FamilySearch’s Top 10 Most Searched Record Collections: Collection 5—United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918

February 4, 2015  - by 

In the early 1900s, the world was engulfed in its first world war. Millions of young men were sent to fight as soldiers in foreign lands. Today, more than 24 million draft registration cards of those young soldiers are available for free to genealogists and family historians to view and glean valuable information from. These draft records are now available as the United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918.

Draft records are a great resource to find a date and place of birth and information about parents, siblings, and spouses. They are also a great jumping off point in finding many birth records. Draft registration records provide information about ancestors even if the ancestors did not end up serving in a war.

An article about the collection in the FamilySearch Wiki states, “The collection consists of an index and images of draft registration cards for World War I. Three registrations were conducted between 1917 and 1918. The first was held on June 5, 1917 for men between the ages of 21 and 31, the second was held on June 5, 1918, for men who had turned 21 since the first registration, and the third was held on September 12, 1918, for men between the ages of 18 and 45.”

The article continues, “The registration includes cards for 24,000,000 men. The cards are arranged by state, by city or county, by local draft board, and then alphabetically by surname.”

Ken Nelson, content manager for the Family Search United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918 collection, said, “One of the important things about the World War I draft registrations is coverage. Approximately 24,000,000 men registered between the ages of 18 and 45. This breaks to down to almost half (48 percent) of the total male population [of the United States]. Of that total, about 2,600,000 were inducted. What the registration does not tell you is which ones were inducted. The war started in 1914, but the United States was involved only between April 1917 and November 1918.”

Barbara K. Henritze, of BKH Research, writes, “Middle names, signatures, draft registration information and work history are all significant historical and genealogical facts available on the United States draft registration cards for World War I and World War II. There are instances where the draft registration card was the only source of a middle name.”

Henritze notes further, “When census, obituaries, social security death index, tombstones, funeral records, even baptismal records might only have an initial, World War I draft registration cards can be a reliable source for complete names and signatures.”

World War I draft registration cards are an excellent source of family history information. That is one of the reasons this collection is fifth in the 10 most searched collections on the website.


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