Genealogy: World War II 1941-1945, Researching Draft Registration cards

Poster 2By Barry J. Ewell
Once the United States entered World War II, the local draft boards of the Selective Service were required to register all men ages 18-64 for the draft. The focus of the draft was to give the United States an inventory of the manpower resources and skills that would be available for military, industrial, and national service.

Each card was filled out by the Selective Service registrar who asked the applicant the questions and then recorded the answers.  The applicant the reviewed and signed the card. The information on the cards is as follows:

  • Name
  • Residence
  • Birth Place (Tow or city, county, state or country)
  • Serial number
  • Age
  • Mailing address
  • Name and address of a person who will always know the applicants address
  • Employer’s name and address
  • Race

There were six draft registrations during the war of which only the fourth is available.  The other registrations are accessible to the public 62 years after discharge.  If the veteran separated from the service before 1953, which is most of the WWII soldiers, you can access their Official Military Personnel File through NARA “Official Military Personnell Files (OMPF), Archival Holdings.”

For the veterans who separated from the service after 1952, only he/she or an authorized person can access their Official Military Personnel File through NARA “Official Military Personnell Files (OMPF), Archival Holdings.”

The fourth draft concluded on April 27, 1942 by the Selective Service is currently available to research.  The “World War II Selective Service Draft Cards: Fourth Registration, 1942,” is often referred to as the “Old man’s draft” or “Old man’s registration.” These men were not expected to serve. The age group was to include men between the ages of 45 and 64 where were not already in the service.  They were to have been born on or between April 28, 1877 and February 16, 1897.  There is an overlap of the WWI and WWII registrants who were born between 1877 and 1900, thus some men are registered twice.  A complete set of fourth registration cards are available for 40 states and Puerto Rico. Only the boroughs of New York City are available for New York. The following states registration cards were destroyed.

  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee

The following are fourth draft registration cards for the World War II for the Stewart brothers who served in WWI.  See their WWI registrations in the the article, “Genealogy: World War I 1917-1919, Researching Draft Registration cards.”

WWII Card 1 WWII Card 2 WWII Card 3 You can access these records through FamilySearch (Free) (Image view only) (Image view with partial index) and Ancestry.com and Fold3 (Subscription).

Carefully record the information you gain from the cards to give you clues of other records to search. I have used the information on the cards to:

  • Learn the birth date and place of the individual. Use the information to birth records (e.g., birth certificate) and more information about immediate family, parents, and siblings.
  • Learn the names of spouse, dependents and residence.  Use the information to look for additional records about the family such as census, church and land records.
  • Occupation which as lead to occupation records
  • Land ownership used to help find land records

Learn about researching World War II records in the article, “Genealogy: World War II 1941-1945, Researching and finding military records.”