From 1914–1918, millions of brave men and women around the world left their homes to fight for their countries in the Great War. It’s likely that somewhere along this WWI timeline, someone in your family tree was among these soldiers. Do you know their story? Draft and service records from World War I can be a rich source of information about your ancestors, including physical descriptions, vital information, and details about their involvement in the war. Discover the part your ancestor played in the war to end all wars, preserve their legacy, and find out how it lives on in you.
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WWI Timeline: A Brief History
World War I began on July 28, 1914, when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Russia and Germany soon joined the conflict, followed by Britain, France, and Italy. On April 6, 1917, the US declared war on Germany, and 2.8 million men were drafted to fight.
Over the course of the next eighteen months, more sixty million troops worldwide and 4 million US troops were involved. By the end of the Great War on November 11, 1918, the violence across Europe resulted in an estimated thirty-seven million casualties and more than sixteen million deaths (including both civilians and military personnel).
WWI Records and Genealogy
You can discover where your family was on this WWI timeline through searching records on FamilySearch.
There are plenty of records available to help you learn about your ancestors who fought in World War I, including draft and service records, local newspapers, burial registers, and more. If you know where your ancestor was from or what unit they served in, you can look for them in United States World War I State and Local Histories or United States World War I Unit Histories. Dive into FamilySearch’s collections to see what you can discover. Or, help others find their ancestors by helping to index WWI records.
Find more information about United States World War I military records. Discover your relative's WWI draft card. Learn more about major WWI timeline events and where your ancestors were in the articles below.
The Harlem Hell Fighters
One group of men who served on the front lines was the 369th infantry of the 93rd division, a group of African American soldiers better known as the Harlem Hellfighters and Men of Bronze, nicknames given to them by the French. These men were known for their fierce combat, fighting longer and harder than any other infantry. The tenacity and toughness of the Harlem Hellfighters continue with us today as we remember and honor their lives and the lives of all who valiantly served in the military.
Military Dogs in the War
More than 50,000 military dogs served in World War I, including the famous Sergeant Stubby. World War I was the first war in which military dogs were mobilized on a massive, organized scale.
WWI Files to Download and Print
You can download and print this poster and rack card to spread the word and invite others to honor and remember those impacted by WWI.