Canada's forgotten heroes - one million Canadians don't know they are related to a Vimy soldier

As Canada marks 100th anniversary of the seminal battle, research reveals lack of knowledge about Vimy

  • Only half of Canadians know that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought in France – one in ten believe Vimy is in Canada
  • Three out of five Canadians don't know Vimy was a battle in the First World War

TORONTO, April 6, 2017 /CNW/ - It is hailed as a nation-defining moment in Canada's history. On the battle fields of Vimy in France, Canada proved that it was more than just a part of the British Commonwealth; it was a nation unto itself. Despite this, on the eve of its 100th anniversary on April 9, new research reveals that one million Canadiansi are unaware that they are likely related to a soldier from the infamous Battle – equating to 27,000 Vimy soldiers 'forgotten' by their descendants.  

Further, the studyii commissioned by Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, reveals that the majority of Canadians cannot correctly identify in which war the Battle of Vimy Ridge was fought, with only 43 per cent aware it was contested during the First World War, while a quarter believe it was a Second World War battle and almost five per cent attribute it to the War of 1812.

Additionally, only 54 per cent of Canadians know that Vimy is in France. Twenty per cent don't know, while 11 per cent believe that Vimy is in Canada.

"One hundred years ago, Canada came of age. Our soldiers' valour at the battle of Vimy Ridge proved to the world that we were a nation, ready and willing to take the enemy head-on. It's a surprise to see this lack of awareness about our brave Vimy ancestors and their efforts and I hope that this anniversary will help people reconnect with this very significant moment in our nation's history," said Lesley Anderson, family historian and content specialist at Ancestry.  

Provincial discrepancies

When it comes to overall knowledge about Vimy, respondents from Quebec have the most to learn. Only 48 per cent know Vimy took place in France and just 31 per cent know in which war – both numbers are the lowest in the country.

Only 36 per cent of people in the Prairies are unsure as to whether they have a Vimy ancestor (the lowest in Canada), but are behind only Quebec when it comes to knowing where Vimy was fought (51 per cent said France) and when (42 per cent said First World War). More Atlantic Canadians (50 per cent) are unsure about their Vimy ancestry than any other region of Canada, but they rank among the highest in knowledge about the battle.

In all, 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,000 wounded during the formative battle. Ancestry provides a wealth of military records to help Canadians discover their family's connection to the War, including attestation papers, personnel and paylist registers, military honours and citations and grave registers that highlight the final resting place of the soldier, and in some cases the circumstance of death.

"Knowing the stories of those who have come before you, and the sacrifices they may have made in serving their country can give you a new perspective on history, and your own future. As we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday this year, and mark the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge, we encourage Canadians to learn more about the battle through the records and to take the time to discover the role their ancestors may have played in helping to shape our nation," said Anderson. 

To find out more, visit

About Ancestry

Ancestry, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, harnesses the information found in family trees, historical records, and DNA to help people gain a new level of understanding about their lives. Ancestry has more than 2.5 million paying subscribers across its core Ancestry websites and DNA data from more than 3 million people. Since 1996, more than 20 billion records have been added to Ancestry's databases, and users have created more than 80 million family trees on the Ancestry flagship site and its affiliated international websites. Ancestry offers a suite of family history products and services including AncestryDNA, Archives, AncestryProGenealogists, and Fold3. AncestryDNA is owned and operated by DNA, LLC, a subsidiary of, LLC


i Population projection methodology We used population growth estimates using total fertility rates (average number of children born to a woman across her reproductive life) 1914-2014 to calculate the number of descendants created from the population of surviving WWI / Vimy veterans - averaging across four generations of descendants (born 1914-39, 1940-64, 1965-89 and 1990-2014). We then applied age-at-death distribution data to estimate the number of each generation surviving today (e.g. 19% of first generation, 45% of second generation and so on). This delivered us a result of 15m Canadians with a WWI vet ancestor and 4.5m with an ancestor who served at Vimy Ridge

ii From March 21-24, 2017 an online Google survey was conducted among 1,001 Canadians



For further information: Caitie Wallman, Media Profile, 416-342-1823/ 416-320-4178,; Carla Maggiotto, Media Profile, 416-342-1829/ 416-710-8464,

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