Beginning this May, the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project will be posting the Obituaries and Death Notices that appeared in the Fort William Daily-Times Journal and the Port Arthur News-Chronicle between 1914 and 1918 on a monthly basis. Throughout the remainder of the centennial, ‘new’ entries will appear each month one hundred years after they first appeared.
Notices of those who were casualties during the war appeared in a number of ways in local newspapers from the region. A casualty during the war referred to a member of the armed forces lost to service through death, wounds, sickness, capture or if their whereabouts at the time of notice were unknown.
Often those who were wounded or sick appeared in long notices tied to a certain battle or summary of a period. Those captured and/or killed in action were often the subject, early in the conflict, of featured news articles. As the war progressed and, particularly after 1915, soldiers from the region found themselves increasingly at the front, the casualty lists grew. Newspapers informed the public in two main ways: Obituaries and Death Notices.
Obituaries are news articles that report the recent death of a person. They can recount the person’s life, cause of death, and other information. Over the centuries they have taken many forms, though public interest after the First World War tailed off until the 1980s when major newspapers began to print feature-length obituaries written about journalists. Today they often take the form of a paid notice written by friends and relatives and are one of the most widely read sections of the paper.
Death Notices are much shorter in length, do not contain the biographical details found in obituaries and, often, contain the briefest of information. In some cases full-length obituaries would follow at a later date.
Interested in undertaking your own research, or looking for information on family members who were casualties during the war? The Thunder Bay Museum is currently digitizing the Book of Remembrance, which is a complete list of those who lost their lives in the First World War. The Thunder Bay Public Library has Birth, Marriage, and Death Indexes, Obituary Indexes, and Social Notices Indexes available online at www.tbpl.ca / Research / Local History & Genealogy. Another is the Commonwealth Graves Commission website (http://www.cwgc.org) which commemorates the over 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth who died in the First and Second World Wars. For more information on this topic or to learn more about local efforts to remember the First World War, check out the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project at www.tbayworldwarone.com.
- Contributed by Dr. Michel S. Beaulieu & David Ratz (Lakehead University)