Selective Service Records -scans of the records discussed in this articleThe draft registration cards from both world wars are an excellent genealogical source. Draft registration cards for the millions of men who registered for World War I are readily available on microfilm and partially available at Ancestry.com. World War II draft registration cards (from the 4th registration for men born between 28 April 1877 and 16 February 1897) are available through the branches of the National Archives. Previous columns have discussed these records and how to access them in more detail:
World War I Draft Cards
World War II Draft Cards
I obtained the readily available draft cards for both World Wars for my direct line ancestors. My grandfather also registered for the World War II draft, but since he was born in 1903, he was too young for the 4th draft registration. I would have to obtain his information in a different fashion. It turns out his registration information is still with the Selective Service System.
After some surfing, I located a page on the Selective Service System's website that provided information on obtaining copies of these records. The first thing I did was to actually read what the site had to say about obtaining copies of records.
"The Selective Service System: Obtaining Records"
The page was fairly straightforward in terms of how to make requests for information. Based upon what I read, I could have even requested a copy of my own record. However, not just anyone can obtain a copy of whatever they want. There are some restrictions (for privacy reasons) and guidelines that must be followed. The site has links to additional information on selective service and its history.
The registration cards are protected under the Privacy Act. To obtain the registration card on my grandfather I needed to prove he was deceased. Had he been living, I would have needed his permission to get a copy of the record. A copy of his death certificate was adequate proof of death. I also provided his likely place of residence during the war. I requested his classification record as well as his registration. The classification record is not protected under the Privacy Act and would not have required the copy of the death certificate. My request for my grandfather's records was sent to the National Headquarters of Selective Service in Arlington, Virginia, per the instructions on the site. I did not receive (nor did I expect) an immediate reply.
However, I did receive all the records requested within a few months, which was a very reasonable time frame. Before readers send in any requests for cards, they should read the Selective Service System site referenced earlier.
I also could have obtained a copy of my own registration card by sending a request to an address in Palatine, Illinois. So far, I have not chosen to do this as I think I already know what is on the card.
I received both sets of records for my grandfather, the classification record and the registration card. Both will be discussed here, but it is the registration card that provides the most genealogical information.
The World War II Draft Registration Card (actual image)
This card (which was for men born on or after February 17, 1897 and on or before December 31, 1921) contained the following information:
--- Place of Residence
--- Mailing address
--- Age in years and date of birth
--- Place of birth (town or county; state or country)
--- Name and address of person who will always know your address
--- Employer's name and address
--- Place of employment or business
--- Description of Registrant [including the following]
--- Race (choose one of: White, Negro, Oriental, Indian, Filipino)
--- Other obvious physical characteristics that will aid in identification
--- Signature of Registrar
--- Date of Registration
Other than his eye color and the fact that he already had some gray hair at age 38, there were no startling revelations on my grandfather's registration card. Keep in mind that if your relative registered at a different time, the information requested of the registrant may be different.
The Classification Record (actual images)
This record contains the classifications that were assigned to the registrant. Registrants may have been assigned multiple classifications as time went on and as classifications were changed or added.
My grandfather was originally classified as IIIB in September of 1942. This was a deferment by both reasons of dependency and by employment in an occupation essential to the war effort. At the time, Cecil was married with two small children and working on his own farm. This classification was used from 23 April 1942 until 12 April 1943.
He was later classified as IIIA and IVA, both being deferments. The first was a deferment based upon dependency reasons and the second was based upon age. Along with the copy of my grandfather's classification record, I was sent a sheet listing the various classes and their descriptions. This was very helpful.
Did It Help Me?
There were no surprising revelations for me on the registration card. However, there may be instances where the card contains useful information; it all depends upon the family situation and what has been learned from other records. If my grandfather had been drafted, there would have been additional references on his classification record that might have provided further research opportunities. For most researchers, the place and date of birth is the probably the most helpful information. The registrant provided it himself, something he most likely did not do with his death certificate. If I had difficulty determining his place of birth, this card would have been an additional place to ascertain this information.
The person who "will always know your address" may also provide clues as to additional relatives and their residence at the time of the registration. For married men, this person typically is the wife. For those who were unmarried, this person usually is another family member. The card may or may not indicate the relationship of the person who "will always know your address."
Don't expect the card to provide you with an inordinate amount of information. Just remember, if the individual is still living you will need his permission to get a copy of his registration card, which is probably what you will want instead of just the classification record. And of course, if the individual is still living you might want to ask them other questions as well.
Michael John Neill, is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is the Web columnist for the FGS FORUM and is on the editorial board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly. He conducts seminars and lectures on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at: www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Copyright 2003, MyFamily.com Inc.
Used by the author on his website with permission.
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