A young, trim farmer with four or more children: According to a new study, that’s the ideal profile for American men hoping to reach 100 years of age. The research, based largely on data from World War I draft cards, suggests that keeping off excess weight in youth, farming and fathering a large number of offspring all help men live past a century.
The article mentions that this research was “spurred by the fact that a treasure trove of information about 20th-century American males has now been put online”. The study was based out of the University of Chicago’s Center on Aging . The paper, New Findings on Human Longevity Predictors , includes the following reference:
Banks, R. (2000). World War I Civilian Draft Registrations. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, Ancestry.com.
With an account on Ancestry.com, you too could examine the online database of World War I Draft Registration Cards . This Ancestry.com page notes the source of the original data as:
United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls
NARA’s page for the World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, M1509  includes similar background information to what can be found on the Ancestry.com page, but of course – no access to the actual records.
It is frustrating to a study based on archival records that is making the news, but that does not make it clear to the reader that archival records were the source for the research. As I discussed at length in my post Epidemiological Research and Archival Records: Source of Records Used for Research Fails to Make the News , I feel that it is very important to take every opportunity to help the general public understand how archival records are supporting research that impacts our understanding of the world around us. I appreciate that partnering with 3rd parties to get government records digitized is often the only option – but I want people to be clear about why those records still exist in the first place.
Photo Credit: US. National Archives , World War I Photographs, 1918. Army photographs. Battle of St. Mihiel-American Engineers returning from the front; tank going over the top; group photo of the 129th Machine gun Battalion, 35th Division before leaving for the front; views of headquarters of the 89th Division next to destroyed bridge; Company E, 314th Engineers, 89th Division, and making rolling barbed wire entanglements. NAIL Control Number: NRE-75-HAS(PHO)-65
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