Do you have ALL your ancestors’ U.S. draft registration records–from the Civil War until after World War II? These documents may be filled with genealogy clues, whether your ancestor served in a war or not. Military expert Michael Strauss presents this roll call of U.S. draft registration records you’ll want to check!
Military records can lead genealogists to many new sources of information. One of the first records that you may come across (for our United States ancestors) that could provide unknown information are found in draft registrations. The records are civilian in scope, but can provide clues of prior military service or proof of current war conditions.
The National Archives holds custody overall for the bulk of the draft registrations from the Civil War to post-war World War II. The Archives organizes their records by grouping numbers. The Civil War draft registrations are found in two record groups, RG59 and RG110. Later draft registrations are found in RG147. In all cases, finding aids are available to locate and obtain copies.
Civil War Draft Registration Records
Recruiting poster, New York printed by Baker & Godwin, June 23, 1863. Public domain image hosted at Wikipedia.org (click to view).
Civil War draft records date back to the first national draft which was signed by Abraham Lincoln on March 3, 1863. This draft only applied to men residing in states under Union control. The draft includes several lists detailing information about men eligible to be drafted to fight for the Federal Army. This included consolidated lists for men between the ages of 20-45, which are grouped and divided into two classes of records. This list contains the name, residence, age, race, marital status, place of birth, any former military service, occupation, and remarks for each registrant. (Remarks might include ineligibility based on religious reasons or former service in the Confederate Army.)
Other registrations included medical exams, statements of substitutes, and case files of persons who were draft aliens. (Aliens were ineligible for military service and therefore contain files that document their nativity.) All of these are at the National Archives.
The last group of records includes the descriptive rolls that contain the name, age, physical descriptions, where born, occupation, when and where drafted, and remarks. The descriptive books are located at the regional branches of the National Archives and can be accessed by researchers, as these have not been filmed or scanned. Records are divided into two separate record groups: RG59 (Department of State) covered those men who were aliens and RG110 (Provost Marshal) has all the other lists of men being drafted.
The only Civil War draft registration records available online are the consolidated lists; click here to search them at Ancestry.com (subscription required). On the Confederate side, there are a limited number of draft records available, some at the National Archive and some in the custody of individual state archives.
World War I Draft Registration Records
For a number of years, there was no draft or draft registration. However, when the United States entered the war in Europe on April 6, 1917, the country was totally unprepared for overseas campaigning. This conflict forced our government to consider other means to recruit the tens of thousands of men it would take to wage this war. The Selective Service Act of 1917 authorized the President of the United States to increase the military establishment being passed by Congress on May 18, 1917. The Act directed the Provost Marshal General Office (P.M.G.O.) to select men eligible for military service.
All men were required to register, native-born or aliens. The draft is separated into three registrations:
The 1st draft registration was dated June 5, 1917 for men aged 21 to 31 and consisted of 12 questions.
The 2nd draft registration was dated June 5, 1918 for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration and included a supplemental registration on August 24, 1918 for men turning 21 after June 5, 1918. Each consisted of 10 questions.
The 3rd draft registration was dated September 12, 1918 and was intended for all men aged 18 to 45 years. It consisted of 20 questions.
Each registrant was required to provide their name, age, birth date, and birthplace (in 2 of the 3 registrations), occupation or employer, nearest family, and a summarized physical description.
WWI draft registration of Henry Fox. Image from Ancestry.com.
By the end of World War I, nearly 24 million men had registered for the draft (this number excluded registered enemy aliens and those already in the military). The original draft cards are at the National Archives branch in Morrow, Georgia. World War I draft registrations are available online at Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and fold3. FamilySearch is the only one with free access (a personal subscription or library access is required for the others).
World War II Draft Registration Records
The eve of World War II saw the passage of another conscription act. This act was the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, and was the first peace time conscription in United States History. This act officially established the Selective Service System. The draft during World War II consisted of seven registrations. The “Old Man’s Draft,” or 4th registration, was for men born between 1877 and 1897, with the other six registrations intended for the younger adult men born after 1897:
1st: October 16, 1940, included all men 21-31.
2nd: July 1, 1941, for those men who reached age 21 since the first registration.
3rd: February 16, 1942, for men ages 20-21 and ages 35-44.
4th: April 27, 1942, for all men between the ages of 45 and 64. The registrants were not eligible for military service (this is the “Old Man’s Draft”).
5th: June 30, 1942, for all men between the ages of 18 and 20.
6th: December 10 – 31, 1942, for all men who had reached the age of 18 since the previous registration.
7th: November 16 – December 31, 1943, for American men living abroad between the ages of 18 and 44.
Registrants were required to provide their name, address, birth date, birthplace, and employer’s information, along with a contact individual who would always know the registrant’s information or address. The form also asked for the telephone number of the registrant in addition to a more complete physical description.
WWII draft registration of Henry Fox. Image from Ancestry.com.
Several of the states that recorded the “Old Man’s Draft” were lost. The National Archives no longer has these records available. These states include: AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN.
