World War I Registration Cards
On 6 April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered World War I. Six weeks later, on 18 May 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized the president to increase the military establishment of the United States. As a result, every male living within the United States between the ages of eighteen and forty-five was required to register for the draft.
The period of 1880-1920 was a high immigration period to the United States. Young men were required to register for the draft regardless of their U.S. citizenship status. Of course, not all the men who registered actually served in the armed forces, and there were some who enlisted and served in the war but did not register for the draft.
In 1917 and 1918, approximately 24 million men living in the United States completed a World War I draft registration card. These registration cards represent approximately 98% of the men under the age of 46. The total U.S. population in 1917-1918 was about 100 million individuals. In other words, close to 25% of the total population is represented in these records.
The World War I draft consisted of three separate registrations.
· First Registration. The registration on 5 June 1917 was for men aged twenty-one to thirty-one—men born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896.
· Second Registration. The registration on 5 June 1918 was for men who had turned twenty-one years of age since the previous registration—men born between 6 June 1896 and 5 June 1897. Men who had not previously registered and were not already in the military also registered. In addition, a supplemental registration on 24 August 1918, was for men who turned twenty-one years of age since 5 June 1918.
· Third Registration. The registration on 12 Sept 1918 was for men aged eighteen to twenty-one and thirty-one to forty-five—men born between 11 Sept 1872 and 12 Sept 1900.
Note that three different cards were used, one for each registration period described above, and the questions on each of the three cards are slightly different. The first card has name, age, address, date and place of birth, citizenship status, employer’s name and address, dependent information, marital status, race, military service, and physical appearance. The second card has name, age, address, date and place of birth, father’s birthplace, citizenship status, occupation, employer’s name and address, dependent information, name and address of nearest relative, and physical appearance. The third card has name, address, age, date of birth, race, citizenship status, occupation, employer's name and address, name and address of nearest relative, and physical appearance.
The original records are kept at the National Archives—Southeast Region in East Point, Georgia. Microfilm copies are at the National Archives regions that serve their respective states. In addition, some large libraries have the film of these cards for their own state.
I belong to Ancestry.com, who has these cards available in a searchable database. I just looked at all cards in their database from Ohio County and it appears that there over 5,400 men from Ohio County registered for WWI. In the Leach family the date of birth for the youngest man that registered was February 1875 and the oldest was November 1899; this age span is fairly typical. So, you will find that these cards are an excellent source of information for all male ancestors that were born from about 1875 until about 1900. Also, you will find that some of your ancestors had moved away from Ohio County, or for some unknown reason registered in another county or another state. These individuals will be found in the state and county where they registered.
Here is the registration card for Justus Gobel Leach, who lived in Beaver Dam – note that he registered September 12, 1918 and that he was 18 years old when he registered: