The 1939 Register – Why is It Important?

The Evacuation Scheme in Britain, 1939 D1939AI am very excited about the forthcoming release of the 1939 Register on FindMyPast.co.uk. This is going to be very useful for people tracing ancestors and relatives after the 1911 census – and not only that, future genealogists will find it indispensable to bridge the gap made by the lack of census records between 1921 and 1951.

The 1920 Freedom of Information Act made all census records unavailable for public viewing for 100 years after they were taken. At present, therefore the latest census we can view is the 1911 census. The 1921 census should become available in 2021 or 2022. All well and good, but the following decades have a problem. The 1931 census was taken, but due to bombing in World War II it was completely destroyed (which almost reduces me to tears – all that information….). Because of the war, the 1941 census was not taken. That means that there is a gap of three decades after 1921 before anyone will be able to see the 1951 census. OMG – I will be 98!

This is a tragic loss for all genealogists, whether professional or amateur. But thanks to the 1939 Government deciding to find out about the population at the start of the war, the 1939 Register was created. This meant that realistic plans could be made for the safety of the public during war time, such as evacuation, identity cards and rationing. The register was taken on September 29 1939, and contains information about around 40 million people.

The register is not a census and does not contain as much information as the usual census. From what I can gather it will not give place of birth or relationship to the Head of Household, so it will probably be similar to the information on the 1841 census, but that is a lot better than no census at all. It does give addresses, dates of birth, marital status and occupation. An extra bit of information will be whether each person was a member of the armed services.

The register is due to be released before the end of this year and you can go to the FindMyPast website to sign up and get an email when the register will be ready.

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