After spending more than two years researching men and women who served during World War One, I have compiled a personal list of sources that I now share with you. In 1975 a fire at the National Archives destroyed 80% of WWI army records, and 75% of Air Force Records. WWI Navy records were not affected.
The good news is that there are Auxiliary Records, such as burial case files, pay sheets, and battalion rosters that still exist. These are the records you need to become acquainted with in order to research WWI service. I wrote a story about how to perform a “A Quick Guide to Researching U.S. Military Genealogy“, but a more complete list of resources is provided below.
How and where you look first depends upon your project. Are you looking to research just one person whose name you know, or are you looking for all the names of those who served in a particular military unit? Keep in mind that more than half of those who died during WWI did so from disease. Some of them died while in training camps, and those deaths are often more difficult to track as they often did not appear on honor rolls, or even in general newspaper notices. There is no one place you can look to find it all, so you must look in a variety of sources and compile the individual’s military history yourself.
If you know the name of the person you are researching and the state they registered from, you should attempt to learn first who they were, where they lived, and their birth date. Most, but not all, had a WWI Registration form that they completed usually in the area where they were living. Those who traveled to Europe usually can be found on the U.S. Military Transport Passenger Lists. If their body was returned to the United States after the war ended, their name should appear again, on these Passenger Lists. Just remember that in any database, the index (list of names able to be searched) is not perfect, as the indexers sometimes made mistakes. Each U.S. state has an Adjutant General’s Office, usually located at the state capitol. They maintain lists of those who served and died in various wars, and usually can provide you with such lists if you contact them.
Much of my focus has been researching New Hampshire or New England men and women during the WWI era, so my resources are focused on this location. However these guidelines should be helpful for everyone’s WWI research within the United States.
*Beginning Resources for Identity Discovery*
Family Search – a free service (though you have to create an identity there to log in) that provides birth, marriage, death, census and other records. A good starter site.
United States, Veterans Administration Master Index, 1917-1940 (at Family Search) – searchable database of veterans of WWI whose families filed a pension or benefits claim.
*Resources at the National Archives*
Finding your World War I Veteran at the National Archives at St. Louis (PDF) – this document shows a comprehensive list of auxiliary WWI records available for research.
*Military Service Resources*
Army: US Adjutant General Military Records 1631-1976. [PAID database at Ancestry.com] that shows those in the US ARMY who lost their lives during WWI, and also STATE reports of officers, national guard and military reserves, rosters. This database is often available for free if you log-in while at your local library. Ask them if they have a Library account to that service.
Army Nurse Corps: Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps.
Marine Corps: Marine Corps Specific, WWI, searchable – A list of the officers and enlisted men of the United States Marine Corps, who lost their lives while serving overseas during the World War, by United States. Veterans Administration (Internet Archives)
Navy: Officers and Enlisted Men of the United States Navy who lost their lives during the World War 1917-1918 (free online book, Internet Archive, searchable)
Navy: The United States Navy in the World War (in photographs) – Internet Archive
Navy & Marine Corps: [just pre-WWI] The Record of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, by Lewis Randolph Hamersly, 1894 (free online book, searchable) – Internet Archive.
U.S. Merchant Marine Organization: American Merchant Marine at War Records and Contacts
Canadian Service: First World War (searchable)
Canadian: Photographic Record and Souvenir of the Canadian Grenadier Guards Overseas Battalion “Eighty Seventh” (served in WWI with photos and bios) – Internet Archive
*Death and Burial (U.S. Military)*
American Battle Monuments Commission – A searchable database of military who are buried in national cemeteries in Europe, or who are on national monuments in the United States that list MIA service. This database does not include state or regional (non-national) monuments, and does not include Arlington National which has a separate database (see below). This is the original database that is echoed on Find-A-Grave.
National Graveside Locator – National cemetery burials of (all) military personnel, searchable by cemetery and the exact last name is required [only continental U.S. burials]. This National Gravesite Locator does NOT include Arlington Cemetery (see that listing below to search).
Arlington National Cemetery – a searchable database of (all) military and associated family buried in the national cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
Grave Registration Card Registers 1917-1922 – U.S. WWI Centennial Commission story. Provides a background on soldiers buried in Europe and how to obtain a copy of the grave registration cards.
HONOR SERVICE. American Wars Casualties covers WWI-Korean War. A free web site showing some of the men lost in WW1, searchable by state (incomplete).
Find-A-Grave. A database of graves throughout the world. These entries are provided by individuals, and may or may not be accurate.
