Thursday, 12 November 2015

1939 National Identity Register - terms and conditions

I am withdrawing and amending blog posts that I have made in the last two days concerning a workaround for those trying to research the 1939 National Identity Register on FindmyPast.

A few days ago the company inexplicably withdrew details of the National Archives reference numbers for entries that were given in the preview screen following the initial free search. These references included piece numbers and item numbers that allowed for cross-referencing searches to be carried out, to check for other members of the household in order to make sure that the right household is obtained. Despite removing the details from the preview screen, FindmyPast still does makes the same information available for such entries elsewhere, which can still be utilised on the search screen itself via the very search boxes that FindmyPast actually offers to carry out such searches in the first place:

Although FindmyPast and the National Archives have yet to officially comment, I have been informed informally that the information has been withdrawn from the preview screens to prevent data mining, which is in breach of FindmyPast's terms and conditions. It has been suggested by my source that my blog posts on this issue may possibly constitute incitement to cause data mining. This was never my intent, which was actually to help people save money by utilising as much information in advance to confirm a correct household was found before a purchase. However, whilst perhaps being overly cautious, to protect myself legally from any potential accusation on that front, I am withdrawing this information from my blog posts.

I would suggest that any questions about the competence of FindmyPast concerning the provision of such information online in the first place, and its lack of communication to date for its reasons for the sudden unannounced change in its policy, should perhaps be better directed towards them.


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  1. I had no idea what 'data mining' is so I looked it up. In a nutshell "The overall goal of the data mining process is to extract information from a data set and transform it into an understandable structure for further use" Hmmm isn't that what we do with all the datasets on Findmypast? Maybe it's not a simple as all that, but seems to me they are scraping the barrel for a 'get out of jail free' card.

    Disappointed you are 'withdrawing/amending'. In a further nutshell, there is nothing more to this than Findmypast realising they would lose revenue so they blocked it and will probably clear the information from url any day now.

  2. If you look at a census record abstract on, there is a line item "Neighbors: View others on page". In US research, genealogists often recommend that we save several households on either side of our own family, or even several pages, in case some of the neighbors turn out to be relatives. It seems to me that Find My Past could be using this feature to show that the cost of unlocking a household isn't as steep as it appears to be at first glance. For instance, on one of my searches, after doing the now-discouraged Piece/Item search, I discovered two other potential households of interest on the same page, bringing the cost of getting the image to around £1 per capita. Why isn't the marketing department using this kind of whole-page display and the suggestion that you might find others of interest nearby to offset the many complaints about the high cost of the 1939 Register? It seems clear to me that Find My Past, like Ancestry, is ignoring the needs of serious researchers in favor of the casual user who just wants to cherry-pick the records belonging to their direct line and nothing else. Unfortunately those are the very people who are likely to be disappointed, since they may not have the skills or the gumption to find their people if they don't already know where they might have been in 1939.

  3. As does the ScotlandsPeople genealogy resources site, FindMyPast sticks to the high-revenue stance of "pay-per-very narrow focus view" option only. Which is absolutely not what a genealogist wants. To do "proper" genealogy on Scotlands People and look at every page of a village or region, I'd have been bankrupt... yet how else could I have found that widowed mother living with her married daughter, plus two other direct relatives? ETC. It drives me bonkers to have such limited access to some of the documents, which aren't available as images in other venues. Searching for one ancestor on the 1790 Census in the US, I ended up flipping slowly through 84 pages (with a one-month membership fee) - Calculate that in £ for the Scotland site, or FMP. Mind-boggling.

  4. It is simply in their interest to do less for users and get them to spend more in credits on the 1939 Register. Overall with all of its restrictions it has been a rather disappointing release.

  5. I understand about your position, Chris, but I can't say that I have much sympathy with FMP since this so-called "mining" isn't really giving away that much. So you can get an idea who was in the same household by searching using just the TNA reference, right? Big deal; you still can't see much without "unlocking" that household. By contrast, if I had searched for a specific person, then searched for their spouse, and then compared the associated FMP URLs, then I could have made the same inference.