My grandfather served in WWII. Not many in my generation can claim that. He married around age thirty, and my mom was his youngest child. On my other family lines, my great-grandfathers served in WWII.
Many men were required to register for the WWII draft in the early 1940s. Whether or not your ancestor served in the war, there should be a draft registration for him. Ancestry and FamilySearch each have multiple collections of draft registration cards. It may already be on your ancestor’s FamilySearch profile, as was the case with most of my ancestors. Of those who do not already have it attached, it is easy to find.
What can we learn from the draft registration cards? They give the place of residence, birth date and place, contact person (may or may not state relationship), occupation, and physical description. In some cases, fathers and sons or brothers registered together.
and Joseph McElhinney
, my great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, respectively, both registered for the draft during World War II. Their draft registration cards had the same address in Philadelphia. John was twenty, and Joseph was fifty-five. Both registered in 1942: John in February and Joseph in April. John was born in Pennsylvania, and Joseph was born in Ireland. John had listed his father as his contact person, and Joseph had listed his wife, Mary (John’s mother) as his contact person. Both men were the same height, 5’11”, but Joseph was 30 pounds heavier. John had blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion; Joseph had hazel eyes, gray hair, and a ruddy complexion.
John was in college at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Montgomery, Maryland, when he filed for the draft. Family lore says that he had graduated with a physics degree and became a nuclear physicist; his research was considered important enough for the war effort that he was exempt from serving.
Another father-son duo who registered for the draft was on the Bishop line: Weston Beazer Bishop
, my grandfather, and Harold James Bishop
, my great-grandfather. At least one more of Harold’s sons also registered for the draft. The Bishops resided in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho. Weston registered for the draft on his 18th
birthday in 1944. Harold had previously registered in 1942, the same day Joseph McElhinney registered. He was forty-nine. Weston was born in Idaho Falls, and Harold was born in Utah. Like the McElhinneys, Weston put down his father as a contact person, and Harold put down his wife, Jessie. Both father and son were the same height: 5’7 ½”, and the father was heavier. Weston had brown eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. Harold had gray eyes, gray hair, and a light brown complexion.
Weston Beazer Bishop enlisted for service in WWII. His enlistment record was easily found on Fold3
, NARA Access to Archival Database (AAD)
, and FamilySearch
. All three sources gave the same information. NARA holds the WWII enlistment records as digital-only records. Trying to obtain the original records would mean getting codes without their interpretations.
Weston Beazer was single and without dependents at the time he enlisted.
(He married my grandmother in the late 1950s.) He enlisted on 17 March 1945 at Fort Douglas, Utah and he enlisted for the duration of the war, plus six months. He was born in 1926 in Idaho with his highest education level of four years of high school. His civilian occupation was farming. His army component was Selectees (enlisted men). The enlistment papers also include his serial number, which can be used to order additional records for him from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
Another father-son duo that registered for the draft was my great-grandfather Chester Miller Garner
and my great-great-grandfather Phares Smith Garner
. They did not live in the same state when they registered. Phares lived in Millport, Warwick township, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Chester in East Riverdale, Maryland. Phares had put down his daughter, Alta Garner, as his contact person. Chester had put down his uncle, Elmer Herr, as his. Since the relationships were not stated in the draft cards, they could only be inferred by other documents or family knowledge. Both men registered in 1942, Phares in February, and Chester in June. Chester was born in 1923 in Bareville, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Phares was born in 1900 in Ephrata in the same county. I have researched this line enough to know that they stayed in the same county for multiple generations. Unlike the other father-son duos, these men are not the same height, but they are the same weight. The father was four inches shorter than his son. Both men had brown eyes and brown hair. Chester had a light complexion, and Phares had a ruddy complexion. Chester Miller Garner’s grave indicates that he was a corporal in the Marine Corps in WWII
Another ancestor who filed for the WWII draft is my great-great-grandfather Warren William Walters.