*Death and Burial, U.K. Records*
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – searchable by name, regiment and serial number. Shows U.K. & Commonwealth burials for WWI
*NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL Databases*
Gold Star Record of Massachusetts – free online book (searchable) for veteran casualties of WWI who had connections with WWI, provides excellent biography.
Brockton (MA) HONOR ROLL, Supreme Sacrifice in the World War
Newton (Massachusetts) War Memorial – free online book with photographs and brief biographies of WWI veterans with connections to Newton MA.
*Regiment-Battalion Specific Histories*
The 32nd Division in the World War (Red Arrow) 1917-1919
[309th Infantry Regiment] 78th Division “History of the Seventy-eighth Division in the World War,” by Thomas F. Meehan, 1921. List of those receiving medals and an entire list of those who died, killed, from wounds, etc, in the back of the book. Internet Archive, searchable.
39th: The history of the 39th U. S. Infantry during the World War, by Robert B. Cole, 1919.
[26th, Yankee Division, included 101st, 102d and 103d Regiments in the 51st and 52nd Brigades. Many of the New Hampshire and Maine National Guard were merged into this Division.]
“Welcome Home. In Commemoration of the 26th Division,” (with photos and lists).
“A Brief History of the Yankee Division,” by John Nelson.
“The History of the Yankee Division,” by Harry J. Benwell.
[102nd Field Artillery]”An American Battery in France,” by Corporal Earnest E. LaBranche.” [BATTERY B, 102d FA]
[40th Division] “History of the Fortieth, Sunshine, Division,” Hathi Trust
[5th Company, Plattsburg NY Training Camp]
The War Record of the Fifth Company, New England Regiment, Second Plattsburg Training Camp, 1920.
[6th Engineers] “History of the 6th Engineers by Its Men,” 1920. Hathi Trust. Searchable.
[90th Division] “A History of the 90th Division,” by George Wythe, 1920. Internet archive. Searchable.
Ninth Coast Artillery, New York. The Minute Men of ’17 — A History of the Service Rendered During the Recent World War by the Ninth Coast Artillery Corps, New York Guard and the Veteran Corps of Artillery, State of New York. 1922. Internet Archive.
[102nd Regiment, part of Yankee Division]
“Smashing Through the World War with Fighting BATTERY C,” 102d F.A..
“Our Miracle Battery,” by Private George Mozley. BATTERY F, 102nd F.A.
COASTAL ARTILLERY/National Guard History – Journal of the United States Artillery, January 1922 (general history with details for Washington (state), Rhode Island, Florida, Oregon, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Arkansas,
*Hospitals, Medical Detachments,
History of Base Hospital No. 55 – at Genealogy.com
Medals awarded to Nurses during WWI – from “The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review” of 1919.
*Awards and Medals*
Heroes all! A compendium of the names and official citations of the soldiers and citizens of the United States and of her allies who were decorated by the American government for exceptional heroism and conspicuous service above and beyond the call of duty in the war with Germany, 1917-1919, by Harry R. Stringer, 1919. Internet Archive. Searchable.
Decorations, Medal, Ribbons and Badges of the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard 1861-1948
American decorations : a list of awards of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished-Service Cross and the Distinguished-Service Medal awarded under authority of the Congress of the United States, 1862-1926
Congressional medal of honor by United States. Adjutant-General’s Office, 1920
Navy Cross Recipients, WWI – from USN. Gives full name (first, middle initial, last) and rank. Does not provide their residence or other data. Spreadsheet.
YMCA WWI Burials in France – Second Division Web site
*The Camps and Cantonments*
A list of National Army Catonments – Swarthmore College Peace Collection
—CAMP DEVENS, Harvard/Ayer MA—
Forging the Sword, the Story of Camp Devens, by William J. Robinson 1920
Camp Devens, Described and Photographed by Major Roger Merrill, 1918
1917 Camp Devens (postcards and descriptions)
—CAMP/FORT JACKSON, South Carolina—
The Birth of Camp Jackson
—CAMP LEWIS, Tacoma Washington—
America’s largest cantonment [The Order of the Red Triangle – YMCA] CAMP LEWIS, by John Lyman Bogue, 1919, Internet Archive
—U.S. Army Life in the CATONMENT—
Series of Postcards (1918) showing training camp experiences.
