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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September 1939. Britain had just declared war on Germany and her allies, and the government urgently needed to take stock of the population, gathering as much information as possible in order to make plans for every aspect of the conflict, including mobilisation, identity cards and rationing. The document created – the 1939 Register – was a comprehensive look at the civil population of England and Wales, and would remain in use for the next 50 years.
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.
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.
We’re currently in the process of digitising all 7,000 volumes that contain the 40,000,000 entries that make up the 1939 Register. We'll be updating regularly on our blog and social media on how that process is going, so stay tuned!