United States World War I Draft Records
Twenty-four million men who were born between 13 September 1873 and 12 September 1900 (between the ages of 18 and 45) registered for the draft. A good index for men born between 1872 and 1899 is the WWI draft registration cards. The records for all of the states and territories are collectively known as NARA M1509.
There were 3 registrations:
- The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31.
- The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. (A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918. This was included in the second registration.)
- The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45.
The three separate registrations each used a slightly different version of the draft registration card.
- The first registration used a card that asked twelve questions on the front of the card.
See a sample twelve question card.
- The second registration used a card that asked ten questions on the front of the card.
See a sample ten question card.
- The third registration used a card that asked twenty questions on the front of the card.
See a sample twenty question card.
Information in a draft card
The information included on each registration differs somewhat but the general information shown includes order and serial numbers (assigned by the Selective Service System), full name, date and place of birth, race, citizenship, occupation, personal description, and signature.
It is important to note that not all of the men who registered for the draft actually served in the military and not all men who served in the military registered for the draft. Moreover, these are not military service records. They end when an individual reports to the army training camp and do not contain any information about an individual's military service.
Related records include Classification Lists of Docket Books maintained by local boards to show the process of classification, physical examination, claim for exemption or discharge from the draft, and the appeals process for each registrant. Each local board also maintained lists of men ordered to report to the board for induction. These show (for each individual ordered to report) name, the mobilization camp to which he was to report and the date he was to report, and the certification of officials of the mobilization camp that the man had (or had not) reported as ordered. These records are in the Field Archives branches in the appropriate regions.
There are also records of the appeals process, and records relating to American registrants living abroad and aliens living in the United States. These records are held in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
See the official NARA pamphlet explaining these records in detail at m1509.pdf.
How to Find a Draft Card
The following are directions for finding a draft card using the individual microfilm rolls or when browsing online digitized records, these directions are not needed when searching indexed records.
The records are arranged alphabetically by state, including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia; thereunder, alphabetically by county or city (except for Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island which are arranged by divisions and counties); thereunder alphabetically by the name of the registrant.
In rural areas one should be able to find a registrant's card knowing his name and the county in which he registered. In large cities and in some larger counties the search could be more difficult. In New York City, for instance, there were 189 local boards.
District boards were established by the President (one or more for each Federal Judical District). The average district board had jurisdiction over approximately 30 local boards, each with an average registration of 5,000 men. The district boards had appellate jurisdiction over the decision of local boards in some claims and original jurisdiction in others.
Local boards were established for each county or similar subdivision in each state, and for each 30,000 persons (approximately) in each city or county with a population over 30,000. The local boards were charged with the registration, determination of order and serial numbers, classification, call and entrainment of draftees.
Finding your ancestor’s street address in a city directory will help you determine the board number if he lived in a large city. To find board numbers for Chicago, New York, and 35 other major cities, see:
- "United States of America Maps of World War I Draft Registration Boards". Salt Lake City, Utah: The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1989. (Family History Library film 1498803)
- "Register of World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918". (Family History Library 973 M2frd 2nd & 3rd ref. area)
Where to Find the Records
Copies of WWI Draft Registration Cards can be ordered online for a fee through the National Archives.
- World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Ancestry) ($) - indexed
- United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (FamilySearch) - indexed