Not all of the World War II Draft registrations are available online. Less the states above, view 4th registrations online at Ancestry.com, Familysearch.org (index and browse-only images) and fold3. The fold3 database includes 25 states and territories: AL, AK, AR, AR, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HA, ID, LA, MD, NV, NM, NC, OK, PA, UT, VA, WV, WY, and the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. (On Ancestry.com, the number of states is limited to AR, GA, LA, and NC.) Other states are in the process of being added. However, the remaining states are only available directly from the National Archives in St. Louis, MO.
Some of the other registrations are also available online for a selected grouping of states.
Expert tip: It is not uncommon to find men registered for both World War I and World War II draft registrations, which would depend on their ages.
Post-World War II Draft Registration Records
The draft and registrations didn’t cease with the conclusion of World War II. It was active from 1948 until 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon officially signed legislation that ended the draft. This was suspended in 1975, and five years later, in 1980, President James E. Carter again brought back into activity the Selective Service System. This came in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. To date, the Selective Service System still remains active, requiring all men to register within 30 days of their reaching the age of 18 years.
To gain access those records not online from World War II, and for the later registration cards for men for the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and for other years, researchers will need to contact the National Archives in St. Louis, MO. This office handles the original cards for all men born between April 28, 1877 and March 28, 1957. The National Archives fee schedule is in place to request the records by mail. A copy of the Draft Registration Card (SSS Form 1) alone costs $7.00, or order a copy of it along with the Draft Classification History (SSS Form 102) for $27.00. Click here to go to the National Archives’ webpage for ordering Selective Service records.
Draft Registration Records for Men Born after 1960
The law never required men to register who were born between March 29, 1957 and December 31, 1959. The National Archives doesn’t hold copies of records for men born after January 1, 1960. To gain access to draft registration for all other years, contact the Selective Service System directly. Click here for all the details.
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Lisa Louise Cooke shows you how to use the free Google Earth Pro software to create your own historic map collection customized for your genealogy and family history research. By the end of this class you’ll have a permanent collection of hundreds of gorgeous historic and vintage maps from around the world, organized and ready to use for family history.
Click here to watch a free preview of this full-length video class. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can watch the whole thing: click here to learn more.
The 4th Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference
This episode today is brought to you by the 4rd Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference, hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, north of Seattle in Arlington, WA. Centering on the theme, “Where Does Your Story Begin?” it’s four days PACKED full of genealogy.
There will be well-known and respected keynote speakers, including our friend and genetic genealogist Diahan Southard, speaking on DNA; Kenyatta Berry of Genealogy Roadshow fame, speaking on Caribbean research and using slave schedules in research; and Daniel Earl speaking on Putting History in Your Family History.
Starting off with the Free Day Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Peggy Lauritzen will address beginner’s issues in her Genealogy 101 presentation, which is also a good refresher for the more seasoned genealogists. There will be such great genealogical information for all levels, AND it’ll be lot of fun!
Between classes take a chance to meet a distant cousin with the “Cousin Wall”. Participate in the genealogy-related scavenger hunt, the Wednesday evening meet and greet and the Friday dress-as-your-ancestor day, and much, much more!
Go to www.NwGC.org for details and to register. Check it out now — registrations are limited, so it’s good to get in early. It’s August 16-19, 2017. It’ll be a great show: don’t miss it!
Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.
Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/lisa.
INTERVIEW: NICOLE DYER
Nicole has been researching her ancestors and delighting in their stories for the past 15 years. Nicole volunteers at the Tucson Family History Center teaching a family history story time group for young children.
Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.
GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: A FAMILY HISTORY MURDER MYSTERY!
How great to see these new genealogy records online! Those with German roots will especially want to check out new resources on Ancestry.com.
ENGLAND CHURCH. Findmypast.com has updated its collections of church baptismal and marriage records for Dorset, England. Those collections now together number about a million records.
GERMANY – MILITARY. Over 400,000 records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection ofBremen military lists (1712-1914). According to the collection description, “The core of the collection are the muster rolls created by recruiting commmissions including actual musters from 1894-1917 for men born between 1874 and 1899. These records are arranged in chronological-alphabetical order and contain detailed information about male military personnel in the city.”
GERMANY – CHURCH. An enormous collection of Lutheran baptisms, marriages and burials is now searchable on Ancestry.com. You’ll find over 24 million records from “parish registers from numerous Protestant communities in Baden, today part of the German state of Baden-Württemberg…[and]some communities to the north, such as Wiesbaden in adjacent Hessen.” Another new Ancestry.com collection contains over a million birth, marriage and death records taken from weekly church reports in Dresden, Germany for 1685-1879.
IRELAND NEWSPAPERS. Over half a million new Irish newspaper articles have been added at Findmypast.com. According to a company press release, “Significant updates have also been made to seven existing titles” and a new title from Northern Ireland for 1891-1896 is a “must-read for anyone with ancestors from that part of the country.”
U.S. – NEVADA DEATHS. Just over a quarter million records are part of a new Ancestry.com collection of Nevada death records for 1911-1965. The indexed images are state death certificates.
Got German roots? Click here to read an article on German newspapers in the U.S.
