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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: WWI Civilian Draft Registration Cards

Hi Carole,

Here's a brief tip on Draft Cards then:

During World War I there were three draft registrations. On draft registration day all the eligible men had to go down to their draft board and sign up in person. So let's say you lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan on June 5, 1917. Every eligible man in Ann Arbor went and stood in line, all day if necessary, and filled out the draft cards. For this registration, if you were African American, they cut of the lower left hand corner of your card, remember the Military was segregated. At the end of the registration, the names of all the men who registered were printed in the local paper and the local populace looked over the list to make sure every eligible man had signed up. If not, the police might be sent to your home to escort you to a draft board. It was considered highly shameful not to sign up and neighbors were vigilant in reading those newspaper lists. If you have access to newspapers for the week around draft day, you may find your realtives name on one of those lists. In addition, men in hospitals, prisons, mental wards and poor houses were registered. The only eligibility rule was being the right age and not already in the military. Also, if you were out of town on business, or away at college. You went to a draft board in the town where you were, then your card was sent to your hometown draft board for filing. If you can't find someone, there are miscelaneous files, I think it's called X, for Native Americans and people's cards that came in late, for instance if they were overseas and had to be mailed back to the US.

The only problem with finding someone who lived in a big city is which draft board they reported to is hard to figure out. Some are listed on line, like Chicago, New England and Allegheny County, PA. Others are harder to figure out, but a rootsweb website might help out. If your relatives lived in a rural county they might be only one draft board for the entire county; the names are alphabetical with in the board. has the North Carolina and Pennsylvania card images online and other states have been abstracted. Otherwise, they are on microfilm and you can look at them at state or national archives or at a Family History Center or library through interlibrary loan.

The first WWI registration was on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. (1886-1896)

The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. (1896) (A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918. (1897) This was included in the second registration.)

The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45 (1873-1900).

Basically, ANY man who was the right age registered. I learned a lot of this information at the NGS Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The lecturer, who was excellent, recommended a book I haven't seen yet called Uncle We Are Ready about the WWI draft.

Worl War II is very different. I think there were over six registrations for WWII and the only one available to the public is the Fourth Enumeration Draft Registration in 1942 for men born between April 1877 to February 1897. This draft was for older men who would not be sent overseas as soldiers, but might be drafted to work as Seebees and Dock Workers for the Military to free up younger men for military service.

These cards are not online, except for some from Ohio. The originals are filed alphabetically by state in boxes that look like shoe boxes in the Regional National Archives Centers. So for instance, the Philadelphia NARA Office has the ORIGINAL WWII draft cards for men from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. I went up there and found cards for 30 of my relatives, including my grandfather, who was in his 40's when he filed his draft card. It was unbelievably overwhelming to hold a card he had touched and filled out 62 years earlier! I have plans to go to Atlanta and Boston to find more relatives.

Sorry this is so wordy, but I hope it helps you find some relatives!

Take Good Care,


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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