Posted by Jennifer Holik on April 6, 2018 in Collections, Guest Bloggers
Photo of WWI soldiers courtesy of National Library of Scotland

As we move through 2018, we get closer to the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I, a war in which some of our ancestors fought and died. Have you started your research? Are you attending any commemorations or unveiling of new war memorials? Are you adding your new information to your family tree? Have you located photographs for your soldier?

For those who have not started their research or need some help, I have several tips for you. For World War I research you will use the same process as World War II research, so this WWII Research Guide can help. The basic records you need are the same and in the same locations. You can discover a lot of information on World War I on Ancestry, Fold3, and Newspapers.com for your World War I soldier.

You may want to also review a few articles I wrote last year on collections on Ancestry and Fold3.

And, to help you stay organized, please read Have I Lost It? 5 Tips to Organize Your Military Research.

Now that you have reviewed the research possibilities from those articles, I encourage you to go to Fold3 and explore all the WWI collections. There are many for British troops, and quite a few for Americans. I found one interesting collection I had not explored that those with New York state roots may find useful—WWI New York Army Cards. When you click this publication you will see several subsets which include: WWI Army Cards, WWII Army Nurse Cards, WWI Army/Navy Cards from the Vault, WWI Marine Cards, WWI Navy Cards, and WWI Officer Cards.

I chose Cards from the Vault and explored the few names listed there. Did you know the Roosevelt family has cards there? As in Teddy Roosevelt? Quentin Roosevelt, who died in World War I and is buried overseas, has a card.

What exactly are these cards? While they are called New York Army Cards, they contain the same information found on WWI or WWII Service Cards. These cards do not exist for every state. Often you can find them in State Archives or Regional National Archive Branches. New York seems to have theirs intact. Unfortunately for me, none exist for the State of Illinois.

What can we learn about a WWI soldier’s service from these types of cards?

  1. Name, Serial Number, and all units, with dates in which they served.
  2. Changes in rank and often the date that change occurred.
  3. Death information if they died in service.
  4. Awards and decorations received.
  5. Biographical information.
  6. Information on where you might find other military records. See Theodore Roosevelt’s Card as it contains two sides with information.

Using the information on these cards, you can more easily research WWI Company Rosters and Payroll records at the NPRC in St. Louis. With the unit information contained on the cards, you can start a search for unit records at NARA College Park, Maryland. The basics of what you need are contained in these cards!

As we approach the 100th Anniversary, what research do you plan to do online and off, to tell your WWI soldier’s story? How do plan to share that information? Create more facts in your Ancestry family tree? Add to the Fold3.com Memorial Profile for your soldier? Write a short story to submit to a publication? We’d love to hear what you plan to do.

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer Holik is an international WWII researcher, speaker, and author of the only authoritative books on the market, “Stories from the World War II Battlefield,” which teach individuals how to research WWII service across any branch. She can be found at her website The World War II Research and Writing Center or on Facebook.

5 Comments

  1. Alan Doyne

    Where can I find information on my American uncle who joined the British Army (through Canada) prior to the US entering the war?

  2. Cindy Riley

    My grandfather’s Brother Ted Gallup was in the war I from Benton,LUZERNE County,Penasylvania. I have 2 letters he wrote my grand father.

  3. Anna McIntyre

    My great uncle went missing in action and has been missing for 72 years but in April 2013 his remains were found

  4. Thanks for writing this article – yours are always highly interesting. These are just a few of the great national and local records available for researching WWI service members. I just finished a project researching all 88 soldiers from my county who died in WWI (see my work on http://www.cabellwwi.wordpress.com), including several MIA soldiers. I also recommend the WW1 Centennial Commission (ww1cc.org), the Doughboy Center (worldwar1.com/dbc), and the American Battle Monuments Commission (abmc.gov). It is amazing how many forgotten local memorials still stand and how many forgotten local “Honor Rolls” are still available. Thanks!

    Benjamin Woodard

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