Did you have any male family members living in the United States during 1917–18 who were born between 1872 and 1900? If so, there’s a good chance you’ll find them in Fold3’s WWI Draft Registration Cards (via the National Archives).
After the United States entered the war with Germany in 1917, the government required men of certain age groups to register for the draft. There were three draft registration periods: The first, on 5 June 1917, was for men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second registration, held a year later, on 5 June 1918, was for men who had turned 21 since the last registration or who hadn’t registered during the first registration for whatever reason. The third registration was held just a few months later, on 12 September 1918, and extended the draft registration ages to include men as young as 18 or as old as 45
An estimated 98 percent of American-born men between the ages of 18 and 45 registered for the draft in 1917–18, which means that if you had male relatives living in the U.S. at the time, it’s likely that they registered as well. Even non-citizens were required to register (though they weren’t inducted). However, men already serving in the military, or who enlisted before the draft registration, didn’t have to register, so if any of your relatives fall into this category, they won’t have a registration card in this collection. And keep in mind that just because your relative registered for the draft, it doesn’t mean he ever actually served in the military; only a minority of men who registered for the WWI draft were ever called up.
Though there are three different draft registration forms (one for each of the three registration periods), information you can generally find on them includes:
- Full name
- Home address
- Date and place of birth
- Age, race, and country of citizenship
- Occupation and employer
- Physical description (hair and eye color, height, disabilities)
- Additional information such as address of nearest relative, dependent relatives, marital status, father’s birthplace, or previous exemption from service
On Fold3, this collection is organized by state, residence county, surname, then given name. If you can’t find the relative you’re looking for in this collection, try looking under various spellings of their name. Some men may also have accidentally switched the order of their first and last names on the form, so their form might have been alphabetized under their first name rather than last. Your relative might also have registered in a different county or state than where he was living; these cards were supposed to be forwarded to the correct county, but not all were, so your relative’s registration card might be filed under a different county.
Get started searching or browsing Fold3’s WWI Draft Registration cards here!