Searching world war i draft registration cards
september 22, 2013
World War I was known at the time as “The Great War.” The official end of the war was the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919. Fighting had ceased seven months earlier with an armistice or cessation of hostilities between the allied nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Thus, November 11, 1918 is generally considered to be the end of the war to end all wars, as World War I was known. Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day after World War II ended. It commemorates all American veterans whether living or dead who served our country.
For genealogists, preparing for this holiday historically includes free searches of military records on subscription sites. I suggest you make a list of your military people to take advantage of subscription sites. My search this year will be that of World War I draft registration cards.
Confusion surrounding the “World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards (1917-1918)” still seems to exist. The misinformation includes the location of the cards, available sources for obtaining the information, and the filing methods. There were three registrations in World War I:
- June 5, 1917 for men between the ages of 21 and 31
- June 5, 1918 for men who became 21 after the first registration, 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.)
- September 12, 1918 for all men ages 18 through 45
In addition to the National Archives, microfilm of the draft registration cards is available from the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake and available on loan through the local Family History Center. They are filmed on 183 rolls of 16 mm film. Collin County is on three rolls of film, FHL numbers 1952405, 1952339 and 1952488. They are indexed on Ancestry.com and browsable on FamilySearch.org.
After the draft registration cards, you may want to tackle the complicated procedure of locating service records. For this you must have knowledge of the person’s field unit, company, etc., which can be found in discharge papers, family records or possibly a county history or obituary.
It is necessary at this point to understand the organization of the War Department. A helpful government four-volume publication in 1949 on this subject titled, “Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War, 1917-1919.” This publication includes the units, list of all camps, posts and stations, as well as a record of events of each corps, army, and division serving overseas in World War I. See online at http://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/120.html.
African Americans made a significant contribution to the United States Army during World War I, and they are well documented among several different series in Record Groups 120 and 391. Although the military was segregated at this time, the 92nd and 93rd all-black divisions played prominent roles in the defeat of the Central Powers. For more on the Draft Registration Cards, go to http://www.archives.gov/research/military/ww1/draft-registration/.
To request a search of personnel records in the National Personnel Records Center, you will need a Standard Form 180 (SF 180), “Request Pertaining to Military Records.” Copies of the form are available from the center at 8600 Page Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63132, or from http://www.archives.gov/veterans/.
For more on this subject see https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/United_States_World_War_I_Draft_Records.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org.