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One hundred years ago yesterday

The United States officially entered the war that became known as World War I 100 years ago yesterday.

It came in the form of a Joint Resolution of the United States Congress:

Whereas the Imperial German Government has committed repeated acts of war against the Government and the people of the United States of America : Therefore be it


Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared ; and that the President be, and he is hereby, authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Imperial German Government ; and to bring the conflict to a successful termination all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.1

By the time the United States passed that resolution and entered the conflict, the war had been onoing in Europe for nearly three years.

It was triggered in part by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, on 28 June 1914 and began, officially, with Germany’s declaration of war on Russia on 1 August 1914, followed by the entry of the United Kingdom into the war against Germany on 4 August.2

American involvement came about after Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare against U.S. shipping in early 1917. It also offered to pay for Mexican attacks on the United States and to give Mexico the area that was Texas, New Mexico and Arizona in return for Mexico’s entry into the fight.3

At the time the war began, the Americans only had a small standing army, “but after the passage of the Selective Service Act, it drafted 2.8 million men, and, by summer 1918, was sending 10,000 fresh soldiers to France every day.”4

No matter how you cut it, and the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center notwithstanding, that many men means an awful lot of records.

Exactly what a genealogist wants to see.

So consider what goodies are out there.

You might want to start at the U.S. National Archives and its newly-launched World War I Centennial portal. Categories of information available there, or linked from the page, include:

Training the Soldier
On the Homefront
On the Battlefield
Technology and Innovation
Medicine in the War
American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917 – 1918
World War I images on Flickr

And that’s just for starters. There’s a lot more there. Check it out.

From there, head over to Ancestry where its collections of World War I record include:

U.S., WWI Civilian Draft Registrations, 1917-1918
U.S., Burial Registers, Military Posts and National Cemeteries, 1862-1960
U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006
U.S. World War I Mothers’ Pilgrimage
British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
Canada, Soldiers of the First World War, 1914-1918
UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921 and 1939-1947
England, The National Roll of the Great War, 1914-1918

A new database just launched there for this 100th anniversary is the U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939.

And then FamilySearch has a number of World War I era records:

Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917-1920
Maine, World War I Draft Registration Index, 1917-1919
North Carolina, World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919
Texas, World War I Records, 1917-1920
United States Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918
United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918
United States, YMCA World War I Service Cards, 1917-1919

Don’t forget that the war involved a lot more than just the United States, and for a lot longer than the U.S. was involved. So check out the collections at FindMyPast, the Australian War Memorial, the Canadian War Museum, New Zealand at War, the National Archives of the UK, and the national archives of any other country where you might have had ancestors at the time.


  1. “Joint Resolution Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same,” 40 Stat. 1 (6 April 1917).
  2. Wikipedia (, “World War I,” rev. 6 Apr 2017.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
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