Why is the 1939 National Register important for British research?

FindMyPast in partnership with the National Archives will be publishing the 1939 National Register on 2 November 2015!  This is great news for British researchers.  This is not a census so why the fuss?

  1. The Census Act of 1920 provides that no UK census can be made available for the public to view until 100 years after being taken.  The 1911 Census is the most recent census that is available and we don’t expect to see the 1921 Census until 2022 or so – wouldn’t it be nice if it were early?
  2. The 1931 Census of England and Wales was completely destroyed by a fair in 1942 – there was no connection between the fire and the war and it remains a mystery what caused the fire.  Remember the saying about not keeping all your eggs in one basket?  Good news for Scottish researchers is that their census was not in the same building! Bad news for Scottish and Northern Ireland researchers – their registration cards are not apparently in this release.
  3. There was no census taken in 1941 because of the war – so that means no census in 1931 and 1941.

The 1939 Register will help us bridge the gap.  Why did they take the register?  3 reasons:  identity cards,  ration cards,  and eligibility for military service.  The information was gathered on 29 Sept 1939 – just after the start of World War 2.

Details recorded for each person were:

  • Residence
  • Name
  • Sex
  • Date of birth
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • If member of armed forces or reserves

The declaration of date of birth is particularly interesting and might save the purchase of some birth certificates.  There are over 40 million names in the register.

For more information go to:


http://www.1911census.org.uk/1939.htm – you can even see a sample of the registration form

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