BELGIUM CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch has updated its civil registration collections for several parts of Belgium (dating back to the 1500s for some areas): Antwerp, Brabant, East Flanders, Hainaut, Liège and West Flanders. According to FamilySearch, these collections include “civil registration(s) of births, marriages and deaths from the Belgium National Archives. The collection also includes marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and some original indexes.”
CZECH REPUBLIC SCHOOL REGISTERS. Over a million browsable digital images from the Opava State Regional Archive have been added to a free collection of Czech Republic School Registers (1799-1953) at FamilySearch.org. “School registers contain the full name for a child, birth date, place of birth, country, religion and father’s full name, and place of residence.”
ENGLAND AND WALES SCHOOL RECORDS. Findmypast.com has just added about 687,000 new school admission records for 41 counties in England and Wales (1870-1914). Original records may include names, residence, birth data, school name and location, parents’ names, admission information, father’s occupation, any exemption from religious instruction, previous school attendance, illnesses/absence and even exam results.
GERMANY VITAL RECORDS. Ancestry.com has recently added a new collection of death records for Mannheim. It has also updated collections of birth records for Hamburg; birth, marriage and death records for Regen County (dating to 1876) and birth, marriage and death records for Oldenberg.
JAPAN GENEALOGIES AND VILLAGE RECORDS. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a quarter million browsable images to its collection of Japanese village records (dating back to 709 AD) and nearly 60,000 browsable records to its collection of Japanese genealogies (dating to 850 AD).
MEXICO CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Ancestry.com has updated its collections of indexed images to Chihuahua, Mexico birth, marriage and death records from civil registrations. The collections are in Spanish, so use Spanish names and locations.
U.S. HOMESTEAD RECORDS. Ancestry.com’s collection of U.S. Homestead Records (1861-1936) has recently been updated. According to the collection description, “Homestead files consist of unbound documents that include final certificates, applications with land descriptions, affidavits showing proof of citizenship, register and receiver receipts, notices and final proofs, and testimonies of witnesses. These documents are part of the Records of the Bureau of Land Management (formerly known as the General Land Office), Record Group (RG) 49. The collection currently includes records from Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, and part of Iowa. Additional records will be added in future updates.”
U.S. PASSPORTS. Nearly 40,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection of United States Passport Applications (1795-1925). These are a fantastic resource for finding immigrant ancestors and those who traveled a lot. Click here to learn more about U.S. passport records.
Thanks for sharing this post with others who have ancestors from these parts of the world. You’re a gem!
Enjoy millions of new records from the ‘Genealogy Giants’ websites this week: Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage! New collections are now available for England, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Also new are two collections of WWII Holocaust records.
England Records at Findmypast & Ancestry
A massive amount of new records at the ‘Genealogy Giants’ websites were published this week. First up are millions of new English records collections. We’ll start with Findmypast’s new databases:
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi AKA Mahatma Gandhi attending the University of London, 1890
Records from the third oldest university in England, including students who attended other institutions and took University of London examinations as external students. (see image right for one of their most famous students!)
Berkshire Electoral Registers, 1840-1965: This database contains yearly registers listing names and residences of people in Berkshire, who were eligible to vote in elections. These year-by-year registers can possibly also reveal a bit about property they owned.
New at Findmypast for Ireland are British Army, Irish Regimental Enlistment Registers 1877-1924. This collection has enlistment registers from five Irish regiments serving in the British Army. The regiments included in these records are Connaught Rangers, Leinster Regiment, Royal Dunlin Fusiliers, Royal Irish Regiment, and Royal Munster Fusiliers.
A new Irish newspaper title has also been added at Findmypast: the Carrickfergus Advertiser 1884 – 1919. The collection currently contains over 1,300 issues and will be updated further in the future.
Netherlands Public Records at FamilySearch
New at FamilySearch: Netherlands Archival Indexes, Public Records. This collection contains nearly 3 million records that cover events like population registration, emigration and immigration, military enrollment and more.
Denmark – 1930 Census Free at FamilySearch
The Denmark Census, 1930 is now available for free at FamilySearch! “Commonly indexed fields include principle name, locality data, gender, marital status, and relationship to head of household.” The images and index were provided in partnership with MyHeritage.
World War II Holocaust Records and MyHeritage and Ancestry
New at MyHeritage are Auschwitz Death Certificates, 1941-1943. Information listed includes name, birth date, death date, birthplace, residence, and religion. The information originates from the Auschwitz Sterbebücher (Death Books).
Ancestry also has a new collection of Romania select Holocaust Records 1940-1945 (USHMM). This collection is primarily in Romanian, but may also be in Hungarian. It was indexed by World Memory Project contributors from the digitized holdings of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Get the most out of the top genealogy records websites
“Which genealogy records membership website should I use?” It’s one of the most-asked questions in genealogy. There are so many features on each site–and an apples-to-apples comparison is laden with challenges. But Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton has the answers for you in the jammed-packed Genealogy Giants cheat sheet. Use it to quickly and easily compare all of the most important features of the four biggest international genealogy records membership websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. Then consult it every time your research budget, needs or goals change. Tables, bulleted lists, and graphics make this guide as easy to use as it is informative. Click here to learn more and grab your copy.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!