Using World War II Draft Cards to Search 1940 Census
September 25, 2011
After checking out the Fold3.com site mentioned in this column a couple of weeks ago, I’m sure you all saw its value in researching your military ancestors. As the site grows, it will become even more valuable for more reasons than finding those serving in the military.
For instance, of the seven draft registrations conducted by Selective Service Department of World War II, there is only one available online. Fold3, www.fold3.com, began uploading the fourth registration of the draft dated April 27, 1942. Do you know its importance? Instead of registering men eligible to serve, it directed attention to older men, possibly men who had seen active duty in World War I. This registration gathered the names and addresses of older men’s skills our country could use on the home front.
Men between the ages of 45 and 64 were required to register in the “Old Man’s Draft.” Sixty-year-old President Roosevelt was one of the 13 million men filing out cards. He gave his employer as the American people. Reader Joe Proctor told me he had been working on another site with these records for weeks. He has added over 600 names to his website, www.houseofproctor.org/genealogy/. He researches from the familiar FamilySearch location, www.familysearch.org/search/collection/show#uri=http://hr-search-api:8080/searchapi/search/collection/1861144. I used this site and found the two I was missing. Being familiar with the site, I found it easier to use than Fold3. In addition, FamilySearch is free and you can access it from home without having to go to the library to use it.
Your older relatives including your grandfather and great grandfather registered in this draft. It was begun after Pearl Harbor to provide a complete inventory of manpower resources that could be used for national service. It pointed to those not in the military who were born between April 28, 1877 and February 16, 1907. Those finding the person or persons whom they are searching will discover many details about their lives. Information available is the person’s employment, address, birth date and place, telephone number, signature and a detailed physical description.
Searching all those ancestors eligible for this fourth draft will make searching the 1940 census less time consuming until the complete every name index is online. If you recall from a prior column, until an index is created and goes online, you will need to know the city or town and Enumeration District (ED number) where your subject lived during that decade.
The countdown has already begun for the 1940 census release, scheduled for Monday, April 2, 2012. If April 1st was not a Sunday but a weekday it would be released on April 1. Our government does not work on Sunday, thus the date of release is one day later. Therefore, every ten years another census decade is released. Example: The 1950 census release date is 2022 and the 1960 release date is ten years later in 2032.
On the day of release, the National Archives will release digital images at no cost via the internet at home or at the National Archives. There are no microfilm copies—only digital copies. In the beginning, the index will be by Enumeration District (ED). Therefore, you will have to know approximately where your ancestor lived.
If your ancestors are in a city with a population over 15,000, a street address is required for finding your ancestor. A web-based utility will allow going from an address to the ED. The Archives provides a tool called 1900-1940 Census ED Finder and an ED Finder/Converter. Therefore, for those living in the same city as the 1930 census, the tool will give you the ED as it appears on the 1940 census.
It is to your benefit that you find the town and ED of your ancestors before the census is released to save valuable time and energy. Identify them through whatever means, but don’t forget about using this latest tool, the “Old Man’s Draft” registration cards on FOLD3 because these are indexed by surname. For more on this latest source, see www.fold3.com/title_765/wwii_old_mans_draft_registration_cards/?xid=1128 or use this one, https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/show#uri=http://hr-search-api:8080/searchapi/search/collection/1861144.
This draft registration database just might be the clue you need to crack open the 1940 census.
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: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.