The following text is by courtesy of the FindMyPast Website
In December 1938 it was announced in the House of Commons that in the event of war, a National Register would be taken that listed the personal details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Register was to be a critical tool in coordinating the war effort at home. It would be used to issue identity cards, organise rationing and more. On September 1st, 1939 Germany invaded Poland, putting the wheels in motion for Britain to declare war on the 3rd. On September 5th, the National Registration Act received royal assent and Registrar General Sir Sylvanus Vivian announced that National Registration Day would be September 29th.
Having issued forms to more than 41 million people, the enumerators were charged with the task of visiting every household in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to collect the names, addresses, martial statuses and other key details of every civilian in the country, issuing identity cards on the spot. The identity cards issued were essential items from the point the Register was taken right up until 1952, when the legal requirement to carry them ceased. Until that point, every member of the civilian population had to be able to present their card upon request by an official (children’s cards were looked after by parents), or bring them to a police station within 48 hours. The reasons were numerous – it was essential to know who everyone was, of course, and to track their movements as they moved house, as well as to keep track of the population as babies were born and people passed away. The 1939 Register, then, represents one of the most important documents in 20th century Britain. The information it contains not only helped toward the war effort, it was also used in the founding of the NHS. In addition, the 1931 census was destroyed during an air raid on London and the 1941 census was never taken. The 1939 Register, released online by Findmypast in partnership with The National Archives, is therefore the only surviving overview of the civil population of England and Wales spanning the period 1921-1951. It bridges a census gap that risked losing an entire generation, and is a fascinating resource for anyone interested in understanding 20th century Britain and its people.
The 1939 Register is currently only available on the FindMyPast Website. In addition to a standard subscription to the site, it is necessary to pay an additional subscription to freely access the Register. However, with a standard subsciption it is possible to view 'Previews'. In view of this, I have chosen not to display Register images on the site other than a single sample for my own Parents. I have compiled a complete list of the images in my possession which can be down-loaded below.
The Register was recorded on a 2 page spread, the left-hand page containing the basic information, the right-hand page containing supplementary information. When the Register was digitised, the right-hand page was cropped off. Having queried the reason for this with 'FindMyPast', I was informed that it was an official requirement as the right-hand page could include personal or sensitive information.
When viewing a copy of the Register it will be noted that some entries are blacked out and marked 'This Record is Officially closed'. This refers to the fact that at the time they were digitised, that person was still living. If it is known that a person has subsequently died, application may be made to have the record opened, but must be accompanied by an official Death Certificate.
The record that I have included below as a sample lists my own Father, Walter George McKay, my Mother Ivy Elizabeth Primrose McKay nee Bailey and my Maiden Aunt, Florence May Bailey. The record that is blacked out is for my late Brother, Malcolm James McKay who died after the Register was digitised. As my Father is recorded at the bottom of the page and my Mother at the top of the next page, I have pasted the two pages side by side.
Below is the down-loadable file containing a complete list of all the 1939 Register images in my possession.