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Q. My lawyer grandfather received a Certificate of Appreciation from President Roosevelt in 1943 “in grateful recognition of patriotic services rendered in aiding in the administration of the Selective Training and Service Act.” How did he earn this?
A. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 required American men age 21 to 36 to register for military service, and those whose names were drawn had to serve for a year. In 1941, Congress approved by one vote the president’s request to extend the term of service. After the United States entered World War II, a new act made men age 18 to 45 liable for military service, and men as old as 65 had to register.
Your grandfather could’ve participated in administering this legislation in many different ways, so dig through attics and closets, and quiz relatives for clues that may give you a starting point. Was he a lawyer for the government or for a firm? If the latter, perhaps his involvement with the act was through his employer. A relative might remember the firm, or you could check a city directory. The Baltimore Bar Association or the Maryland State Law Library may be helpful in learning more about your grandfather’s career. If he worked for the government, request his records from the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
If Grandpa was prominent enough to get an award from the president, maybe he made the news. Search newspaper databases within Google’s News Archive, GenealogyBank and NewsBank, available through many public libraries.
Selective Service System records are in National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) record group 147, which includes correspondence, official appointments, conscientious objector case files and more. The mostly paper records, some of which involve state draft boards, are in various NARA locations. Start with the administrative records at the Washington, DC, and College Park, Md., facilities. These records aren’t indexed, so study a finding aid (two are recommended on the Web page listed above) and enlist the help of an archivist. You also can hire a researcher; click here for details.
You can use the Archival Research Catalog People Search to see if your grandfather’s name appears in any National Archives catalog descriptions. (Note: Even if he’s not in the People Search, the records still might mention him.) You also may find information in the manuscripts at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum—submit a research question following the library’s online instructions.
Finally, a history of the Selective Service System may offer clues to your grandfather’s participation.
US government records about your ancestors go beyond just census records and passenger lists. Learn more about genealogical records in federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration, FBI and Department of the Interior in our digital download Research Strategies: Federal Agency Records, available at Family Tree Shop.