World War I Draft Registrations at RootsWeb [an error occurred while processing this directive]


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In early 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In the first months of the American participation in World War I, enthusiasm was strong but volunteer enlistment into the army was modest. Consequently, a draft was instituted to bring in the needed number of men. On three designated registration days in1917 and 1918, approximately 24-million civilian men born between 1872 and 1900 provided information for draft registration cards. More than 80% of these civilians received exemptions or deferrals, and they were thus never called for military service. 

Remember: over 80% of the registrants never went into the military and will NOT have military records!

These registration cards comprise an invaluable genealogical resource. Because many states did not have registration of births in the years 1872-1900, these cards can be considered delayed birth registrations. In some cases, the cards provide no new information. But in other cases, these are the only surviving listings of middle names, birth locations or complete dates of birth. The database available here at RootsWeb provides key information from a large number of these cards. However, most of the cards have NOT been abstracted. Periodically, additional abstractions will be added to the database.




It is recommended that researchers verify all information on the card! These cards are handwritten. You may have family information that will make it possible to fully decipher what is under an ink blot or identify the correct spelling of the scratched-out middle name. Great care was taken to copy the most likely spellings and date information from the cards. Remember, however, that a registration staff member filled out the card. Some of these volunteers were not great spellers!

Birth Date

Birth data provided by men born before 1900 can be error-prone. However, the draft cards are generally more accurate because the registrant himself provided the information unlike the U.S. censuses, where a neighbor or rooming house owner may have provided the information.

Birth Place

Staff asked the registrants different information on different registration days. Regretfully, half the cards lack a birth location. Men were not required to register in their home county or district but frequently did so.

Place Data

Correct location spellings should be verified on maps or in detailed gazetteers. In 1917, the boundaries and names of countries in eastern Europe and the Middle East were quite different than today. Also, citizens of British possessions thought of themselves as simply British citizens rather than Canadians, New Zealanders, Bahamians, etc. About 50 current U. S. counties did not exist in 1917. Many of these counties are in Florida, Montana and Idaho.




Available Now: Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi and Nevada and  some abstractions from California, Kansas, Nebraska, New York City, and Utah.
During Year 2000:  South Dakota and Colorado, western area of Texas
2001 or 2002: Texas is scheduled for full completion 
In addition,  RootsWeb's database contains: Links to county-by-county abstractions of names and a complete listing of completed counties is available (state-by-state) at USIGS Military Search Page:



but may be found on the cards

The compiler of the database at RootsWeb has not copied certain information found on the cards. This information is seldom as important as that which was copied. However, the information may be useful to you. 

The information not copied consists of:

(a) mailing address
(b) occupation
(c) employment address
(d) name and address of next of kin [in half of the cards],
(e) prior military experience,
(f) type of physical disability [if any] and
(g) a general physical description.




The registration cards were filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah under agreement with the National Archives. The microfilmed set is composed of thousands of reels. It is possible to contact the National Archives in East Point, Georgia to have a search done if you know where your man registered. However, you will not be able to view the original card in this manner. Also, the card may be difficult for Archives staff to locate. Consequently, most researchers today order specific reels from the lending library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints ("Mormons"). This church has thousands of local family history centers where reels can be ordered by the public for postage costs. The catalogue heading to look for is [NAME OF STATE] — MILITARY RECORDS — WORLD WAR I. Then look for the reels of the county/city where your man registered. Large cities have multiple districts.

In our Internet database here at RootsWeb, the district number is listed. If we have not abstracted your man's card, you will have to order the reels for each pertinent district. Searching multiple reels is not practical in very large cities where the number of districts is very large. To search multiple districts, you will have to visit the research library in Salt Lake City or a collection of the reels in a very large city. A small number of late registrants are listed on separate late registrant reels.




If you research the contents of the microfilm of a particular county or city, be aware that the cards are often out-of-order in some way or another. The situation can be quite deceptive! Cards may appear to be in alphabetical order, but staff have often made subsections in their filing where the alphabetization starts over again. Also, staff often filed Italian emigrants by their first names and Hispanic emigrants by their mother's surname in cases of double surnames.




The microfilmed cards can be purchased from the National Archives at 800- 234-8861. The microfilm publication number is M1509. As of  December, 1999, the price was $35 per reel. Be prepared to identify the specific city or county in which you are interested. These are thin reels, and  special 42X or 65X high-magnification lenses will be needed to view the cards.  It often takes several months for the Archives to deliver the reels.



Visitors to the U.S. and non-citizens were required to register, but were exempt from induction into the army. Virtually all the men required to register did do so, but those already in the military are missing from the registration. Some key civilians, such as Asst. Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also did not register. However, the percentage of men missed in the registration process was much smaller than the percentage missed in the censuses.




Most World War I military records burned in a fire at St. Louis, Missouri. For information on how to order copies of surviving records, Link to the GOVT. RECORDS CENTER

If the records are lost, it may be possible to partially reconstruct the history. For information, go to ALTERNATE RECORDS

Remember over 80% of the registrants never went into the military and will NOT have military records!

If you need to contact the Veterans Administration about veterans benefits records, this agency can be e-mailed at: [do NOT contact them about military records at the St. Louis center] [email protected]

The microfilm collection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) contains some records of World War I military service.

Then enter the name of the state. When the state records appear, find the category entitled MILITARY RECORDS — WORLD WAR I. You can order loaner copies of microfilm at your local Mormon Family History Center.

Remember over 80% of the registrants never went into the military and will NOT have military records!


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