The cantonment manual, or, Facts for every soldier, by
Walter G. Kilner, Andrew J. MacElroy. 1918. Internet Archive
*Helpful Reference Info
World War I Abbreviations Quick List – Searchroots Blog
World War I AWARDS/MEDALS Abbreviations – Searchroots Blog
“The A.E.F., Who They Were, What They Did, How They Did It,” by Willis R. Skinman.
Exhibition of War Portraits, Signing of the Peace Treaty in 1919.
*Magazines on WWI*
(includes copyright free graphics)
The American Magazine, July – December 1918 – Hathi Trust, searchable.
American Legion Weekly – published by the American Legion. A good source of information but must be searched individually by publication date. Also an excellent source of copyright free photographs and graphics for WWI stories.
The Atlantic – article, on 100 Years Ago. Fantastic photographs of WW1.
*School Yearbooks, WWI Era*
(New England focused )
*–Boston College, Chestnut Hill MA–*
Boston College in the World War, 1917-1918, Internet Archive
*–Brown University, Providence, RI–*
Brown University in the Great War – HathiTrust
*–Dartmouth College, Hanover NH–*
War Record of Dartmouth College, 1917-1918, Internet Archive
– Class of 1913 and 1920 – Hathi Trust, searchable
*–Phillips Academy (Andover MA) In the Great War–* Internet Archive
*–The Public Latin School of Boston–*
in the World War (1914-1918) A Roll of Honor, 1925.
*–Pennsylvania State College–*
Penn State in the World War
*–Rhode Island State College–*
That These dead shall not have died in vain, R.I. State College”
*–Tufts College, Massachusetts–*
Alumni Local and Abroad, to April 1918
*–United States Corps of Cadets–*
The Howitzer Yearbook (Assorted years)
| 1904 | 1905 | 1909 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913 | 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1917-1918 | 1919 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923 | 1924 | 1925 | 1927 | 1931 |
*–University of Maine–*
The University of Maine and the War, The Maine Bulletin.
*–University of NH (UNH) was called New Hampshire College during WWI–*
Various years including both pre, during and post WWI – UNH Digital Collection
*STATE or AREA resources
NOT New England*
— Service Records: Connecticut Men and Women in the ArmedForces of the United States during the World War 1917-1920 — PART I | Part II | Part III
— Report of War Work, Daughters of the American Revolution, CT, During the Great War.
East Windsor CT, Welcome Home Celebration, August 1919
“Illinois in the World War, Illustrated History of the 33rd Division” Part II
“Livingston County IL in the World War,” by Winnie Sparks
Report of the Adjutant General (of Maine), 1917-1919
“Michigan in the world war : military and naval honors of Michigan men and women“/ compiled by Charles H. Landrum ; edited by George N. Fuller.
New York World War I Units – comprehensive including lists of deaths.
“The 71st New York in the World War” by Robert Stewart Sutliffe [This became the 104th Infantry Regiment, 53rd Brigade] 1914-1918
“The War Record of the Town of Islip, Long Island, New York, 1917-1918,”
–Cuyahoga County, NY–
“Roster of Cuyahoga county soldiers, sailors and marines wounded in action, killed in action, died of wounds [or] gassed. : World war 1914-18” / A project sponsored by the city of Cleveland Department of public welfare, Mr. Fred Ramsey, director.
“Virginia Polytechnic Institute in the World War;” 1927
An Honor roll containing a pictorial record of the loyal and patriotic men from Whitman County, Washington, U.S.A., who served in the world war, 1917-1918-1919 – Internet Archive
“World War I Military Portraits and Documents,” Milwaukee Wisconsin Public Library.
**GENERAL HISTORY RESOURCES**
Book: America’s Part in the World War, by Richard J. Beamish, 1919.
Book: A Syllabus of World War One, for use in high schools in the City of New York; 1918.
**STORIES AND ANECDOTES**
“Blown in by the draft : camp yarns collected at one of the great National army cantonments by an amateur war correspondent,” by Frazier Hunt 1918. Internet Archive
**AUDIO-VISUAL (Videos, Sound Tracks, Photographs**
World War I in Color (a VIDEO Documentary of the War with amazing recolored still photographs). Internet Archive.
Catalog of the LORENZ COLLECTION of WORLD WAR AUTOGRAPHS (with biographies and photographs) by William Albert Lorenz 1918-1921. Internet Archive
SOUND RECORDING: When the Guns Fell Silent At the End of WWI
**GENERAL RESEARCH RESOURCES**
The Internet Archive – Searchable. Choose “search text contents” radio button to broaden your search within all books and sources.
The HathiTrust Digital Library – Searchable (for names, battalions, battles, etc.)