Genealogy: World War I 1917-1919, Researching Draft Registration cards

WWI SoldiersBy Barry J. Ewell
The United States instituted a draft that included 24 million men between the ages of 18 and 45.  There were three registration periods which had requested slightly different information:

  • Version 1: June 5, 1917 for all men 21-31
  • Version 2: June 5, 1918 all men who turned 21 since last draft
  • Version 3: September 12, 1918 for all men 18-45

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Genealogy: World War I 1917-1919, Researching and finding military records

World War IBy Barry J. Ewell
The following categories and additional resources are provided to aid your research and finding of military records for World War I 1917-1919:

  • World War I Overview
  • Researching World War I military records
    • Build a search profile for each male
    • Where to find the personal information
    • Sample U.S. Civil War male search profile
  • Search World War I Records
    • World War I Draft
    • Service records
    • Pension records
  • Military history
  • Search the cemetery
  • Search Home
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Genealogy: World War I 1917-1919, Search the home for information

WWI HelmutBy Barry J. Ewell
Home is great place to begin your search for learning about the military service of family and ancestors. For example:

Military records and artifacts. This can include disability records, discharge records, National Guard records, pension records, selective service records, service medals or ribbons, sword or firearms, uniform.

WWI Service ribbons

Photographs.  Photographs are great resource because you able to see clues such as branch of service, unit numbers, specific war or time of service, service ribbons and medals, rank,  patches and pins related to skills and training. Photographs exist from as early as the Civil War.

WWI Soldiers

Writings.  As you research ancestor writings (e.g., post cards, letters, notes) look carefully at the time periods covering the various wars and conflicts.  These communications are among the most saved and treasured in families.  In our family we have the WWI letters between grandpa and grandma which share their inner most thoughts of being parted, activities, experiences, hopes and dreams. Look at clues such as post marks, stamps, inscriptions on post cards to see if they will give you any indications of where to look for information/records.

WWI Card

Scrapbooks and momentous. Look for collections of artifacts that include scrapbooks that are often organized by topic or timeline. I found a family trunk that was loaded with military images, letters, newspapers, postcards and much more from a WW I soldier.

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Journals, written and oral family histories.  Check to see if journals exist for family members. Has any member of your family written their memoirs about their military service? Is there a an oral history or written history related to military service.   I’ve been fortunate to record the military experiences of my dad and his brothers for WWII and Korean War.

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Newspapers.  Take the time to search microfilm or online collections of newspapers from the hometown of where family lived during the times of War/conflicts as well as newspapers published for the soldiers.  The newspapers were filled with stories about soldiers such as enlistments, graduations, letters from the front being published, promotions, images and deaths. Search every issue carefully; most stories about soldiers were on the front page of hometown papers.   In our family we have articles showing grandpas enlistment in WWI and series of articles about an uncle in WWII 1) June of 1943 his plane was shot down in WWII and was missing in action 2) July of 1943 he is in a prisoner of war in Germany and 3) April 1945 he is freed.  Your best chance of finding articles will be from 1890’s forward.

WWI paperDeath event records.  As I have search for death event records, I have been able to identify references that have helped me research military records.  For example, obituaries will often mention branch of military service and related details.  Headstones can mention service and rank or even have markers related to branch of service.



Genealogy: World War I 1917-1919, Search the cemetery for information

SoldierBy Barry J. Ewell
Finding graves of your ancestors from the World War I era is easier than you might think. The following are few resources.

Department of Veterans Affairs National Gravesite Locator. Search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker using the Gravesite Locator.

WWI HeadstoneArlington National Cemetery provides information on service members buried there.

ArlingtonThe American Battle Monuments Commission provides information on service members buried in overseas cemeteries.

WWI CemeteryYou can search U.S. Headstone Applications for Military Veterans 1925-1963 on

For additional information, see the articles:

Check out these books about deceased soldiers and where they can be accessed:

  • Book, “Pilgrimage for the Mothers and Widows of Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines of the American Forces Now Interred in the Cemeteries of Europe,” lists the widow’s, or mothers name, relationship, name of deceased, rank, organization and cemetery arranged by state and county. Can be found on LDS Family History microfilm (FHL book 973 M23uw), Worldcat (See if you can find a copy in a library near you), and
  • Book, “Soldiers of the Great War,” lists all the soldiers who died (e.g, name residence, rank, and cause of death. May include photographs.  Can be found on LDS Family History microfilm (FHL book 973 M23s; fiche 6051244.)
  • Book, ” Officers and Enlisted Men of the United States Navy Who Lost Their Lives during the World War, from April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918,” lists the sailor’s name, rank, date and place of death, cause of death and name of next of kin. Can be found on LDS Family History microfilm (FHL 973 M23u; film 1415261 item 7)

Genealogy: U.S. World War I 1917-1919, Develop a search profile for military records

WWI SoldiersBy Barry J. Ewell
I have made it practice to search for World War I records for males that I find in the 1900-1920 U.S. Federal censuses who would have been between ages of 16 and 50 during the World War years of 1914 and 1919.  With the online availability of records, searching for military records should be part of your research process for males who were born between the years of 1867 and 1901. Continue reading