Fold3: Original military records online

Fold3 Blog

The official blog of Fold3

WWII Draft Registration Cards

May 23, 2016 by | 29 Comments

Example WWII Draft Registration Card
Fold3 has added 8 new U.S. states and territories to its collection of WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection (via the National Archives) now includes North Carolina, Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Mexico, Washington DC, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The cards in this collection are registration cards for the draft and do not necessarily indicate that the individual served in the military.

There were seven draft registration periods in the United States for World War II service. The first draft registration was held on October 16, 1940—before the United States had entered the war. Men ages 21—36 were required to register at their local draft board. The second draft registration was also held prior to the American entrance into the war, on July 1, 1941. This registration was for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration date nine months earlier.

The third (February 16, 1942) and fifth (June 30, 1942) registration periods expanded the ages required to register; the age ranges for the third were extended to 20–21 and 35–44, while the fifth extended them to ages 18–20. The sixth registration (December 10–31, 1942) was for men who had turned 18 since the fifth registration six months prior. There was also a seventh registration, known as the “Extra Registration,” from November 16 to December 31, 1943, which was for American men ages 18–44 who were living abroad.

The cards from the fourth registration (April 27, 1942; for men ages 45–64) are not included in the WWII Draft Registration Cards but in Fold3’s WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards collection.

Information on the WWII Draft Registration Cards may include the man’s name, address, telephone number, age, place of birth, country of citizenship, name and address of the person who will always know the registrant’s address, employer’s name, place of employment, and a description of the registrant.

One example of a draft card is that of John Ralph Brabble of North Carolina, pictured below:

Example of damaged service record

Begin searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards here.

Clara Barton Founds the American Red Cross: May 21, 1881

May 1, 2016 by | 85 Comments

Fold3 Image - Clara Barton
On May 21, 1881, Clara Barton held the first meeting of the American Red Cross after years of campaigning for the American government’s acceptance of the organization.

Barton had risen to fame for her humanitarian work during the Civil War. Previously a teacher and patent clerk, during the war Barton had—among other contributions—distributed medical supplies and nursed soldiers independently of any organization. Immediately following the war, she had spearheaded an effort to locate tens of thousands of missing soldiers, including helping to identify the thousands of bodies buried at the brutal Confederate Andersonville Prison. While on the lecture circuit to discuss her experiences, Barton—then in her late 40s—began to suffer from poor health, so on a doctor’s suggestion, she traveled to Europe in 1869 to rest.

While in Europe, Barton was introduced to the International Red Cross and got to see the organization in action during the Franco-Prussian War, which occurred while she was in Europe. She helped the International Red Cross with its humanitarian mission during the conflict and decided to create an American branch when she returned home.

Before America could join the International Red Cross, however, it had to sign the First (1864) Geneva Convention, which set up rules governing the protection and neutrality of civilian aid workers during wartime, among other things. America had previously declined to sign the Convention, and Barton had a long road ahead of her as she first battled her own illnesses and then worked for years to gain acceptance for the Convention and the Red Cross in the United States.

Fold3 Image - Organization of the Red Cross in America
Finally, under the administration of President Chester A. Arthur, the First Geneva Convention was ratified in 1882. However, in anticipation of that, Barton had held the first meeting of the American Red Cross a year prior, in May 1881. Part of what led to the acceptance of the Red Cross in America were Barton’s efforts to show that the organization could contribute during peacetime, as well as wartime, by providing relief following natural disasters. During Barton’s time as president of the Red Cross, she headed 18 relief efforts around the country and abroad.

Barton remained president of the American Red Cross until 1904, when she resigned at age 82 amid increasing criticism of her leadership methods and handling of money. She would go on to live another eight years, during which time she founded an organization that taught first aid.

Want to learn more about Clara Barton? Start a search on Fold3!

