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What is the 1939 Register?

At the outbreak of World War II, the government urgently needed to know everything it could about the civil population of England and Wales. This information would be key in the issuing of identity cards and ration books as well as organising conscription and, after the war, creating the N.H.S.

To gather this information, they took a National Register. On September 29th, 1939, the personal details – including names, dates of birth, occupations, marital statuses - of 41 million individuals were recorded.

This release is the result of over a year’s work carried out by a team of hundreds who – in association with The National Archives – have conserved, scanned, transcribed and digitised over 1.2 million pages from 7,000 volumes, comprising the most significant record release of the decade, and one of the most important documents in modern British history. To put the scale of the work into context, were you to stack the books on top of each other, they would be 227m high, over double the height of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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