World War I Draft Cards

(If you don't read all the way to the bottom you'll miss the good stuff)

September 1999

Linda Haas Davenport

 

Prior to the US's entry into World War I (1917-1918) all men between the ages of 18-45 were required to register for the draft. It is thought that about 85-90% of eligible men registered. These original Draft Cards are one of the best kept secrets around and are a fabulous resource for genealogists.

The Draft Card contains the following information:

Probably the most important thing is - the information found on the card was provided by the individual himself. The registration cards vary in information depending on which of the 3 drafts the individual signed during. But by and large the cards include: The full name of the person (this means first, full middle name, any additional middle names and last name); the current address of the man; his age; his birth date (some include his place of birth); whether he is a US citizen or a naturalized citizen or a registered alien (some ask if his father was a naturalized citizen and his father's race); his race; his occupation; where he is employed (name of employer); address or location of employment; name and address of his next of kin; some cards ask if the man is married or single and how many people he supports. The card is signed by the draftee. On the back of the card his physical description is noted: Height is broken down by short, medium, tall although some cards give the actual height in feet and inches; Build by slim, medium, stout although some cards list actual weight along with the build; color of eyes and hair; any deformities or injuries are listed (such as one arm missing, blind in one eye, etc); the name and address of the draft board and the date.

 

Several years ago all of these drafts cards (for the entire US) were gathered up and transferred to the East Point GA National Archive Branch. After the cards arrived the LDS came to East Point and filmed all of the cards. They filmed the cards in the order they were filed in the boxes: By State and then Draft Board. This film is available from the LDS Family History Centers and it is found at all of the National Archives locations.

The information found on the NARA site and the information you will be given if you call or write the GA branch is that to obtain a copy of one of these cards you must furnish the NARA with the following information.

o Full name of registrant
o Complete home address at the time of registration (to include county)
o Name of nearest relative
Additional information, if known, which can improve the thoroughness of a search includes:
o Birth date
o Birthplace
o Occupation of registrant

And the request must include a SASE

(Well Gosh! If we all had this information we wouldn't need the cards would we? <g>)

NARA has a form that is used for these searches that requires, in addition to the above information, the Draft Board name and location. (Remember the LDS filmed the cards in state and then draft board order.)

If you order a copy of these draft cards from any branch except the GA branch you will receive a copy from the LDS microfilm since all of the original cards are located at the GA branch.

The cost for a copy of a WWI Draft Card from NARA is $10.00 PER CARD even if there are 15 cards of the same surname sitting next to each other.

The average genealogist doesn't have the above information on most of their ancestors and want a copy of the Draft Registration to acquire just the information NARA wants them to furnish!

 

Ah, There is A Better Way!

Over the years the Friends of the National Archives in East Point re-filed these cards by: State / county/ surname / first name within surname for all states and counties except the very large cities - L.A., N.Y., Chicago, etc. These very large cities are still filed by State / Draft Board.

But if your ancestor didn't live in one of the large cities then you can get a copy of their card by just knowing the state and county they lived in. You really don't need all of the rest of the information the NARA form requires.

And, I feel the $10.00 fee per card is outrageous since surnames are grouped together in these boxes. For example I found, oh somewhere around 20 cards, for the surname WHITE in McIntosh County, OK. Had I ordered copies of all of these cards from NARA I'd have had to cough up $200.00 yet the cards where filed right there one after the other in first name order.

I feel really strongly that these Draft Cards are a wonderful resource for genealogists and I wanted to help those of you who cannot personally go the GA NARA branch and search for your ancestors and make copies yourself. So, I sat out to find researchers who will do a search at a reasonable fee that most of us can afford.

I have found two professional researchers who will do these searches. I know neither Ginny Manning or anyone at Genealogy Quest and am not affiliated with either of them in any manner.

If you want a card on just a single person then furnish as much information as possible to help the researcher pick the right person for you. Furnish the name of the person; the state and county where they lived in 1917-1918 and an approx age or if known a birth date. Since these cards state Race it might be a good idea to include that also. For those in large cities I understand both researchers need either an address or a draft board name/location.

For those of you who have ancestors in the large cities - Art Simpson III, sent me an e-mail and suggested that to locate the Draft Board all one has to do is read the newspapers for the city your ancestor lived in during 1917-1918. The Draft Board information was mentioned time and time again in these papers.

I would also suggest to those of you with an ancestor in one of the large cities that you check the City Directories to obtain an address for your ancestor. There are some on-line, the LDS has filmed many of them and most large city libraries have copies that date back well before 1917-1918. An address for the large cities will allow a researcher to locate your ancestor even without a draft board name.

Both of these researchers charge $5.00 per search including a copy of the card. For $10.00 Ginny Manning will copy an additional 10 cards of the same surname in the same location and Genealogy Quest will copy 9 additional cards.

Here is the information on the researchers. I wish each of you the best of luck in your search. Linda.

 

 Ginny Manning, 1201 Timber Glen Ct. SW, Lilburn, GA 30047-7439
(770) 564-8822 (phone or fax) or e-mail:
vlmanning@aol.com or gentime@aol.com

Genealogy Quest: They have an on-line form set up at: http://www.genealogy-quest.com/specials/sept.html

 

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