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How to Search Military Records
To search Military records:
- Select Draft Registrations or Service from the Record Type drop list.
- Enter or select as much information as you know. (If you select Draft Registrations, use the Registration Year drop-down to focus on either WWI or WWII registrations.)
- Click Search.
- You must enter or select at least one value—such as a Last Name, First Name, or State—to get results.
- Only 50% of U.S. Colored Troops Service records include a state name. To find records that do not reference a state name, select All or Not Recorded from the State drop-list.
- Only 53% of U.S. Colored Troops Service records include a year. To find records that do not reference a year, leave the Year Range boxes blank.
- There were three separate draft registrations for WWI.
- June 5, 1917, for men between the ages of 21 and 31
- June 5, 1918, for men who reached age 21 after June 5, 1917
- September 12, 1918, for men age 18–45
- With some variations, all three WWI registrations collected most of the following basic information on two-sided cards:
- Home address
- Date of birth
- Marital status
- Name and address of employer
- Citizenship status
- Citizen of what country
- Eye color
- Hair color
- City/county and state of the local draft board
- WWII draft registrations cards are also two-sided.
- The front of the card recorded the following information:
- Place of residence
- Mailing address
- Age in Years; Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Name and Address of Person Who Will Always Know Your Address
- Employer’s Name and Address
- Place of Employment or Business
- The back of the card recorded the following information:
- WWI and WWII draft registration records available here do not consistently adhere to National Archives naming/numbering conventions. For this reason, we caution against using the series and roll information displayed for these records to order or view microfilm from the National Archives.
- As you explore WWI draft registration cards, you'll notice that the lower left corner is usually missing. Although not practiced through the entirety of the draft, the registrar was, for a time, asked to tear the corner off if, 'this person is of African descent.'
- ProQuest African American Heritage returns a maximum of 1,000 matching Military records for display. If your search returns more than 1,000 records, a message displays offering suggestions about how you can refine your search to make it more focused.
- Click the Show more search options link beneath the State drop-down to access additional search options, including Birth Date and Birthplace.
- Click the Hide more search options link to remove the additional search options from view.
- Click the Select from list link corresponding to Birthplace or Unit to select from alphabetically-ordered master lists in our Military records database.
- Review the tips and rules for searching collections found in the Help section of this database.
About the Military Records
Military service is an important part of the African American experience. From the Revolutionary War through today's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, African Americans have distinguished themselves in the service of the United States—in all branches of the military. Military Records includes three collections:
- World War I Draft Registrations— America entered World War I on April 6, 1917. Out of the total 24 million U.S. draft registrations from 1917 and 1918, nearly 2,000,000 records—representing African Americans registrations—are available here.
- World War II Draft Registrations — The so-called 'old man's registration' of 1942, this is the only one of seven World War II draft registrations currently available to the public. (Privacy laws determine when records are made public.) The men included in this registration were between the ages of 45 and 64, and although required to register, were deemed too old to serve.
WWII Record Availability— Records for the following states (and Puerto Rico) are complete.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
WWII Record Availability— Records for the following states are incomplete.
- New York
WWII Record Availability— The vast majority of records for the following states were destroyed by fire and are therefore unavailable.
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- U.S. Colored Troops Service Records — The compiled records of volunteer Union soldiers who served with the United States Colored Troops from 1861–1865.
Select either Draft Registration (Image 1 below) or Service (Image 2 below) from the drop-down menu to access the search page.
Image 1: Draft Registration Records Search
Image 2: Service Records Search