In 1939, on the eve of World War II, the British government introduced an act that would allow them to gather vital information about the country’s population. This information would inform their decisions on identity cards, rationing, conscription and more, including – eventually – the formation of the NHS. In 2015, for the first time, Findmypast in partnership with The National Archives are publishing the 1939 Register online, providing an unprecedented insight into a country on the verge of war.
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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. Due to World War II, there is a 30 year gap between available censuses. This is significant, as it means a three decade-long gap between surviving censuses. The 1939 Register bridges that gap.
We're hard at work scanning and digitising the 7,000 volumes that contain the 40 million individual entries to the Register. To give you an insight into the journey one volume of the Register takes as it goes through the process of conservation, scanning and digitisation, we've made this video for you to enjoy.
Keep up to speed with all of the developments on the 1939 Register over on our blog, along with newspaper reports from the road to war, inventions of the 1930s, hit records of the day and more. Coming soon, you'll be able to discover the stories of those who were there at the time in their own words.