Quick Tip: Navigating World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942


This could also be filed under: When in Doubt, Read the Instructions.

While I don’t use them all that much, I’ve always found the World War II Draft Registration Cards (freely accessible on FamilySearch or through a subscription on Ancestry) to be an interesting collection. They come from the “Old Man’s Draft” — that is, the registration of American men who were between 45 and 64-years old in 1942.

The cards are microfilmed so that a front and a back appear in one image. One side includes information like place of residence, place of birth, and name of employer, while the other offers physical descriptions of the registrants. In the past, I’d noticed that the data didn’t quite seem to match between the fronts and backs, but my research had always been so casual that I didn’t think to investigate the inconsistencies.

Recently, I happened to notice that the database had been updated on Ancestry. While scrolling down through its “About” section, I found this information on the images for Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia:

These four states were microfilmed at the National Archives in such a way that the back of one person’s draft card appears in the same image as the front of the next individual’s card. Thus, when viewing the scanned image of each person’s original draft card you will see the correct front side of each person’s draft card, but the back side of the previous person’s card.

Thus, the reason why the description of my great-grandfather didn’t sound right was because I was looking at the back of the wrong card. I should have clicked forward one image. Whoops.

The gist of this not-so-quick Quick Tip: Read any notes attached to the databases you’re using. Ask more experienced researchers about the quirks of certain collections. If something doesn’t seem quite right, do what you do best and investigate!


Book of the Month: Heroes All


This month I’ve chosen to feature Heroes All, a yearbook-style publication that contains photos and profiles of local men and women who served in World War II. While the book only encompasses North Union Township, South Union Township, and Uniontown, it’s still a valuable resource for genealogists and WWII buffs alike.

Heroes AllThe typical profile in Heroes All mentions the names of the military member’s parents, date of enlistment, place of assignment, rank, and service status at the time of publication. Often, they include the place where the military member was serving overseas and note whether they were wounded or killed. The typical format is as follows:


Son of Mr. and Mrs. William S. Porch of North Union Twp., Pa. Entered service May 25, 1945, assigned to Sampson, N.Y. with the Navy. Still in service.


Son of Mr. and Mrs. John Leckman of Lemont Furnace, Pa. Entered service December 3, 1941, assigned to Ft. Bragg N.C. Embarked for England with the Batry. B. 263 F.A. Bn. August 7, 1944. Killed in action December 28, 1944, in Europe.

Be aware that Heroes All was issued in two volumes — one that encompasses North Union, and another than covers South Union and Uniontown. Happily there is an index at the back to help you find your way — though if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself reading on.


Heroes All: North Union Township. Latrobe, PA: Walter Printing Co.

This Week In History: The Death of a Fayette County Soldier, 1862


This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine the February 27, 1862 edition of the Genius of Liberty.

Soldier Letter

Morris’ letter to the Deyarmans.

On a February evening in Cumberland, MD, Captain James Morris of the 7th Virginia Regiment sat down to pen a difficult letter.

“It becomes my painful duty to inform you, that your Son, John Deyarman, departed this life in the Hospital in this place, about twenty minutes since, of Typhoid Fever,” he wrote. “He was sick but a short time . . . I never learned until last night after dark, that he was bad or dangerous, and then I took the first train, and came up to see him, and found him dying.”

By the time they received the letter, the Deyarmans’ son — who Morris said was “always at his post and willing to do his duty” — would already be “decently interred.” The captain promised to have the grave marked so that the family could remove the remains if they pleased, but today, Private Deyarman still rests in Antietam National Cemetery.

“Although he did not died on the field of battle,” Captain Morris said in closing, “we consider him none the less brave.”

The letter printed in the Genius of Liberty, while personal in nature, likely felt all-too-familiar in many Fayette County households. Nearly a year into the Civil War, the bulk of the writing in the local newspaper related to the war effort and the public’s conflicting opinions of the country’s future.

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This Week in History: Prewar Prosperity in 1915


This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine a story from the January 28, 1915 edition of the Morning Herald.

In January of 1915, the U.S. was just emerging from a two-year recession. It was in this economic climate that the The Morning Herald made a joyful announcement: The H.C. Frick Company had called for a thousand more coke ovens to be fired (or put into operation) across the region, and ordered them to run five days a week.

List of Coke Ovens Fired

A list of the coke ovens fired, by plant name. The Morning Herald, Jan. 28, 1915.

In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, “coke” is a silvery, porous fuel derived from coal that is used in iron and steel-making. It was once produced in “beehive ovens,” which got their name from their domed, hive-like shape and remain a part of the landscape in Fayette County to this day. Coke production was linked directly to mining; in fact, most coal operations around these parts had beehive ovens on-site. A single operation might have hundreds of these ovens or only a few, as in the case of the Daugherty Mine & Coke Works (or “Big Six,” for its six ovens).

The firing of a thousand ovens was a development that, by the Herald’s estimation, would provide jobs for hundreds of otherwise idle coke workers:

“The news is the most joyful that has reached this district in many months, not only to the coke worker, but to the united population as well. It means that every business of the district will benefit and it is predicted that before spring is very far advanced Fayette Countians will have forgotten the present business depression.”

A major factor in the rising demand for coke was a five-percent raise in freight rates that was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission. This, in turn, encouraged an uptick in train traffic, and the railroads began to request more “steel rails, steel cars, and other . . . steel accessories.” With its close ties to the steel industry, the H.C. Frick Company doubtlessly anticipated the growing demand within the U.S.

There was another factor that contributed to the coke boom, however: “millions of dollars worth of orders from foreign countries.”

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