Ancestry Daily News
World War II Draft Cards
Images of the cards discussed in this
article can be viewed at:
Some places of birth listed on the cards were as specific as a city and a state, others listed only a county and state. In some cases, the village of foreign birth was given as well, but many foreign places of birth listed were only as specific as the country. One must keep in mind that the country was at war and creating massive amounts of genealogical data was not a part of the war effort. We are fortunate to have the records that we do. Had I any "difficult" immigrants who would have been required to register, I would have made certain to obtain their card as it may potentially contain a specific place of birth.
What Do The Cards Contain?
The cards asked the following questions:
2) Place of residence
3) Mailing address
5) Age and date of birth
6) Place of birth town/county and state/country
7) Name and address of person who will always know your address
8) Employer's Name and Address
9) Place of Employment or Business
A signature was also required.
The reverse side of the card asks questions regarding the registrant's physical description, including:
Three of the surnames I was looking for were unusual enough that it was not impractical to copy all the cards for those individuals. Cards were located for all of my great-grandparents siblings who were of the appropriate age. In all, I obtained copies of approximately twenty cards.
All the cards were the "same;" however, there were slight variations on the amount of detail provided and occasionally additional "comments" were written on the card.
Who Always Knows Your Address?
The "person who will always know your address" was particularly helpful. Based upon the address and the name (e.g., Mrs. John Smith) many such persons were the spouse of the registrant. In some cases, I did see the word "wife" specifically written in parenthesis after the person's name, but not always. Other familial relationships were occasionally noted for the person who would always know the registrant's address, but there was no space to specifically record the relationship.
Why Use the Cards?
The cards will not solve every genealogical problem, but there are situations where they can be helpful:
What you will have to know to use the cards:
Of course, one will need other details to assist in distinguishing individuals of the same name. These details include:
You just can't grab the first John Smith you see and assume he is yours! As mentioned the cards do provide other information about the registrant and this information should be compared and contrasted with information already known about the individual in order to determine if the individual on the card is likely the desired individual.
Try All Locations
My great-grandfather's brother was working St. Louis, Missouri, at the time of the draft registration. His registration took place in Hancock County, Illinois, where he was born and raised. While this is atypical of the registrations I located (most were working in the county where they registered), it does bear witness to the fact that one should leave no location unconsidered.
Need Their Job?
If research requires you learn your ancestor's occupation or employer, the draft card may help you to do that. There are other sources on your ancestor that may provide occupational information, but the information on the draft card may help to fill in blanks and potentially lead to occupational records. My ancestors, unlike those of my wife, were largely self-employed farmers and occupational records are non-existent.
National Archives Mail
A very limited number of the World War Two draft cards for Ohio have been digitized and are available in NAIL, the National Archives Information Locator atNARA. However, the digitizing for Ohio appears to be for a very small percentage of the cards (Aa-Ab).
Regional branches of the National Archives.
If you are stuck with a male ancestral problem during the early 1940s, these cards may help you. Your female ancestors might also have had a problem with your male ancestor during that same time, but these records aren't likely to help with that!
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: email@example.com or
visit his Web site at: www.rootdig.com/,
but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
Used by the author on his web site with permission
Michael John Neill Genealogy