Discover Your World War II Ancestors

Records and Resources for Researching WWII Veterans and Volunteers

More than 100 million soldiers -- including 16 million Americans -- fought in World War II, making it likely that most Americans have at least one relative who served. Over 35 million WWII draft registration records mean you can also learn more about men who weren't ever called to service. 

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World War II Draft Registration Cards

WWII draft registration card for James Luther Owens, Pitt County, North Carolina
The National Archives at Atlanta

All males in the United States between the ages of 18 and 65 were required by law to register for the draft during the period 1941-1943, making WWII draft records a rich source of information on millions of American males born between about 1876 and 1925 -- both those who were called up for service, and those who weren't. 

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Military Abbreviations Found on U.S. Grave Markers

Audie Murphy Grave
Photo by Kelly Nigro / Getty Images

A search for information on WWII military ancestors may sometimes begin with little known about the service beyond an inscription on the individual's tombstone. Military graves are often inscribed with abbreviations that denote the unit of service, ranks, medals, or other information on the military veteran. Many may also be marked with bronze or stone plaques provided by the Veterans Administration. This list includes some of the most common abbreviations.

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American Red Cross Nurse Files, 1916–1959

A group of nurses aboard the S.S. Red Cross on 12 September 1914, one of the first units of American Red Cross nurses to sail from New York for service in Europe during World War One. Getty / Kean Collection

If your relative served in the American Red Cross during World War II, has a great online database of Red Cross nurse employment files which contain personal information on individuals (mostly women) who served as nurses in the Red Cross between 1916 and 1959. ​(Subscription required.)

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American Battle Monuments Commission

The Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France. Getty Images News / Peter Macdiarmid

Of the 419,400 Americans who lost their lives during World War II, 93,220 are interred at overseas American military cemeteries maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC), and 78,991 are commemorated on their Tablets of the Missing as missing in action, lost or buried at sea. Search by name or browse by cemetery. The ABMC also maintains cemeteries for veterans of WWI, Korea, Vietnam and other conflicts.

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Were You or Your Relatives Exposed to Mustard Gas?

Gas Protection
A Hudson / Getty Images

NPR has compiled the first public database of American veterans who were secretly exposed to mustard gas in military experiments conducted during World War II. Research has uncovered 3,900 individuals to date and is still ongoing.

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U.S. Marine Corps Muster Rolls, 1798–1958

Partial muster roll from the Marine Barracks at Parris Island, South Carolina, September 1917. National Archives & Records Administration

Subscription-based website offers this searchable index and images of U.S. Marine Corps muster rolls from 1798-1958, which includes the World War II years. Information recorded includes name, rank, enlistment date, muster date, and station, plus remarks including promotions, individuals absent or deceased, and date of last payment. Subscription required.

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Historical Newspapers

Sailors Reading the Papers
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Search local papers for news of war efforts on the home front, plus stories of big battles, casualty lists, and news items on local boys home on furlough or taken prisoner of war. Try using a variety of search terms such as "World War Two," "World War II," and WWII. Restricting your search to the dates of the war will help further focus your search.

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Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls


This searchable database includes more than 1.7 million records of personnel assigned to ships based at Pearl Harbor for the years 1939-1947, as well as reports of changes for sailors transferred to other ships or locations, and those missing or dead.

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Service Personnel Not Recovered Following WWII

Missing in Action monument at the American Military Cemetery, Hamm, Luxembourg City, Europe
Jon Boyes / Getty Images

The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency maintains these reports, organized by state and/or service, of over 73,000 American WWII service members who are still unaccounted for.

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Fold3: World War II Documents and Records


Subscription-based military genealogy site Fold3 has a large collection of records and photographs relating to World War II, including Submarine Patrol Reports, Missing Air Crew Reports, Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls, Naval Press Clippings, WWII Draft Registration Cards, Army and Navy JAG Files, WWII War Diaries, Navy Cruise Books, a Holocaust collection, and more.

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The National WWII Museum in New Orleans

The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum "tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world -- why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today -- so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn."

The National WWII Museum often makes lists of top museums in the country, providing many unique ways to experience World War II -- from industrial efforts on the home front to the combat experience of the American soldier abroad.