The pilots African American Officers Riveters Mule Rearing gas masks doughboys with mules African American Soldiers 1 pilots in dress uniforms

Documenting Doughboys

Coast Guard Enlistments April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918

USCG WW1 Recruiting Poster

By Constance Potter

"It is well to consider the advantages of a coast guard from a strictly military standpoint."-- Representative William C. Adamson of Georgia, 1915

Among the records of the Coast Guard (Records of the United States Coast Guard [USCG], Record Group 26) are two files that list men were in the Coast Guard from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918. Both lists are in entry 82A, General Correspondence, 1910-41, Correspondence, 1910-35, 701. Compliments. One list is by state and the other alphabetically by the first letter of the last name.

The State-by-State Lists

The state list, the more complete of the two, lists the men by name only. It lists the men by the state of their home address (which may be found on the alphabetical list), not the state from which they enlisted. The names are in general alphabetical order by the first letter of the last name. There appear to be no enlistments from Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, or the territories of Alaska or Hawaii.USCG records state by state list

Read more: Coast Guard Enlistments April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918

Marine Corps Muster Rolls tell stories of service

By Constance Potter

"The deadliest weapon in the world is a Marine and his rifle."-- General John Pershing, U.S. Army

Private Kelly receives Medal of HonorPrivate John J Kelly, USMC, receiving the Medal of Honor from General Pershing, Commander, American Expeditionary Forces. Although the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, did not destroy Marine Corps records, knowing the date of enlistment can help when requesting copies of the records from the National Archives at St. Louis. Marine Corps muster rolls for World War I, part of the Records of the United States Marine Corps (Record Group 127) held by the National Archives and Records Administration, give the date of enlistment. Copies of the muster rolls are available at Ancestry.com (1). Scanned from microfilm, not the original records, some pages may be fuzzy.

A muster roll, taken every month or two, lists who is present or absent on the date of the muster. The records are organized by year, month, and then by duty station. The muster is then organized by rank and name of the Marine in alphabetical order. For each Marine, the muster roll also gives the date of enlistment or reenlistment and there may also be notes in the comments column. This column may show why the Marine is absent including whether sick or in the hospital, date of transfer to or from another duty station including detached service, and when and where the person mustered out of the Marine Corps. The comments column also lists promotions and demotions.

Read more: Marine Corps Muster Rolls

Researching at the National Archives

By Constance Potter

"There is properly no history, only biography." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

NARA researchers 500Researchers at NARA in Washington, DC.One of the best places to start your research into records relating to service in World War I is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which holds the permanently valuable records of the Federal government. Many people rely solely on subscription-based websites such as Ancestry.com and Fold3, and free websites such as Family Search. While these websites provide access to useful records such as Federal census records, passenger arrival records, and many records relating to wars from the American Revolution to World War I, not all Federal, state, and local records have been digitized.

NARA seattle mNARA facility in Seattle, WA.Conducting research at a large national institution such as NARA can seem daunting. The National Archives, with headquarters in the Washington D.C. area, has facilities across the country.NARA DCNARA in Washington, DC

The National Archives in Washington, DC, holds census, immigration, public land, and Bureau of Indian Affairs records plus Army records from the American Revolution and up to approximately 1912, and Navy records up to December 1941.

Read more: Researching at the National Archives

The 1973 Fire at NPRC St. Louis and WWI Service Records

By Constance Potter

"In terms of size and impact--the number of records destroyed and the number of persons affected--none of the earlier fires equaled the disaster of July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center." -- Walter W. Stender and Evans Walker, writing in The American Archivist, Volume 37, Number 4

220px NARAfireOn July 12, 1973, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO, suffered a massive fire that destroyed approximately 16-18 million official military personnel records, one-third of the records. Among the records destroyed were 80% of U.S. Army personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960, which includes those for World War I.

Read more: A Fire in St. Louis in 1973

Getting started with WWI genealogical research

By Constance Potter

"Retreat? Hell, we just got here!" -- U.S. Marine Captain Lloyd W. Williams at Lucy-le-Bocage on June 1, 1918.

WWI diaryResearching the military service of your family members in World War I can appear to be a daunting challenge at first.  In 1973 a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO, destroyed most of the Army service records for the years that included service in World War I. Despite the destruction of those records, there are alternative records that can provide information about service during the Great War. Many of these records are held at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

This is the first of a series of articles that will describe many of those records and help you find the information you want on your World War I service member.

But just as soldiers go to training before they go to fight, your search for records will be more skillful and efficient if you do some basic things before marching off to start your search.

Read more: Genealogy Column: Getting Started Documenting Your Doughboy

About Family Ties Button

Stories of Service Button 250


submitservice revise

Family Webinar 250

submitservice revise

Documenting Doughboys 260

donateartifact revise


genealogicalresources revise



Navy Log Button 250

"Pershing" Donors

$5 Million +

Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo

Starr Foundation Logo

The Lilly Endowment