City Directories and World War I Draft Registration Cards

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This article is part of a series.
Overview of Directories
Locating Directories
City Directories
Using Census Records with Directories
City Directories and World War I Draft Registration Cards
Using Death and Probate Records with Directories
Using Church Records with Directories
Using Naturalization and Land Records with Directories
Telephone Directories
Directories on Microform
Professional Directories
Organizational Directories
Religious Directories
Post Office and Street Directories
List of Useful Directory References

This article originally appeared in "Directories" by Gordon L. Remington, FASG, FUGA in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Another use for city directories is as an aid to locating the draft registration district in which an ancestor registered for the 1917'1918 draft. Inasmuch as the draft registration eventually encompassed all men born between 1873 and 1900, it is an extremely useful record to find. Full birth dates are given, and places of birth are given in the 1917 draft, including exact places in Europe for immigrants. Marital status, number of dependents, next of kin, employment information, and physical description are also provided.

Unfortunately, the draft registration cards are not yet fully indexed, and in large cities, you need to know the draft registration board to which your ancestor would have reported in order to find his registration card. Most cities had at least four draft boards, but New York City (189), Chicago (86), and Philadelphia (51) top the list.

Unfortunately, draft registration district maps do not exist for every city. The Family History Library has microfilmed maps of the following areas:

California'Los Angeles, San Diego
Connecticut'Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven
Kansas'Kansas City
Louisiana'New Orleans
Minnesota'Minneapolis, St. Paul
Missouri'Kansas City
New Jersey'Jersey City
New York'Albany and Rensselaer, Buffalo, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Richmond (Staten Island), Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse
Ohio'Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo
Pennsylvania'Allegheny, Luzerne, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Reading, Scranton, Westmoreland
Rhode Island'Providence
Washington, D.C.
Wisconsin'Milwaukee<ref>FHL microfilm 1,498,803.</ref>
The Family History Library Catalog notes that:
Some of these maps are draft board maps showing the boundaries of the draft boards while others are just street and road maps which are helpful to some degree. The maps were filmed in the order as listed. The maps are enclosed in plastic sleeves for protection due to their fragile condition and age. Many of the maps are discolored or faded from age and this may make them difficult to use.

As an additional finding aid, the Family History Library has published a Register of World War I Selective Service System [boards and their locations] draft registration cards, 1917'1918: For Selective Service addresses for major cities as a noncirculating finding aid, use call number 973 M2wws, microfiche number 6039066.

Noting that the information in the book was taken from the Second Report of the Provost Marshall General to the Secretary of War, the book contains draft board addresses for the following cities:

California' Los Angeles, San Francisco
Connecticut'South New Haven
Illinois'Chicago, Cook County
Louisiana'New Orleans
Massachusetts'Boston (suburbs Brighton, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Roxbury, West Roxbury)
Minnesota'Minneapolis, St. Paul
Missouri'Kansas City, St. Louis
New Jersey'Newark, Jersey City
New York'Buffalo, New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, New York City, Queens, Richmond/Staten Island)
Ohio Cincinnati, Cleveland,
Pennsylvania'Allegheny, Luzerne, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Rhode Island'Providence


In order to find an ancestor in a large city in the World War I draft records, you first need a street address. The most likely source is from a city directory, but street addresses from the 1920 census, marriage records, and birth records of children can also be utilized. Once you find a street address, you can use a map that has draft boards already drawn on it, or you can use a contemporary map to find the nearest draft board. It is important to use a contemporary map as street names may have changed and some streets may no longer exist. You can then look at the draft registration cards for that district and hope to find your ancestor.

For instance, Martin Gross, a laborer, was listed at 107 South 14th Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in a 1917 directory.<ref>1918 Polk's Pittsburgh City Directory (R. L. Polk and Co.), 1201.</ref> There were 21 draft boards in Pittsburgh.

Reference to the Family History Library's abovementioned finding aid indicates that Draft Board No. 14 was located at 40 South 14th Street. It doesn't take a map to know that these places must be close by, but a map confirmed the addresses were just a few blocks apart. The registration cards of Draft Board 14 revealed that Martin Gross, residing at 107 14th Street, registered on 12 September 1918. He was born 30 April 1873, was native born, worked as an inspector at a steel tube mill and his 'nearest relative' was 'Mrs. Katherine Gross,' presumably his wife.

The same methodology can be used to find individuals in other cities.



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