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  • Writer's pictureDebra M. Dudek

Great War Burial Cards for American Soldiers Digitized by the National Archives

In my lecture 'World War I Genealogy - Where Do I Start?', I cover a combination of digital and archival resources. While a majority of the resources discussed in the presentation are for individuals who served and returned home, I also provide information for Gold Star veterans and their families.

The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis houses a comprehensive collection of World War I Burial Files, a detailed account of which is available from their website.

One collection I recently stumbled upon is the Card Register of Burials of Deceased American Soldiers, 1917 - 1922, with all the items in this collection available digitally on the National Archives Catalog. I used this record set yesterday for an individual who contacted me requesting help verifying a cause of death for a veteran ancestor.

The collection is sorted alphabetically in 104 batches by last name. This collection is not searchable in a traditional sense. The best way to access the collection is to scroll through the alphabetical batches, select your veteran's name group, and use the grid preview to gage his/her placement in the collection. Depending on how your veteran's surname is placed in each batch, you may need to select 'Load More' or 'Load All' at the bottom of the preview grid.

Each item allows users to zoom in/out, create a full screen version, and download a copy of the burial card. I recommend saving the link to each burial card and using a source citation to ensure you or another researcher will have the ability to access this information quickly and easily in the future.

What makes these burial cards so unique?

Military Burial Cards are a great way to collect a lot of details and information in compact and easy to read format. This record set provides essential data you can use to request a Burial Case File from the National Personnel Records Center while adding crucial details to vital records or a wartime narrative.

Each card should provide the following:

Front of Card

  • Burial Card File Number

  • Name and Rank

  • Military Serial Number

  • Cablegram Number

  • Unit/Regiment Information

  • Cause of Death

  • Authority File Numbers

  • Date and Place of Burial

  • Cemetery name, Plot, and Grave Number

  • Next-of-Kin Information

  • Remarks

Military Burial Cards are actually two sided. When looking at any record, always look at BOTH sides of the document, as well as any scribbled notes and information added at a later date.

Back of Card

  • Disinterment Date

  • Shipment Ports

  • Ship Name and Shipment Dates

  • Final Destination and Receiver

  • Remarks

What Do I Do Next?

The National Archives blog posted a great account of the Burial Cards digitization project as well as the corresponding records in their collections which can be requested to expand your research. As the National Archives is currently closed, it is unknown when each facility will begin fielding requests.

In the meantime, I recommend pairing the information you collected with each burial card with other resources you can find online right now:

  • U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 (Ancestry & Fold3)

  • U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans, 1925-1970 (Ancestry)

  • U.S., Veterans' Gravesites, ca.1775-2019 (Ancestry)

  • Veterans Administration Master Index Cards (FamilySearch)

  • Soldiers of the Great War (Volumes 1-3) by Frank G. Howe and Alfred C. Doyle (Internet Archive & Google Books)

  • World War Honor Books by County, City, and State (Internet Archive, Hathi Trust & Google Books)

You can also request a free PDF copy of The World War I Genealogy Research Guide available on the World War One Centennial Commission website. Complete the online form, and a digital copy of the book will be delivered to your e-mail inbox.

I am also planning a series of free World War I Genealogy webinars for early 2021 which will be livestreamed through Facebook. My session will include updates to resources listed in the guide, as well as a special session on women's military and patriotic service. I will also show you how to find the hidden suffragist ancestors in Great War records. Drop me a line if you are interested in attending. More details as they develop!

Wishing you and your family good health as we approach the holiday season!


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