The following fields are in the index of the Colorado World War I selective service draft registration cards: full name, date (day/month/year) and place of birth, county/city of registration, draft board number, and microfilm volume number. Some cards do not list a birthplace. When a registrant was born in Colorado, only the city of birth is listed.
For complete information about these records visit the Western History Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library, or contact us.
For Colorado, the registration cards are on 40 rolls of microfilm (v.1 through v.40), Denver Public Library microfilm (catalog number G973.91, W893co). The draft registration cards are arranged alphabetically by county or city. Within the county or city, names are listed usually alphabetically. Denver City/County consisted of nine draft boards (#1 through #9 ). There is also a separate microfilm of Indians, prisoners, insane, in hospital, and late registrants (G973.91, W893misc, v.2). The Library also has microfilm of registration cards from New Mexico, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
On the microfilm, the names are sorted in general in alphabetical order. However, the names are sometimes in rough alphabetical order (be flexible!) within each county and occasionally names are completely out of order within a letter group. Usually the cards are filled out with script writing, and especially the letters “a” and “o,” “g” and “z,” “n” and “u,” “h” and “k,” “r” and “s,” and “e” and “i” can easily be mistaken for each other.
The information included on each registration differs somewhat but the general information shown often includes order and serial numbers, full name, address, age, date and place of birth, father's birthplace, race, citizenship, occupation, employer's name and city, nearest relative's name and address, personal description (general height and build, eye and hair color), disabilities, and signature.
It should be noted that only a small percentage of these men were ever inducted into the military. Moreover, these cards are not military service records. They contain no information about an individual's military service. The information provided was much more complete and reliable than census information because the registrant was the person providing the information. The cards also serve as a substitute for birth records since many of the men were born before birth registration began in many states. Occasionally there are conflicts in the birth year and the age given, and the year of birth should be confirmed by Social Security, military, birth certificates, or bible records. Many of the registrants reflect that they were born in Austria which was a very large European country prior to World War I, but was divided up into other countries after World War I.
Aliens were required to register but were not subject to induction into the American military. Persons already in the military did not register. Recent Italian emigrants wrote their last names first, resulting in some cards being filed under first names. Cards of Hispanics may be filed under the mother's maiden name if the registrant gave both parents' surnames. Also, men who resided in British territories sometimes listed themselves simply as British citizens without noting an origin in Canada, Scotland, Ireland, etc. Illiterate men were unable to spell their names and birth locations, so researchers should be quite flexible in searching for the spelling of names of illiterate men.
On May 18, 1917, during World War I, the Selective Service Act was passed authorizing the President to temporarily increase the military armed forces by the process of selecting men for induction into the military service. In 1917 and 1918, approximately 24 million men (98% of men present in America) born between 1873 and 1900 completed draft registration cards. The selective service boards were responsible for registering men, classifying them, taking into consideration needs for manpower in certain industries and in agriculture, as well as certain special family situations of the registrants, handling any appeals of these classifications, determining the medical fitness of individual registrants, determining the order in which registrants would be called, calling registrants, and placing them on trains to training centers. Local boards were established for each county or similar subdivision in each state, and for each 30,000 persons (approximately) in each city or county with a population over 30,000.
During World War I there were three registrations. The first, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. These men were born between 1886 - 1896. They answered a form containing twelve questions including order and serial numbers (assigned by the Selective Service System), full name, date and place of birth, race, citizenship, occupation, personal description, and signature.
The second registration, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. These men were born between 1896 - 1897. (A supplemental registration was held on August 24, 1918, for those becoming 21 years old after June 5, 1918. This was included in the second registration.) The form had ten questions including name, date of birth, birthplace, citizenship and father's birthplace.
The third registration was held on September 12, 1918, for men age 18 through 45. These men were born 1872 - 1886 and 1897 - 1900. They answered a twenty question form which included name, age in years, date of birth - not birthplace, citizenship, and address of nearest kin. After the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, the activities of the Selective Service System were rapidly curtailed. On March 31, 1919, all local, district, and medical advisory boards were closed.
Information compiled by Gerald E. Sherard
Denver Public Library Online ©
Updated: December 10, 2012