11 November 2009

UK 1939 National Registration information release

Was a relative in England or Wales on the night of Friday 29th September 1939? Are they now deceased? Do you have their address but would like other information in their National Registration return: name, sex, date of birth, marital condition, occupation, membership in the naval, military or air force reserves, or auxiliary forces, or civil defence services or reserves?

Guy Etchells, whose action through the Information Commissioner led to the release of most of the 1911 census for England and Wales, has reset his sights on information from the 1939 National Registration, information he has also been refused. Reportedly the Information Commissioner has ruled "partially in his favour" regarding information on persons now deceased.

The registration was conducted by 65,000 enumerators who distributed the schedules a few days prior to the 29th. They returned to collect the schedules, write out and issue identify cards for everyone registered. The Enumerator returned a transcript of the returns and sent it to the Registrar General. The registration was the basis for issuing food ration cards, so there was considerable motivation to register.

At the time of registration there had been a large evacuation from London and other threatened areas. If your ancestor was an evacuee you may not know where they were living, so access could be difficult.

Further information on the 1939 National Registration is at www.1911census.org.uk/1939.htm.

There is no information as to whether or when the Information Commissioner decision will be acted on. In the case of the 1911 census decision a costly process was soon put in place, but online access had to wait while digitization proceeded. With the restriction to deceased persons for the National Registration it isn't evident how a mass digitization with online availability could be accommodated.

Chris Paton comments that release of similar information for Scotland was being considered, but there has been no recent news. See http://scottishancestry.blogspot.com/2009/11/1939-nhs-census-to-be-made-available-in.html.

Canada conducted a National Registration in 1940 with rather more information gathered. Details are at www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/genealogy/022-911.007-e.html

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