United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls.
Note that when searching for these records in the Family History Library catalog, there is both a master catalog entry for all the World War I Draft Registration Cards (under World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918), as well as FHL catalog entries for various states. Each of these entries in the FHL Catalog begin with the name of the state, followed by "World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918."
About World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
This database contains an index and images of World War I draft registration cards completed by approximately 24 million men living in the U.S. in 1917 and 1918. Information that may be found for an individual includes: name, place of residence, date and place of birth, race, country of citizenship, occupation, and employer.
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 WWI draft registration cards database can be an extremely useful resource because it covers a significant portion of the U.S. male population in the early twentieth-century. If you had family in the United States during WWI, you are likely to find at least one relative’s information within this large collection. In addition, these cards contain more than just names and dates; they contain significant genealogical information such as birthplace, citizenship status, and information on the individual’s nearest relative.
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 served in the war but did not register for the draft.
The World War I draft consisted of three separate registrations.
The complete registration included men between the ages of 18 and 45—males born between 1873 and 1900—who were not already in the military.
Each of the three separate registrations used a slightly different version of the draft registration card. Because different cards were used, the information included in each varies.
In general, the registration cards included the following information.
The card used for the first registration (sometimes called the Twelve-Question card because of twelve questions on the front) includes this information: 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 card used for the second registration (sometimes called the Ten-Question card because of ten questions on the front) includes this information: 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 card used for the third registration (sometimes called the Twenty-Question card because of twenty questions on the front) includes the 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 WWI Draft Registration Cards Today
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. The Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana has a complete set. You may want to inquire on state or county message boards (boards.ancestry.com) or contact a local genealogical society about the potential availability of some records in your own area.
What is in the WWI Draft Registration Cards database?
The World War I Draft Registration Cards database includes images of actual draft registration cards. You can browse images by locality (state, county, city, draft board) or you can search the index using name, birth date, and birthplace.
Does the database contain entries for any famous people?
Many well-known individuals registered for the draft. For example, you can view the draft cards for Ty Cobb, Joseph P. Kennedy, and Norman Rockwell.
For more information, see this article:
For detailed information on how to search the WWI Draft Registration Cards database at Ancestry.com, see this article:
To access draft board registration maps, you might want to visit or contact the Family History Library. The Family History Library has film #1,498,803 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1860: "Boundary Maps of Selected Cities and Counties of World War I Selective Service Draft Registration Boards, 1917-18") which contains maps of the following cities: