Finding A Family Hero – An Obscure Canadian Database You Might Not Have Used But Should

Canada, like many countries, presents honours and awards to its citizens as a way of paying tribute to acts of bravery and achievements that benefit the country and humanity.

In Canada, national honours and awards are presented by the Queen’s representative, the Governor-General. The Governor-General’s website ( states “Each year, hundreds of Canadians earn our applause and gratitude: from community volunteers to astronauts, from actors to members of the military, from scholars to everyday citizens. Our Canadian Honours System gives them the opportunity to join an order or to be granted a decoration or a medal in recognition for their tremendous contributions to our society.”

Most importantly for genealogists, the Governor General’s website offers a searchable database and you might just be surprised to find a relative or ancestor who received a national honour or award.

For example, one of my maternal uncles, my mother’s younger brother, recounted for me a trip he made to Ottawa, Ontario to receive a medal many years ago. He was told that a car and a driver would be taking him to the medal ceremony. However, being stubbornly independent, perhaps a family trait that I share, he decided to drive himself in his car to the ceremony. He, of course, got lost, not having any real familiarity with the city of Ottawa. Eventually he made it, just in time, to the event venue, Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada.

When I searched the Governor General database, here is what I found:

O'NEILL William 'Bill' medal of bravery 1977

Uncle Bill was honoured in 1977 as a hero for stopping on a highway, north-west of Toronto, and saving a man from a burning truck. I was a newlywed at the time of the incident and so was possibly a bit distracted when my mother, as I vaguely recall, told me about the actions of her brother. My mother had a great fondness for her little brother and was extremely proud of his act of heroism. But I never heard about the national honour and recognition. Now, with the aid of the Governor General’s website, I know the story!

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