Thursday, 12 November 2015

How useful have you found the 1939 Register ?

It's finally online!

Find My Past in association with The National Archives finally launched the long awaited 1939 Register on Monday 2nd November 2015. 
Probably the biggest announcement and dataset launch this year.

I am not going to explain what it is or how to use it as you can find everything you need in the links.

You can also out find how they brought the register online.

Find My Past also have a blog dedicated to the 1939 Register.

Audrey Collins of The National Archives explains more in this video.

Peter Calver of the Lost Cousins website has also put together a page with information.

So with all the information available how have the genealogy community responded.
On the launch day Chris Paton of the British GENES blog posted an initial review. With a further follow up on the following day.
Sunday saw some changes made to the search facility and another post. Yesterday he posted a link to a webpage with a tool you may find useful.

There has been much discussion about the price of accessing the scanned images and the Who Do You Think You Are Magazine website published a blog post  about this on the day of the launch.

So how have I found the register. I made a few comments on the day of the launch on Mondays with Myrt which were very much my initial reaction with barely 30 minutes of searching.

Even now I have not found those members of the family who I wanted to find. Is it poor transcription or were they missing for some other reason? I have searched with the exact date of birth but still not found them in the index.

So whilst there may be complaints about the cost I have as yet to make a purchase. I know that I will eventually decide to buy the household records for my direct family but it is not them who intrigue me, it is those who appeared as children on the 1911 census and were siblings of my ancestors. 
Those with common names can be difficult to find. I have found some WARDs in the town where I have been looking for some, without any forenames. In the same town I have found a couple who I believe to be my husband's gt grandmother and her husband but the surname was presumably unreadable as it is transcribed as ~???.

I am not sure that many individuals will be prepared to supply evidence of death to open a record as this is what Find My Past say about the proof needed "You will be required to scan and send a copy of a fully certified death certificate from General Register Office (GRO) or the equivalent Governing body if the death occurred in a country other than the UK. By certified copy, we mean the original certificate as registered and provided when the death occurred. This can be a copy as opposed to an original however it must contain the full registered details. If the criteria are not met, you may be requested to either re-submit or provide further evidence, such as a birth certificate."
How many researchers who already have a copy of a death certificate issued since 1991 are going to go to the trouble of asking for a record to be opened? 
Is it going to provide any great evidence for that individual given that they are likely to have known that person?

I'll carry on hunting for my missing relatives.
If anyone finds Ruth Ellen Gadsby born 1901 or Charles Reuben Gadsby born 1910, Please let me know. 

If you had family living in England or Wales in 1939 please give some feedback on any searches you have done.
Are you prepared to wait up to 24 years until all the entries will become available?


  1. My experiences are similar Hilary. It's a shame that access to such an important resource is hampered by obstacles such as cost, redacted entries, burden of proof (with expensive certificates) to undo redaction. I didn't "open" the ouseholds for my direct ancestors since I knew enough about them already, and I was more interested in researching certain "cousins" but that's where real research would be impractical; it's not designed to be used like that.

  2. Not happy so far - expected a much better deal for subscribers - so I am waiting until it is part of the subscription to go beyond the searching. Didn't want all the 'context' which is a justification for the cost - perfectly capable of finding it out for myself. Name searches so far 30% success rate. Address searches so far impossible - no road name in my rural area and a street with 600+ houses not in numerical order - not yet waded through the 25 pages

  3. I have heard today that The National Archives are holding a webinar.
    TUE, 24 NOV 2015 AT 17:00 GMT
    Webinar - Using the 1939 Register: Recording the UK population before the war
    useful if you cannot attend one of the live events

  4. Chris Paton has an update today on his blog

  5. Hi Hilary, I've had no success finding a great uncle who I know was living in the UK in 1939.... I'll keep searching!

  6. I was very keen to see the entry for my grandmother Alice Danson, nee English, of Poulton-le-Fylde, lancashire, as she is my major brick wall. I have her marriage & death certificate but have been unable to trace a birth certificate to find out the name of her mother. My own mother was very taciturn and vague as to Alice's background. I estimate she was born in 1884 and according to the marriage certificate, her father was Henry, a painter (deceased) - and that is all the concrete information I know..

    I could not find an entry in the 1939 Register for Alice Danson, but I had an exact address and found the family with the surname wrongly transcribed as Dawson. This same mistake occurred with the1911 census. I have yet to find the mechanism for reporting this Register. error. .

    The entry did give me confirmation (beyond family memories) of .date of birth which was helpful and like the 1911 census gave her place of birth as Bolton - but Bolton Registrar had no record of her birth. Census returns have also proved fruitless.

    So unfortunately I am no further forward. Any suggestions on where I turn to next will be greatly appreciated. .

    Family History Fun

  7. Hilary, you said " I know that I will eventually decide to buy the household records for my direct family but it is not them who intrigue me, it is those who appeared as children on the 1911 census and were siblings of my ancestors." In my case, my husband's direct family are all either deceased before 1939 or living in the US by that time. So I am searching for siblings of the direct ancestors and their children. Very few of them were known to me before I began my research, and the people whose records I would most like to have are often the ones I can't identify, because I don't know where they were in 1939. I don't have death certificates to get records unlocked because I don't know when they died -- one of the reasons the Register would have been useful is in sorting out which people were still living. At the moment I have about 10 households that are of interest where I'm pretty sure I've found 'my' people, five where my ID is iffy, and perhaps as many more where I'm not at all sure I have the household/person I want, or have too many search results to narrow down. Looking at the expense, I wonder if I wouldn't get better informational value from buying some of the wills and missing certificates from my 'wantlist' intstead. I wouldn't be surprised if other genealogists were in the same boat.

  8. I got a 'lucky dip' in the British Newspaper Archive that allowed me to find one of my 'missing' households. One of the Portsmouth papers had a silver wedding notice that gave the present address (1940) of the couple with a street address in the north of England. Once I unlocked the household, the open records had a head of household with a mother and wife whose names and ages were consistent with the family I was looking for -- but his year of birth (which I had estimated to be around 1895 from census records) was given as '92 and had been transcribed as '12. If I had searched on occupation, I might not have found him because the year of birth in the search results was so far off what I was expecting -- and without the newspaper article, I would have had no reason to connect these same-name families.


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