Friday, April 13, 2012

Darned Armie Cannon

Records say the darnedest things

We depend upon records to reveal the “truth” about our pasts.

Yet sometimes records have anomalies. Some are amusing or humorous. Some are interesting or weird. Some are peculiar or suspicious. Some are infuriating, even downright laughable.

Yes, Records say the Darnedest Things.”

Records Say the Darnedest Things: Darned Armie Cannon

Several years ago I read about Judy K. Wilson’s discovery that her Springfield family included a man in Alabama named Army Cannon Springfield.1 A search of FamilySearch shows that Armie Cannon Springfield died in 1962 at the age of 84 in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama. A little math shows he was qualified to participate in the 3rd draft registration during World War I. Did Armie Cannon register for military service?

Finding Armie Cannon’s registration card would be simple on It has an index to the World War I draft registration cards. Finding the card on makes a good exercise of finding a record in a collection without an index.

1. Start at

2. Down next to the world map click on All Record Collections.

3. In the search box, type some words from the title. (I typed “World War.”)

4. Click on the title (“United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918” in this case).

5. Click on “Browse through (some number) of images” (“Browse through 25,007,403 images” in this case).

6. Click on the first choice. In this record collection, the choice is the state, but that varies by record collection. Depending on the record collection, there may be a second choice. In this record collection, the choice is the local draft board. Since Armie Cannon died in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, I guessed one of the Birmingham City draft boards, “Birmingham City no 3; LaBoutie, John B.-Z.”

7. The result after all the browse choices is a set of images. Each image in the set is numbered. The images are usually organized alphabetically, chronologically, or in some other fashion. The cards in this set are alphabetical by surname and then given name.

For this illustration, the set of images are numbered 1 to 5,486 images for surnames LaBoutie to Z. Z indicates the end of the list, regardless of the actual surname.

8. Take a guess at the image number. Until you get a little experience, picking half way through is as good as any. There is an official name for guessing halfway between the bounds. It is called “binary search.” The guesses don’t have to be exact. For 5,486 images, half is about 2,500. Enter 2500 without a comma.

9. Image 2500 is Albert Marin Reid. Keep track of your guesses, keeping in mind whether your desired image is above or below each guess. Armie Cannon Springfield is between Reid (image 2500) and Z (image 5486).

1 – LaBoutie
2500 – Reid

5486 - Z

10. Guess about halfway between the bounds you’ve established. I subsequently guessed 4500 (Walker), 3500 (Smith), and 4000. (I don’t do math very well in my head.) After several more guesses I had the range narrowed to five.

1 – LaBoutie
2500 – Reid
3500 – Smith
3600 – Spencer

3610 – Spooner

3615 – Stanfield
3625 – Stanley
3650 – Steakley
3700 – Stevens
4000 – Thomas

4500 – Walker
5486 - Z

I looked through the five and didn’t find Springfield!

I had guessed the wrong draft board!

It happens. Get over it. There are eight more draft boards in Jefferson county. Using binary search, it doesn’t take long to check an entire draft board.

P.S. I eventually found Armie Cannon Springfield. Can you imagine his conversation with the draft board?

“State your given names.”

“Armie Cannon.”

“Right. Gimme a break…”

Not surprisingly, he was born on the 1st of April.


“Mom? Dad? Why did you name me Armie Cannon?”

“April Fools, son!”

Yes, records say the darnedest things.


     1. Judy K. Wilson, “Humor/Humour,” RootsWeb Review, 3 October 2007, e-newsletter ( : accessed 31 March 2012), section 6.)

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