Formerly published by GlobalGazette.ca
Article Published November 21, 2004
Records of The Royal Canadian Rifles
By Rick Roberts, Global Genealogy
In response to a significant and growing problem of desertions of enlisted men during the 1830's, the British established the Royal Canadian Rifles in Upper Canada beginning in 1840. The initial name of the regiment was The Royal Canadian Veterans Regiment. However in the same year it was renamed the Royal Canadian Regiment (not the same as Royal Canadian Regiment est. 1883), then finally the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment.
The Royal Canadian Rifles was a British Army regiment that was mostly made up of long-serving soldiers who were nearing retirement age. The military brass predicted that 'old' soldiers would be reluctant to do anything that might result in the loss of their army pensions. The fact that the long-serving men had not deserted up until this time also helped to ensure the success of the regiment.
British military pensioners with good records, and who had served a minimum of 15 years in a British regiment qualified for service in the Royal Canadian Rifles too.
A benefit of joining the regiment included preferential treatment in the distribution of land in Canada at the time of the soldier's final retirement, should they successfully complete their service commitment.
The regiment's head quarters was established in Toronto in 1840. Regimental head quarters moved to Kingston in 1855 where it remained until the regiment was disbanded in 1870.
The men of the Royal Canadian Rifles were assigned to man frontier posts in British North America. Most of those posts had been built near the border with the United States before and in response to the War of 1812. After the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, simmering hostilities between the USA and Britain regularly threatened cross-border peace. The result of the ongoing friction was that frontier posts were improved and expanded for several decades after the War of 1812.
The Royal Canadian Rifles variously had between six and fourteen companies that served in the frontier posts along the American / Canadian frontier.
Five hundred and forty three of the men from Royal Canadian Rifles settled in Canada with more than half of them continuing to serve in the militia.
British military records for individual soldiers are filed by the last regiment that a soldier was part of. That means that if your ancestor was in the 30th of Foot Regiment as a young soldier, and was later transferred to the Royal Canadian Rifles, his records will be filed with the Royal Canadian Rifles' not the 30th of Foot. The following list of microfilms will be of interest to researchers who have been unsuccessful finding documents for their ancestor in regimental records that he had served in earlier in his career.
Individual Soldiers Records 1830-1880
The service documents of the individual soldiers of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Rifles contain much information that is of interest to genealogists and military historians:
List of Microfilms
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