Today’s post comes from Kimberlee Ried, public programs specialist at the National Archives in Kansas City, MO.
After war was declared by Congress in April 1917, non-naturalized “enemy aliens” were required to register with the Department of Justice as a national security measure. A Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917, meant that “all natives, citizens, denizens or subjects of the German Empire” age 14 and older who were “within the United States” needed to register as “alien enemies.”
The National Archives at Kansas City has a collection of the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits for the state of Kansas. These documents are full of valuable information for researchers.
Alexander Walter was born May 18, 1828, in Hanover, Germany. He was also a Civil War veteran who lived in the National Military Home in Leavenworth, KS. He had to fill out this registration form in 1918—at the age of 90.
The registrations occurred from November 1917 to April 1918. Initially the registration included only men; the regulations stated, “females are not alien enemies.” However, an act of April 16, 1918, extended the definition of “enemy aliens” to include women age 14 and older. This was followed three days later by a Presidential proclamation that included women of American birth who were married to enemy aliens. (American-born women eventually had their citizenship reinstated in the 1920s.)
Each enemy alien was issued a registration card that he or she was required to carry at all times. An enemy alien also needed permission from the local registrar to travel or change place of residence. Registrants included children, divinity students, former United States soldiers and sailors, Roman Catholic nuns, the elderly, and the infirm. For the State of Kansas, the registered aliens represent a broad cross-section of the German-born population.
Registration affidavits note detailed personal information about each registrant, including name, date of birth, birthplace, physical description, full set of fingerprints, a photo and signature, occupation, and employer. The form also included names of family members, children’s names and birth dates, parents’ names and addresses, siblings’ names and addresses, names of those sympathetic to the enemy, and relatives serving in the enemy forces. Information about the registrant’s immigration is also recorded, including the vessel name and arrival dates.