Free Access to the World War II Collection

May 1, 2016 by | 3 Comments

WWII Documents
Do you have family members who served in World War II? If so, come explore Fold3’s World War II Collection, which will be accessible for free May 1–15 in honor of the anniversary of the victory in Europe (VE Day) on May 8, 1945. This collection has a diverse array of resources to mine (spanning more than 90 million records), whether you’re interested in historical aspects of the war or are searching for specific individuals who fought in it.

Look for your family heroes in Fold3’s vast collection of WWII documents, records, and images, including Army registers, Navy cruise books, Navy muster rolls, casualty lists, Army enlistment records, and draft registration cards—just to name a few.

You can also explore records that provide historical context, such as Navy war diaries, submarine patrol reports, naval press clippings, JAG case files, European Theater Army records, photos, and beyond. Also included are the extensive Holocaust Collection and the interactive USS Arizona Memorial.

Some of the popular titles in our World War II Collection include:

And a few of our new and updated titles for this collection include:

Get started exploring the World War II Collection here. You can also create or expand a Memorial Page for a veteran in your family on Fold3’s Honor Wall. The Honor Wall is a great way to commemorate your veteran relatives and ancestors and share their stories with family and friends.

Records about Abraham Lincoln

April 14, 2016 by | 16 Comments

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad
April is the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. If you’re interested in learning more about our 16th president, you can find a multitude of primary documents and images related to his time in office and assassination on Fold3.

A convenient place to get started looking at records related to this president is Fold3’s Lincoln page. From this curated page, you can look at selected portraits and documents pertaining to Lincoln, start a search of the Lincoln Assassination Papers, and see memorial pages about people and events in Lincoln’s life. The Lincoln Assassination Papers are a particularly rich source of interesting documents about Lincoln—particularly his death and the investigation that followed.

While Fold3’s Lincoln page is a great starting place for Lincoln records, you can find even more documents and images in many of Fold3’s other Civil War titles. A simple way to find these records is to search for “Lincoln” in the Civil War Collection. Since this will return more than a hundred thousand results, you can try limiting your results by using a more specific search, such as [“Abraham Lincoln” OR “President Lincoln” OR “A Lincoln”], though this will likely exclude records that mention Lincoln by any other title or name. Either way, it would probably be helpful to filter out titles in your results that are unlikely to be relevant to President Lincoln. (For example, you could likely filter out the Army Registers, which would eliminate hundreds of irrelevant results.)

Examples of Lincoln records and photos you can find by searching Fold3 include:

  • Lincoln’s order of retaliation to encourage equal treatment of black prisoners of war by the Confederacy
  • Lincoln’s War Order Number 1, ordering the Army of the Potomac to seize the railroad southwest of Manassas Junction
  • Lincoln’s letter of thanks to Admiral Farragut, General Canby, and others for their operations in Mobile Harbor
  • A letter from Lincoln to a Mrs. Faulkner about the release of her brother
  • The Widows’ Pension claim of Mary Todd Lincoln
  • A photo of Lincoln and his son Tad
  • A photo of the train car that carried Lincoln’s body to Illinois following his assassination
  • A photo of the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated

Have you found any interesting photos or documents about Lincoln in Fold3’s collections? Share them with us! You can also add those records to Lincoln’s Honor Wall page for others to see.

America’s First Military Draft Begins: April 16, 1862

April 1, 2016 by | 105 Comments

Application for Discharge on Account of Having Furnished a Substitute
On April 16, 1862, the Confederacy—in need of troops to fight in its armies—passed the Conscription Act, the first effective general military draft in America.

When the Civil War began, the Confederacy had set its volunteers’ terms of enlistment for one year. However, as the year mark neared, it became obvious that the war would last for much longer and that the Confederate armies would need more soldiers. So in April 1862, the Confederacy passed the Conscription Act, which drafted healthy white men ages 18 to 35 for three-year terms (later acts would extend the ages first to 18 to 45, and later to 17 to 50). The Confederate Congress also extended the terms of those already serving under one-year enlistments for another two years (though the soldiers would effectively serve for the duration of the war).

