Painting Pictures Through Draft Registration Cards

We’ve all been there. We are drawn to a particular ancestor but can’t locate a photograph of him. But we are still curious. Do we have the same eye color? The same build? Sometimes one’s features can be “displayed” without pictures. One example of this involves draft registration cards from World Wars I and II.

I do not have a picture of my second great uncle, John Harlan Hunley (6/28/1894 – 7/19/1994). However, he was required to register for both world wars, and I was lucky to find his draft cards.

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World War I Draft Registration Card (June 1917)

The first section of the draft card lists basic facts about the individual (date of birth, birth place, occupation, etc.). However, I am fascinated more by the second section.

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As you can see, the Registrar describes John as tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and dark brown hair. Perhaps more interesting, however, is the fact that John was missing a toe on his right foot!

John’s draft card for World War II paints the picture about 25 years later:

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World War II Draft Registration Card (April 1942)

Again, John is described as having blue eyes and brown hair, but this time we get a more precise height – 5’11 1/2″. We notice that John has a “light brown” complexion and a scar on the left side of his face.

Although a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes all we have is words. By looking to unexpected sources like draft cards, we have the ability to paint a mental picture of what our ancestor looked like – missing toe and all!

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