The 1939 Register

3 November 2015

It’s been ‘the talk of the town’…. the genealogical ‘town’ anyway! I have barely managed to look at social media today without people discussing the cost, functionality and the gems they have found (or failed to find).

The Register has been stored for the past seventy-six years in Southport, Lancashire (home of the General Register Office) and is alleged, according to newspaper reports, to “fill a major ‘knowledge void’ about British social history in the mid-twentieth century”.

Under our wonderful ‘100-year rule’ privacy convention, all post-1920 census information about individuals must remain confidential for a full century after the data was collected. However, the 1939 Register was not a census as such and so, the same rules do not apply – hurrah!

Instead, the UK Information Commissioner decided that the details of any individual on the 1939 Register who had been born more than 100 years ago or had died since 1939 (a total of 28 million people) could be released. This decision effectively also meant that all the metadata covering all forty million individuals could be released in its entirety.

What I cannot fathom though is why I can locate some people in my ancestry but not others? For example, my maternal grandfather…. born 1922 and sadly, no longer with us (departed in the 1980s). Why is he not there? Possibly at sea, maybe….? But my maternal and paternal grandmothers are also ‘missing in action’…. maybe I am not searching correctly in the database? Both have departed this life and so, should be listed….

I have found my paternal great-grandparents (and indeed, looked at the preview for some other members of my extended family). Nothing particularly earth-shattering, or even worthy of any particular note. In fact, I have to say, I was a little bit underwhelmed….. and the Register doesn’t form part of my FMP subscription which means additional funds (credits) must be purchased to view any of the images (index searches are free). Not overly enamoured….! I think it’s a little like the 1911 census was ‘back in the day’ when it was first released. Many of us will not be able to hold back and will pay the ‘going rate’ but in years to come, the Register will (I am quite sure) be made available as part of subscriptions and/or at a much more reasonable rate. I, for one, will be waiting.

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