Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Draft registration is the legal requirement for men of a certain age to register with the government for possible induction into the military. Historically, the draft or "conscription," as it is also known, was used only in times of war. More recently conscription has been made into law during peacetime. Draft registration provides the government with identifying information that can be used to call men (and women, in some countries) into service, at the discretion of the government. The draft is also termed "selective service," owing to the fact that conscription is not universal, but targets, primarily, the young and able-bodied population. During World War I, in the United States, some 24 million men completed draft registration cards, representing approximately 25 percent of male population. During World War II, approximately 10 million men registered for the draft. Draft registration records can include those who served, as well those who registered but were never called to serve.
Because of the number of men registered and the type of information collected, U. S. World War I and World War II draft registration cards provide valuable genealogical information. The World War I draft consisted of three separate registrations, based on birth date: the first, second, and third registrations. Different cards were used for different registrations; thus, the type of information provided may vary from one registration to the other. Due to privacy laws, the so-called Fourth Registration, are the only World War II draft registration cards available to the public. The Fourth Registration. sometimes known as the "old man's draft," applied to men 45 to 64 years of age.