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Annual update of the UK's 1939 Register at Findmypast

Findmypast announced on Christmas Day that the latest batch of 69,000 redacted records on the 1939 Register of England and Wales has been unlocked. Click here to go to direct to the correct landing page to search the records. #Sponsored

1939 Register label

What is the 1939 Register?

Immediately after the outbreak of World War 2 in September 1939, the British Government undertook the National Register - a type of census in which they recorded details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The purpose of the Register was to document the population in order to administer conscription, issue identity documents and, among other things, organise ration cards.

According to the UK National Archives, enumerators visited every household in the country to document people living there and issued their identity cards on the spot. Information collected from each person and recorded on the enumeration forms includes:

  • Name;

  • Date of birth;

  • Sex;

  • Marital status;

  • Address;

  • Occupation;

  • Additional information where relevant.

Additional information on individuals could include membership of the ARP (Air Raid Precautions) or other volunteer organisations which formed an important part of civil defence on the home front.

Picture of the 1939 Register from
Sample of the 1939 Register from Findmypast

Who is and is not on the 1939 Register?

The 1939 Register contains the civil population of England and Wales. Members of the armed forces at the time were recorded by the relevant military organisation. Keep in mind though that in September 1939 conscription was not yet in full swing so you should find most people in the Register. The 1939 Registers for Scotland form part of the National Records of Scotland, and the registers for Northern Ireland are held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Why are some records redacted in the Register?

Individuals' details are redacted from the Register for 100 years after their birth or for people who are still alive. The records are redacted to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families. The next batch of closed records are unlocked annually.

Where do I find the 1939 Register?

The 1939 Register for England and Wales can be viewed at the UK National Archives in Kew (which is currently closed due to Covid-19). However, images of the Register are available online at Findmypast. A general search for individuals will return their entry in the database or click here for Findmypast's dedicated search form. It is also possible to search by address rather than by an individual's name.

A Findmypast graphic titled A box of Christmas crackers.
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Findmypast's release of the newly redacted records on Christmas Day was an unexpected surprise. If the 1939 Register is not already in your British family history tool kit then, in my opinion, it should be and you are in for a treat if you had family living there at the outbreak of World War 2.

How did you go?

What did you think of the 1939 Register? Did you find anyone in the newly redacted records? If so, do let me know in the comments box at the bottom of the screen.

In the meantime, happy ancestor hunting.


Your Family Genealogist

Pictures: From Findmypast


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