National Archives supporters to host draft cards webinar

While many individuals and groups around the nation will still be in the midst of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Civil War for the next few years, the 100th anniversary of another conflict, once known as “The Great War,” is looming on the horizon.

In Europe, the anniversary of the start of that war, which is now known as World War I, will reach the century mark in 2014. The 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war will come along later, in 2017. Approximately 4.7 million people served in the U.S. Armed Forces, during World War I, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

It has been nearly a century since America’s “Doughboys” went to Europe to fight “the War to End all Wars,” and prompted U.S. Gen. John Pershing to reputedly proclaim, “Lafayette, we are here!” at the grave of the Marquis de Lafayette in Paris.

Fortunately for history buffs and others, the nation’s records from that war still exist, and many of them can be found in Clayton County, at the National Archives at Atlanta, in Morrow.

Local residents are now being invited to participate in a free, online class, or webinar, that the Friends of the National Archives-Southeast Region group is planning to host later this month, to educate people on how to use World War I records that are available at the archives for genealogical research.

“The anchor for this is [the fact that] the National Archives At Atlanta holds all of the original 24 million World War I draft cards [for all 50 U.S. states and Puerto Rico],” said National Archives at Atlanta Regional Director Jim McSweeney.

The webinar, which will be led by Friends of the National Archives-Southeast Region Vice President Linda Woodward Geiger, a certified genealogist, is scheduled to take place on Monday, Sept. 12, beginning at 7 p.m. McSweeney said the online class will be viewable at the “Friends” group’s web site, www.friendsnas.org/.

The National Archives regional director added that while the session will be free, advance registration of participants, at the same web site where the webinar will take place, is required.

Officials at the National Archives at Atlanta have long boasted about the genealogical and historical value of their military draft cards collection. The list of famous people whose World War I draft cards are housed at the archives, includes musician Louis Armstrong, actor and dancer Fred Astaire, painter Norman Rockwell, gangster Al Capone, and chef Hector Boiardi (more famously known to canned food fans as “Chef Boyardee”).

In addition to the World War I draft cards, the archives’ collection also includes draft cards from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

On the archives’ web site, officials explain that the draft cards show an individual’s place of residence, occupation, race, immigration status, place of origin and nearest relatives. McSweeney said participants in the webinar will learn how to mine the draft cards, as well as other World War I service records to find out information.

“[Webinar participants will] learn tips about local draft boards,” and their documents, the regional director said, “including exemption boards for those that were trying to get exempt from service, and the records that were created, including World War I draft cards and classes, exemptions and appeals, delinquents and deserters and mobilization records.

“Additionally, registrants will learn who needed to register [for the draft], and who did not.”

McSweeney said the Friends of the National Archives began holding monthly webinars in August, and he added that the first online class proved to be popular with a broad, national audience.

“The first workshop we had in August covered access to the ‘castle’ of the National Archives, and we had about 125 individuals attending the webinar from all over the U.S.,” the archives’ regional director said.

Future webinars are scheduled to focus on using documents related to “The Five Civilized [Native American] Tribes,” using broader military service records, and how to use the National Archives’ web site, according to the Friends of the National Archives-Southeast Region web site.

Visit the National Archives at Atlanta, at 5780 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow, or call (770)968-2100, or go online to www.archives.gov/southeast/, to find out more about the archives’ draft card collections.

On the Net:

Friends of the National Archives-Southeast Region: http://www.friendsnas.org/

National Archives at Atlanta: http://www.archives.gov/southeast/