The United States Congress passed the Selective Service Act of 18 May 1917 which required states to set up local draft boards, one for each 30,000 people. Under this first act, men between the ages of 21 and 31 had to register. A second act passed in June 1918, and it's supplement in August of that year, included men who had turned 21 after the first act had passed. The third act, passed on 12 Sept 1918, included all men between 18 and 21 and those who were 31 to 45. While these acts mean that these ages were the target ages, in practice researchers find that others outside these age ranges are often included in the registration cards. Altogether, these cards contain information on over 24 million men.

All immigrants, not yet naturalized citizens, were required to register but were not subject to induction into the American military. Those 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 their mother's maiden name surname if the registrant gave both parents' surnames. Also, men who resided in British territories sometimes listed themselves simply as British citizens without noting their origin in Canada, Australia, Ireland, Jamaica, etc. Illiterate men were unable to spell their names and birth location, so researchers should be quite flexible in searching for the spelling of names of illiterate men.

This civilian registration was not an induction into the military. Actually, only a small percentage of these men were ever called for military service.
These cards are available on microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.;

Source: World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-18 [database online] Provo, UT:, 2002. National Archives and Records Administration. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. M1509, 20,243 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. |

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