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They successfully converted 1, of the 1, rolls, or 87 percent of the rolls of microfilm. The remaining rolls containing approximately 1. In July , the Bureau of the Census provided NARA with 1, data files one per converted roll on twelve class tape cartridges. NPRC received copies of the files, and they worked with Center for Electronic Records staff to identify the relevant War Department Technical Manuals containing technical documentation for the punch cards. The unique characteristic of the files created by the Bureau of the Census was that FOSDIC read each punch card image up to 10 times in an attempt to create a clean record and extract all characters from the original punch card.

Usually, the first read would contain the majority of data extracted from the card image. If all data could not be extracted, subsequent reads of the card image would result in additional records containing periods for characters successfully read on previous reads and alphanumeric characters for those interpreted on the current read. Varying interpretations of the same character may have occurred across the multiple reads.

A blank record separates records or groups of records pertaining to an individual punch card image. Each file also contained a header record indicating the box and microfilm roll number and an end of file record. These features presented challenges to the NPRC because the alphanumeric data were spread over multiple records, making it hard to use and interpret.

The large number of files still presented a logistical problem for identifying and searching for individuals, especially given the computer technology of that time. Louis Data Systems Center created early edit programs in an attempt to merge best guesses into one record. Given the complexities of the files, however, and the limited ability to search and locate individual records, NARA undertook no additional processing of the electronic version of the "Microfilm Copy of the Army Serial Number File, — That is, until In that year, staff took another look at the languished project, primarily because of the newly developed Access to Archival Databases AAD resource.

They determined that to get the records ready for AAD, the project should be approached in two phases. The first phase involved "merging" the 1, files into 12 files, corresponding to the number of computer tape cartridges provided by the Bureau of the Census. The purpose was to reduce the number of files to a manageable number and allow for an overall evaluation of the scope, content, and quality of the electronic files. This first phase was completed in May and resulted in the series "Electronic Army Serial Number Raw Files, —," which contains 23,, records.

The objective of phase two was to get a single data file with a single "best guess" record for each serial number so that it could be made available through the AAD resource. First, the 12 files were merged again into a single file.

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When we collapsed the multiple records, we were able to collapse only the data appearing in the FOSDIC second read of the punch card into the first read. FOSDIC may have correctly interpreted any specific character correctly on the third or later reads of the punch card, but we were unable to apply a more complicated algorithm to the processing to provide a better "guess" than what appears in the resultant file. We therefore have retained the Electronic Army Serial Number Raw Files, should researchers wish to reprocess the raw data and create a better "best guess" file.

The program also matched the associated box and roll data to the end of each cleaned up record. It is important for users of the AAD file to understand how far removed the enlistment records are from the microfilm images of the original computer punch cards.

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Each successive processing stage invariably introduced the chance of errors. As with most archival records now used for genealogical research, the records were originally created for a very different purpose than identifying specific individuals. In the case of the enlistment cards, they were designed to reflect, at the time of entrance into service, basic characteristics of each enlistee in the Army, Enlisted Reserve Corps, and the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.

The Adjutant General's Office used the punch cards to prepare tables analyzing occurrence of the various characteristics among individuals, enlisted or inducted, and to provide information for policies of demobilization. Therefore, given that the original intent of the program was to prepare statistical tables, less attention may have been paid to the proper spelling of names and accurate keypunching of personal data fields. Most important, the many migrations of these records—from original recording on punch cards, to copying them to microfilm, to FOSDIC processing, to "merging" and "collapsing"—means that error could have been introduced at any phase.

The poor quality of the original microfilm caused most of the errors.


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  • The World War II Army Enlistment Records File and Access to Archival Databases.

Of the sample records examined, 35 percent of them were found to have a scanning error. However, only 4. While a large number of records had other errors, they were minor. For example, the term of enlistment column frequently has the value of "0" in the electronic file where no punch appears on the original card. The bulk of the records are for the period through About 4 percent of the records contain data originally recorded on Enlisted Reserve Corps Statistical cards, and the bulk of those records are from and In general, the records contain the serial number, name, state and county of residence, place of enlistment, date of enlistment, grade, Army branch, term of enlistment, longevity, nativity place of birth , year of birth, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, height and weight before , military occupational specialty and later , and component of the Army.

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As noted earlier, at the end of each "best guess" record appear the box and roll number of the microfilmed punch cards. To facilitate search and retrieval in the AAD resource, the file is split into two tables: a large file containing general Army enlistment records, including enlistees in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, and a second with records of enlistees in the reserve corps.

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Over time the enlistment card format changed, and the height and weight or military occupational specialty categories were recorded in the same columns on the original punch cards. Because there is no easy way to distinguish original data recorded on the two. The Frequently Asked Questions developed especially for the World War II Army Enlistment Records File also provide a number of helpful tips and hints about technical data characteristics of various fields.

Results will be returned from the Army serial number file and from all other series in AAD where appropriate. Alternatively, the user may go straight to the enlistment records by using the link under "Most Popular" or by choosing the categories for Military Personnel, World War II, or — The user next clicks on "search" to access either the Enlistment Records or the Reserve Corps Records.

This will bring up a page where the user may search these records. Using an individual's Army serial number may be the most efficient way to find a record. Type the serial number in the search box without hyphens, submit the search, and a summary of the record with that serial number will appear. Clicking the icon in the column titled "View Record" will display the full record, which will contain meanings for the coded data. To print a copy of any record, click "Print" at the top of the screen, and this will display the full record again in a format suitable for printing.

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