let me tell you a bit about it. The Canadian 1940 National Registration was a compulsory registration of all persons, 16 years of age or older, in the period from 1940 to 1946. According to the site; This information was originally obtained under the authority of The National Resources Mobilization Act and the War Measures Act. Custody of the records was subsequently given to Statistics Canada, then known as the Dominion Bureau of Statistics.

To have a search and then receive that information, you have to pay $45 Canadian. You have to be able to prove that the person has been dead for more than 20 years. You can do that by providing a death certificate or an obituary notice. If it’s 120 years since their birth, this isn’t necessary.

In my case, I had both the death certificate and the obituary; I didn’t have to prove the 120 years. William’s birthdate has always been an issue because he’s given many different dates. He possibly didn’t know his exact date of birth, because his birth date is never the same on documents and is always a moving target.

I applied for the registration on July 31, 2020, and in part because of COVID but also because these types of documents take time; I didn’t receive it until March 1, 2021. I do have to admit that once they were working on it, it was very quick. In fact, it only took a couple of days once they said they were starting. Once I paid, I was especially amazed at how quickly I received it in the mail.

On March 1st, I received the envelope and waved it around, wondering if it was worth $45. I didn’t open it right away… I savored the moment, wondering what information could it hold.

The envelope contained four pages; one was a cover page, a transcript, an extraction, and a photocopy of the microfilmed original.

On the top right-hand corner of the photocopy, the document told me that it was filled out on August 21, 1940, and that it was the card for men. The registration consisted of eighteen questions. It’s a bit blurry where the signature is, but it looks like William Beaton, but I’m not convinced that it was filled out by William because I’ve seen his handwriting before, and it wasn’t ever that neat.

So what did it tell me? (If you’d like to see the blank form, you can find it on Library and Archives Blog.)

  • Name and address
  • Age at last birthday and date of birth (1879, this was an entirely new year given). His marital status, dependents, and who they were.
  • The country and place of birth for himself, his father, and his mother. If he had been naturalized, there was a spot for that information as well as the date of immigration. (Willie did put his place of birth as Canada, specifically Kingston, Ontario. He’d done this on almost every document I’ve found)
  • Language, Education (Willie had grade 5). Education included whether they had college or university.
  • General health. (William listed that his health was fair, and he had rheumatism.) There was also a question about disability pensions and how you might be on one, such as war service, workmen’s compensation, old age, or blindness.
  • Class of occupation. Are you working on your own account, and whether you had employees?
  • Your occupation and what other work you could do. The name of your employer and the nature of the business. Whether you were skilled. (Willie said he was a laborer)
  • Unemployment asking how many weeks you work in the past 12 months and whether you were incapacitated from employment.
  • Were you brought up on a farm, and until what age. How long have you worked on a farm, and where? Can you handle/drive/operate; horses, tractors, farm equipment. Can you milk? Are you able to farm? (Willie said that he was raised on a farm until 18 but had farmed for three years in Alberta)
  • Is there an occupation you’d like to be trained in? (He said no)
  • Were you in any defense service? What country? When? Unit and Rank. Discharged? Reason? Have you been rejected for the present war? Why? Where? (Willie listed his service in WWI)

You see, there can be a lot of information depending on the person you’re interested in and how forthcoming they were with information.

I’ve given you some of the information that William (Willie) provided above. Still, some additional information in his document was that he worked for Bennett and White Co. in Edmonton and his job was “brushing at airport.”

So I did some further checking, and I found out that Bennett and White Co was a fairly large construction company in Edmonton. I searched at Newspapers.com (Publisher’s Extra) and found this article in the Edmonton Journal about the work the company was doing at the Edmonton Municipal Airport.

Edmonton Journal May 20, 1940

Really nothing in the document was earth-shattering, but it put to bed that “I wonder” feeling as to what information National Registration might hold. Would I do it for all the other members of my family? No, probably not. Well maybe, now that I know what I got for Willie if there was something on it that might provide clues for that ancestor, yes I might.

Do I regret buying it? Absolutely not. I started researching William Beaton back in 2008 (probably earlier). I never knew him because he died in 1954. So each year I learn a little bit more about him. He’s been a struggle but I learned more about his story and that’s better than just dates and places.


  • Shannon Cherkowski says:

    Thank you for the helpful information!
    The one relative I want/need to order the National Registration form for is my great grandfather, George MacKenzie, b. Scotland (of course!).
    With 3 or more George MacKenzies in Edmonton in the early 1940’s and the possibility that he may have been still in Saskatchewan then, it will take me some time to try to figure it out.
    One day, I hope! ?

    • Shannon, That’s so tough when you have someone with a common name. Or at least common in a location or time period. I had that for my 2x great-grandmother in Brighton, England. Good luck