The act allowed those drafted to find substitutes to serve in their place (though this would be discontinued in December 1863) and exempted men serving in occupations deemed critical to the war effort or civilian life. In the fall of 1862, exemptions were also extended to those who owned or oversaw 20 or more slaves.

The Federal government instituted its own draft a year later, in March 1863. The Enrollment Act called on men ages 20 to 45 to register for the draft. As in the South, substitutes were allowed, or else men could pay a $300 commutation fee (though commutation fees were eventually banned in 1864). Like the Confederacy, the Federal government allowed some exemptions for certain occupations, physical disability, and religious conscientious objectors.

Conscription was partially meant to encourage voluntary enlistment, as those who joined as volunteers were eligible to receive bounty money (enlistment bonuses) from states, counties, cities, and the federal government—in some cases totaling a sum upwards of $1,000. However, these bounties created the problem of bounty jumping, wherein men would volunteer, collect the money, then desert and re-enlist elsewhere and collect that money as well.

Group of men accused of inciting and participating in a draft riot

In the Union and Confederacy, conscription was generally a disproportional burden on the poor, since they were unable to pay for a substitute or a commutation fee. But while the draft was hated in both the North and the South, it was only in the North that it sparked riots, the most violent of which killed more than a hundred people—many of them black—in New York City in July 1863.

Do you know if any of your ancestors were conscripted during the Civil War? Tell us about them! Or start a search on Fold3 to find more information on this topic.

Access the Civil War Collection

April 1, 2016 by | 1 Comment

Gun squad at drill
Do you have ancestors who served in the Civil War? April 1–15, Fold3 will be allowing free access to our Civil War collection to remember the commencement of the Civil War and commemorate Confederate History Month.

With more than 85 million records, Fold3’s Civil War collection provides a wealth of information for both ancestral and historical research. Explore Civil War soldier records, photographs, original war maps, widows’ pension files, court investigations, slave records, Lincoln records, and more.

The collection includes dozens of titles pertaining to the Union and Confederacy, such as:

Join Fold3 during the month of April in paying tribute to those who fought in the bloody war—both North and South—and discover information about famous participants as well as your own Civil War ancestors through documents, photos, and images that capture the experiences of those involved in America’s deadliest conflict. Then commemorate your ancestors by creating or expanding Memorial Pages for them on Fold3’s Honor Wall.

Visit Fold3’s Civil War page for more detailed overview of the collection. Or get started searching or browsing the Civil War collection here.

British Army WWI Service Records

March 21, 2016 by | 6 Comments

Example of damaged service record
Do you have family members who fought with the British Army in World War I? If so, you might find them in Fold3’s new collection of British Army WWI Service Records (via the National Archives of the UK).

This collection has service records for non-commissioned officers and “other ranks” (soldiers below officer rank) of the World War I era British army. The soldiers in the collection are typically those who were discharged between 1914 and 1920, those who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease during that time, or those who were demobilized at the war’s end. Some of these soldiers may have enlisted as early as 1892. The records do not include those who served with armies from Commonwealth countries, nor those who continued to serve with the British army after 1920.

The range of service records available in this collection is limited by the fact that many of them were destroyed during a 1940 bombing, leaving behind only roughly 40 percent of the original number. However, despite this, Britain’s National Archives microfilmed all the surviving service records, and those records are what appear in this collection. Because of the bombing, some of the surviving service records are damaged, sometimes affecting their readability.

On Fold3, these records are organized by the soldier’s surname. Keep in mind that some names may have been misspelled in the records, and that some soldiers used initials or nicknames instead of their given first name.

The records include various forms, depending on the individual, such as attestation forms, medical history forms, casualty forms, disability statements, regimental conduct sheets, awards, proceedings on discharge, and others. From these records, you may find information like the soldier’s name, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status, regimental number, date of attestation, physical description, and more.

Examples of service record documents include:

Have you found any family members in the British Army WWI Service Records? Tell us about it! Or get started exploring this collection or other International records.