The World War I was a life changing event. We felt the impact less here in the US; but still, millions of young men registered for the draft. Not all draft cards are the same format, but each one is a family history treasure trove. If you had a draft-aged ancestor, chances are there’s a draft card with his signature.
Family lore had it that one of my mother’s uncles died in WWI. That’s what I started with. When I found my Grandmother on the Census, I noticed she had an older brother named David. So I began searching for a David O’Connell in Washington, DC and found this draft card.
I had a pretty firm notion this was the same David because:
1. The name matched the Census records I had for him.
2. The age was about right, and the month was an exact match for the 1900 Census.
3. His birth location matched Census data.
4. The address matched a location for this family from the census and the Washington, D.C. City Directories.
Those are enough corroborating pieces of information, that I feel ok connecting this record to my David O’Connell.
What did I learn from this Draft Card?
I learned his full name, as I only had a middle initial from the Census.
I learned David was literate from his signature.
I learned that he was a horseman for the British Government.
I have his place of employment, although I will confess to not having been able to connect it to anything.
This is the backside of the card…
The back gives me insight into his physical appearance. I learn that he has varicose veins. I see that he registered in DC.
I could use the information on this card to find out who registered at the same time. Maybe he went with a brother (his was too young), or a cousin, or a friend.
Interested in seeing if there’s a WWI Draft Card for one of your ancestors? You can search the database by clicking this link. This is a US database.
Draft cards, like any other record, give us the snapshot of a moment in our ancestors lives. But just like with photographs, it’s better to have an entire album than a single picture.
So off I went to the newspapers searching for more information on Great Uncle David.
The next part of that story on another searching4ancestors post…