Monday, May 11, 2009

WWI and WWII Draft Registration Cards

Especially when we are just starting out our genealogy research, we can make the mistake of narrowly focusing on only certain types of records, such as birth, death, marriage, and census records. However, there are billions of records out there that can assist us in our research. With that in mind, many of my future posts will focus on a specific category or type of record, where to find it on the Internet, and how it can be helpful to us in our fact-finding quest.

I want to start with one of my favorite resources lately, which happens to be a particular type of U.S. military record. I am talking about the World War I and World War II draft registration cards. Because these are federal military records, the original source for this information is NARA, or the National Archives and Records Administration (see my first blog post of this month, May 2009, for more background information on NARA). Of course, you can research these databases through the regional NARA facilities for each state. For easier Internet access, I recommend Ancestry.com. Yes, you will need a subscription. However, you can search for an ancestor in their records for free, and you will be able to see a results list whether you have a subscription or not. This will tell you whether your ancestor is to be found in these registration cards. (In order to see the details of your search results, you'll need a subscription. See my recent blog post about Ancestry.com subscription options and other ways to access Ancestry.com.)

Draft registration cards for both world wars can be great sources of information. First of all, they were filled out by all men between certain age ranges, regardless of whether or not they ever actually served in the military. Secondly, they were filled out personally by the men registering. This means if you find your ancestor in one of these two collections, you will have the information as they gave it the day they signed the draft card.

The information available on each registration card depends on whether it was a WWI or WWII registration, the age of the registrant, and the date of registration. Information that you might find could include: your ancestor's full name, current address at the time of registration, age, date of birth, place of birth, occupation, current employer, whether or not the registrant has dependents (wife and children), marital status, race, physical description, and the signature of the registrant.

There are some specifics you'll want to keep in mind in regards to each record set. The WWI draft registration cards are a more complete collection. Between 1917 and 1918, 98% of all men between the ages of 18 and 45 registered for the draft, including those who were not U.S. citizens.

Due to privacy laws, only the Fourth Registration, or "old man's registration," of the WWII draft registration cards is available. This registration includes men in 1942, who were between the ages of 45 and 64, and not currently in the military. At some point in the future, the other WWII draft registration cards will become available. In addition, the records of some states' WWII draft registrations were incomplete, and the original draft cards for 8 other states were destroyed before they were microfilmed, so these will never be available. See the sample WWII registration card below: draft registration card

While military draft cards only exist for males of certain ages, they can still be valuable sources of information in your research and are worth checking out for the men in your ancestral line who lived during those periods of time.

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