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Article Published November 21, 2004

Records of The Royal Canadian Rifles
By: Rick Roberts, Global Genealogy & History Store

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:
  • age
  • birth - place
  • trade or occupation
  • attestation/enlistment
  • record of service
  • decorations
  • discharge
  • pension
The records belong to the War Office of Great Britain and are held at the Public Record Office (PRO in UK). The good news is that the records have been microfilmed and can be accessed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City Utah, or accessed at any of the Family History Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Most Family History Centers do not have the films on hand so you will probably have to order the film/s that you are interested in.

List of Microfilms
  • Volume 782 Abbotts - Booth - FHL* BRITISH Film [ 898175 ]
  • Volume 782 Booth - Bowles - FHL BRITISH Film [ 898176 ]
  • Volume 1186 Buckley - Corroll - FHL BRITISH Film [ 916360 ]
  • Volume 1186 Carroll - Coyne - FHL BRITISH Film [ 916361 ]
  • Volume 1187 Creswell - Evans - FHL BRITISH Film [ 916362 ]
  • Volume 1188 Fakey - Haywood - FHL BRITISH Film [ 916417 ]
  • Volume 1189 Heaton - Higgins - FHL BRITISH Film [ 916418 ]
  • Volume 1189 Higgins - Knott - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861895 ]
  • Volume 1190 McDowal - Lancan - McGowan - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861896 ]
  • Volume 1190 McGowan - McVeety - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861897 ]
  • Volume 1191 Madden - Owens - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861898 ]
  • Volume 1192 Paine - Ryan - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861899 ]
  • Volume 1193 Saggars - Tighe - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861900 ]
  • Volume 1194 Tolmie - Young - FHL BRITISH Film [ 861901 ]
* FHL - Family History Library

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