Genealogy: WWI Draft Registration Cards

Posted July 28, 2015 by Amanda | No Comment

Do you have ancestors that fought in World War I? On this day in 1914, the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia, beginning a war unlike any other. World War I, also known as the Great War, would last 4 years and see the death of over 9 million soldiers.

It wasn’t until April 1917 that the United States would enter the war. Six weeks after the U.S. declared war on Germany, the Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized the federal government to raise a national army through the compulsory enlistment of people. To the family researcher today, these records hold a wealth of genealogical information. For the 101st anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, let’s take a closer look at these draft registration cards.

Genealogy: World War I Draft Cards

WWI draft card, June 5, 1917 (click to zoom)

Between 1917-1918, every male between the ages of 18 – 45 living in the United States was required to sign up for the draft, regardless of citizenship.

Genealogy: World War I Draft Cards

WWI draft card, June 5, 1918 (click to zoom)

During the War, there were three registrations. The first took place on June 5, 1917 for all men between the ages of 21-31. The second, on June 5, 1918, required the registration of all males who turned 21 after June 5, 1917. The third, held on September 12, 1918, included all men age 18-45.

Genealogy: World War I Draft Cards

WWI draft card, September 12, 1918 (click to zoom)

Although information found on World War I draft registration cards varies slightly with each registration, generally, you will find these genealogical nuggets:

  • First and Last name
  • Date of birth
  • Age at time of registration
  • Physical description
  • Race
  • Citizenship
  • Name and address of closest relative
  • Occupation and employer
  • Address

By 1918, about 24 million men had registered; 2.8 million would be drafted into the military.  Remember to keep in mind that not everyone who signed up for the draft served in the military and not all men who served registered for the draft.

Have you found your ancestor’s World War I draft registration card?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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