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World War I Alien Registrations

By David Dreyer

The Sacramento German Genealogy Society publication Der Blumenbaum reported in 1997 that the New York Herald in 1917 published a list, in book form, of more than 28,000 "German enemy aliens". These apparently were compiled from a "NY City military census" and gave only name and street address.

All states were required to do this registration, but records were later destroyed. These lists give full names, date of birth, place of birth and locality of registration.

Copies of the "enemy alien registration were recorded in triplicate. One copy went to the Justice Department at Washington DC, one copy went to the respective State Capital and the third was retained by the local authorities -- the sheriff or postmaster.

The National Archives also has another file of documents which tracked the movements of registered individuals from one location to another.

Summary from the Wauwatosa (Wisconsin) News, 25 January 1918; All German aliens were given 5 days to register, 4 February - 8 February 1918. Registration occurred at Police stations or in small towns at the Post Office. Failure to do so will result in internment and possible deportation. Filing first citizenship papers is not sufficient grounds for not registering.
Some of the data collected in the registration follows:

1. Full set of fingerprints
2. Photograph
3. Name and physical description
4. Name of vessel of emigration
5. Date of immigration
6. Parents names, birth dates and places
7. Place of origin of the immigrant
8. Wife's name and residence
9. Children's names, sex, years of birth
10. Whether had any male relatives in arms for or against the US
11. Whether registered for selective draft
12. Account of all previous military/navel government service 
13. Whether applied for naturalization or took out first papers; if yes. when and where.
14. Whether had naturalization in another country
15. Whether had taken an oath of allegiance other than to the US
16. Whether reported to or registered with a consul since 1 Jun 1914
17. Whether had ever been arrested or detained on any charge
18. Whether had permit to enter a forbidden area
19. Signature

From all of the above it is apparent that these registration records constitute a potential resource for family history work. There appears from the above to be some confusion whether just Germans had to register or if all enemy aliens had to register.