The 1921 census is the next one due to be released, but that isn’t scheduled till 2021. The 1931 Census was taken, but was destroyed in a fire. And the 1941 Census was never taken due to war going on … so the next one that was taken (and that survives) is the 1951. So the 1939 Register fills this gap nicely.
The 1939 Register was a one-off survey of the public. The war with Germany had just started and officials had little time to lose in preparing for the fighting and privations to come. So on 29 September 1939, just 26 days after hostilites had been declared, a survey nicknamed the UK’s only “instant census” took place. 65,000 enumerators were employed to visit every house in England and Wales to take stock of the civil population.
The findings enabled the issuing of identity cards and ration cards, plan mass evacuations and co-ordinate other war-time provisions - and the register applied to ALL citizens. In the longer term, the 1939 Register would go on to play a central role in the establishment of post-war services like the NHS.
The details the 1939 Register requested were:
– Address (at the time off filling in the form)
– Marital status
– Membership of navel, military or air force reserves, auxiliary forces or civil defence services or reserves.
It is these individual returns for England and Wales that have been digitised by Findmypast and made available on their database. There are 7,000 volumes, which totals about 41 million records.
As well as the original record image, Find my Past has also added maps, facts and figures and photos of the time to further increase the value of this resource. You will be able to see who lived in the household – although some records are closed due to being younger than 100 years old and still alive. You can choose to unlock these records to access additional information.
Interactive maps show how a neighbourhood has changed over the past 130 years Local and national newspaper articles from 1939, give an insight into the world at this time. Photographs document life in 1930s and 1940s England and Wales. Facts and figures compare average ages, occupations and popular names compared to the rest of the country.
For more about these significant records, read the BBC’s article about the Register.