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May 10, 2018

Was Your Ancestor a World War I Veteran?

Was Your Ancestor a World War I Veteran?

By: Nancy Massey

One hundred years ago this May, the United States was heavily involved in the Great War, also known as World War I, from 1917-1918.  The United States declared war on Germany on 6 April 1917 and officially entered the war. Six weeks later, on 18 May 1917, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, 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. Depending on his age at the time, some of your male ancestors most likely registered for the draft.

There were three draft registrations. The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. The second, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. The third registration held on September 12, 1918, was for men age 18 through 45.  Just because a man registered for the draft, it does not mean he serve.  Each registration asked different questions and are slightly different in content.

My maternal grandfather, Ed Stickles, registered on 12 September 1918.  Here is his draft card from Ancestry Library Edition:

From this card, I know his full name, birth date, occupation, next of kin (his wife), and a physical description (short with grey eyes and light brown hair).  He was living in Flint, Michigan.  What a wealth of information!  He was not drafted and did not serve.

My paternal grandfather, Frank Alsop, registered on 5 June 1917.  Here is his draft card, also from ALE:

From Frank’s draft card, I learned his birthdate, birthplace, occupation, he was single, and that the Kentucky National Guard discharged him for being underweight!  He also had gray eyes and light brown hair. Look at question 3 on the second page: he was not bald!  Note the lower left corner of the first page. It distinguished the race of the registered. Frank did not serve.

Bonus: note on both cards, I have my grandfathers’ signatures!

This is my husband’s mother’s uncle, Oliver Wallace, draft card from Fold3:

This is the second registration on 5 June 1918.  Note the question about baldness disappeared but the lower left corner on the first page is still there.

World War I draft registration cards are available for review through HEPL’s subscriptions to Ancestry Library Edition and Fold3.  Ancestry Library Edition has in-library access only.  However, Fold3 has remote access with your HEPL library card and pin number. Why not commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I by searching for your male ancestors’ World War I draft registration cards.

If you would like to read one veteran’s experience during his time of service in World War I, then read his two diaries and view his scrapbook hosted at HEPL’s Adolph Mueller WWI collection on Indiana Memory. His first-hand descriptions of what he saw and felt will bring visions to your mind that you will not soon forget.