They Answered the Call

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In 1917 and 1918,approximately 24 million men living in the United States completed a World WarI 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 wasabout 100 million individuals. 

In other words, close to 25% of the total populationis represented in these records.

These DraftRegistration cards are extremely helpful as they: 

  • Cover such a large percentage of the U.S. male population that you are almost guaranteed to find at least one U.S. male relative’s information.
  • Containmore than dates and places: signatureof the person,  birthplace, citizenship, physicaldescription, anyhandicaps or reasons they could not serve, location, occupation, nearestfamily

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  • Afew immigrants (especially Italians) wrote their last names first, resulting insome cards being filed under first names.
  • Somecards (esp. Hispanics) are filed under their mother's maiden name surname ifthe registrant gave both parents' surnames.
  • Menwho resided in British territories sometimes listed themselves simply asBritish citizens without noting their origin in Canada, Australia, Ireland,Jamaica, etc.
  • Illiteratemen were unable to spell their names and birth location, so be flexible whensearching for specific names.


  • If your family member had his 21st birthday between 5 June 1917 and the summer of 1918, his registration card may also include his father’s birthplace as well as his own birthplace.
  • Becauseeach registered male had to sign the draft card, you can see the actualsignature of your relative (provided they could write).
  • Notall men who registered for the draft actually served in the military; not allmen who served in the military registered for the draft.
  • Onlya small percentage of men who registered were actually called up for militaryservice.
  • Ifa registrant was not living in his home town, he could register elsewhere andthe card would be sent to his home draft board.
  • Insome rural counties, it may have been easier to travel to the bordering countyto register and request that the registration be forwarded to the actualcounty.
  • Someregistrations were never transferred; therefore, an individual’s card mayappear in a neighboring county or state.
  • Non-citizenswere required to register, but were not subject to induction into the Americanmilitary.
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October 20, 2012
Wesley is the founder of

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