April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and officially
entered the Great War. Six weeks later, on 18 May 1917, the
Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized President Woodrow
Wilson to increase the military establishment of the United States
during the war. As a result, every male living within the United
States between the ages of eighteen and forty-five was required to
register for the draft.
There were three registrations dates: This means that we have
genealogical data on virtually every man (around 98%) born
between 13 September 1872 and 12 September 1900, if he was
living in the United States during World War I.
men born June 6, 1886
June 5, 1896
Held June 5, 1917;
registered all men between 21 and 31 years of age.
men born June 6, 1896
June 5, 1897
Held June 5, 1918;
registered all men who had become 21 years of age since June
5, 1917, not previously registered or already in the military.
born June 6, 1897 August 24, 1897
(Considered part of the second
Held August 24, 1918; registered all
men who became 21 years of age since June 5, 1918, not
previously registered or already in the military.
men born Sept 11, 1872 Sept 12, 1900
Held Sept 12,
1918; registered all men between the ages of 18 and 45,
inclusive, not previously registered or already in the
In some places, the day of
registration was treated like a holiday. The country was surging
with feelings of patriotism, and parades and public gatherings were
commonplace. Entire families often accompanied the registrant into
town. Businesses and schools closed. Boat horns blew, train whistles
sounded, and church bells chimed throughout the country. Registrants
often traveled great distances so they would arrive in time to be
included. Registration lasted all day from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
If a registrant was not at home, he
could register elsewhere and the card would be sent to his home
draft board. In some rural counties, it may have been easier to
travel to the bordering county to register and request the
registration be sent on to the actual county. Because its possible
that some of these registrations were never transferred, when
searching for cards in rural counties, it may be worthwhile to check
neighboring counties, even if they are located in another state.
If you think your ancestor didnt
register because he was not a citizen or was too old, you may be
surprised to find his registration card anyway. Non-citizens were
subject to the draft and they had to register; all men between the
ages of eighteen and forty-five had to register between May 1917 and
In all, approximately 24 million
men registered for the World War 1 draft. Not all the men who
registered actually served in the armed forces, and there were some
who served in the war but did not register for the draft. These 24
million men are estimated to be almost 25 percent of the population
of the country in 191718. If you had family in the United States
during the Great War, you are likely to find at least one relative
within this large collection.
These pages on the Shawano GenWeb
site represent about 6700+ names of Shawano County residents or men
who worked in Shawano County in this time period.