He was 55 when he registered for the draft, so it is unlikely that he served. He was born in Trappe, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, on October 21, 1886 and registered for the draft in April 1942. He put his daughter, Cecyl E Stewart, as his contact person. He was 5’7 ½” tall and weighed 174 pounds with hazel eyes, gray hair, and a ruddy complexion.
My great-grandfather, Douglas Leighton Robinson, is said to have served in Australia in WWII. My aunt asked my grandmother about her father’s WWII service during one of her good moments.
My grandmother said that her dad was stationed in Queensland for the duration of the war and did not leave Australian soil. She was not sure what his rank was, but he oversaw supplies. She regrets that the rest of the family could not go up and be with him. She did not know why, but my aunt surmised it was for their safety.
You can see that from one person how many ancestors can be found who served their country. Did your ancestors serve in WWII? Do you need help finding more records than the draft registration cards? Price Genealogy can help you.
"U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947," images, Ancestry
(https://ancestry.com : accessed 9 August 2023), card for John McElhinney, serial no. 662, 8 Montg PA, Montgomery Count; NARA RG 147; box 1640.
"United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 October 2023), card for Joseph McElhinney, serial no. 1845, Local Board No. 2 Beaver Falls, PA; NARA microfilm publications M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097.
"Idaho, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 3 August 2023), card for Weaston Beazer Bishop, serial no. 402, Draft Board No. 1, Bonneville County; NARA RG 147.
"United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 9 August 2023), card for Harold James Bishop, serial no. 1980, Local Board No. 1, Bonneville County; NARA microfilm publications M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097.
"United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946," database, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K85Z-22Z : 5 December 2014), Weston B Bishop, enlisted 17 Mar 1945, Ft Douglas, Utah, United States; citing "Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, ca. 1938-1946," database, The National Archives: Access to Archival Databases (AAD)
(http://aad.archives.gov : National Archives and Records Administration, 2002); NARA NAID 1263923, National Archives at College Park, Maryland.
"Maryland, World War II draft registration cards," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 9 August 2023), card for Chester Miller Garner, serial no. 462, 1 Pr Go Md, Prince George's County; NARA NAID 5752907.
"Pennsylvania, World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1940-1945," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 August 2023), card for Phares Smith Garner, serial no. 596, Local Board No. 5 Lancaster County, 111 West Main St Ephrata, PA; NARA collection NAID 5324575.
 Find a Grave
, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/41367551/chester-m-garner
: accessed 28 July 2023), memorial page for Chester M Garner (27 May 1923–13 Nov 2005), Find a Grave Memorial ID 41367551
, citing Maryland Veterans Cemetery, Cheltenham, Prince George's County, Maryland, USA; Maintained by Mayvee Smith (contributor 49403280
"Pennsylvania Selective Service System registration cards, World War II : fourth registration," images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org : accessed 30 October 2023), card for Warren William Walters, serial no. 367, Local Board No. 4 Allentown, PA; National Archives and Records Administration. Mid-Atlantic Region.
Marina Larsen, Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho (801-898-3390), to Katie Garner, group text, 2 August 2023, "text referring to interview between Marian Larsen and Marjorie Childs"; privately held by Garner (385-472-7979), Orem, Utah, Utah.
Photo 1: National Archives identifier 513820 United We Win, Photograph by Alexander Liberman, 1943. Printed by the Government, Printing Office for the War Manpower Commission, Records of the Office of Government.
Photo 2: Photo 3: National Archives Identifier: 532542 Local Identifier: 127-N-110104 Creator(s): Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. U.S. Marine Corps. 9/18/1947- (Most Recent) From: Series: General Photograph File of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1927–1981 Record Group 127: Records of the U.S. Marine Corps, 1775 – dog
Photo 3: National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australian_troops_storm_ashore_in_the_first_assault_wave_to_hit_Balikpapan_on_the_southeast_coast_of_oil-rich_Borneo...._-_NARA_-_513227.tif