Tuesday, 3 November 2015

More on FindmyPast's 1939 National Register for England and Wales

I've just attended a webinar led by FindmyPast's Myko Clelland, to which various bloggers were invited, which has presented some more background on yesterday's release of the 1939 National Identity Register for England and Wales (see my review at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/review-of-1939-english-and-welsh.html), and at which we had the opportunity to post questions.

Myko's presentation started by providing some background detail on the process of collecting the original data in 1939 - with 65,000 enumerators gathering details for 41 million people, which was then presented in 7000 volumes carrying some 1.2 million pages in total. At present some 28 million people can be found on the forms through FindmyPast's database for the records. One thing to note is that when the war started Operation Pied Piper led to the relocation of 3.75 million folk, including school children and pregnant mothers, with about half of these having moved within the first month of the war, which may affect where you might find some
individuals of interest.

A couple of extra features that are worthy of note:

i) The entries presented have had their house addresses geo-tagged to a contemporary map, which means you can see where the relevant property was based.

ii) On the main search screen, you can forego the search by name option and instead search by address, simply by toggling the screen between the two options at the top of the Advanced Search page.

The questions I asked were as follows:

Where a line of redaction obscures text in a line below or above, can this be reviewed and redone to allow site of the obscured text?
We can definitely take a look - we'd obviously need to judge each case individually, but as long as moving that line doesn't reveal the person below or above then everything is good!

The images include the first column on subsequent page, but I have an example where written comments have been cut off at edge. Can a request be made for the full text to be made available, or is that the extent of the actual digitised image?
We'd have to judge each case individually, if it doesn't reveal other sensitive information we should be able to help, or at least give you a transcription if we can't show you the remainder of the image.

How long is 1939 exclusive to FindmyPast, and how long is FMP contracted with TNA to run the current scheme?
That's something we'll have to ask someone else about - we're not really privy to the contractual details outside of our licensing team. Sorry we can't be more help!

Was there an Isle of Man or Channel Islands (pre-invasion) register?
There is a 1939 register for the Channel Islands, but the Isle of Man register has actually been lost and no longer exists!

Amongst other points raised by others and answered were the following:

i) If a closed record is opened, it is opened for everyone, not just for the person asking for it to be opened. As proof of death has been accepted it becomes an open record.

ii) Those in the army will not be recorded, but spouses and children may be if in barracks.

iii) If you ask for a person with a common name to have his or her record opened, the death certificate may not be enough, particularly if the death cert does not have the date of birth on it. FMP may require additional confirmation.

iv) In my original post at http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/english-and-welsh-1939-register-now.html I noted how I had previously made a request to NHSIC before it had implemented a payment scheme to charge £42 per household record. They had released details for everyone in the house bar one person. The current equivalent record on FMP shows five of these individuals redacted, as they died after 1911. FMP seems to be saying in response to another query that it will accept a copy of the NHSIC record as proof of death - i.e. the record could not be released if the individual had not been dead. I'm not sure if when I received my entry via an FOI request that the data wasn't just sent by email, so I'll need to dig out the original correspondence and see if this is accepted (it does contain the relevant D numbers etc).

v) A copy of the original register form, filled out by householders, is available at http://www.1911census.org.uk/regform1939a.jpg.

It was a very useful session, and I am somewhat impressed at this as an achievement by FindmyPast, a site that I must admit that I have personally not had a great deal of love for since its redesign not too long ago. Within the constraints that have been imposed in terms of access, this seems to be a well designed database, surprisingly more flexible than at first meets the eye, and the team seems ready to engage with customers in resolving queries concerning entries.

One thing to note is that FMP has stated their transcription rate for the records has an accuracy of 98.5%, but there are also other reasons why some folk may not appear - so do also check out Audrey Collins' post from the National Archives at http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/national-registration-happened-next/, and FMP's own posts on the dataset.

(With thanks to Myko Clelland and the FMP licensing team)


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit http://britishgenes.blogspot.co.uk/p/my-books.html. My Pinterest account is at https://www.pinterest.com/chrismpaton/.


  1. Hello

    I understand there is also a registration scheme for 1915? How do you access it and what does it contain?

  2. Not sure about the English and Welsh returns, but the Scottish ones certainly haven't survived - see http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/national-register - the page states "A register of adults aged between 15 and 65 was compiled under the provisions of the National Register Act 1915. The Registrar General for Scotland held the registration forms centrally in Edinburgh. Maintenance of the register created a lot of extra work for his staff and for local registrars and it was not continued after the end of the First World War."

    1. No English and Welsh returns from the 1915 register are known to survive, although I would be very happy to be proved wrong. Since you very kindly provided a link to one of my blog posts, here is a link to the first one I wrote on the subject, which has some information about the 1915 register and why it didn't work as well as it might have done. http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/1939-register-census-census/

  3. Did anyone ask why there was no detail about the payment method released until the Friday before release, ie 30 October?
    Or why FMP updated its T&Cs over the same weekend to such a significant degree?
    Why FMP reduced the life-span of credits from 365 days to 90 days, again over the same weekend - even to the point of disabling the facility to buy credits very soon or at the same time as the announcement emails were distributed?
    Why the 15 household bundle is exempt from the proffered discounts?
    Why the qualification of the records NOT open is in light text underneath and outside of the box containing inaccurate claims as to which records are available to view on one of their screens?
    Why the main page (http://www.findmypast.co.uk/1939register) states, again inaccurately "41 million lives recorded in one day at the outbreak of World War II Only at Findmypast" with no qualification of the fact that c14 million records \are NOT immediately available:

    The most comprehensive record set ever released.
    Unlock a household and get all of the following.

    Full Household Transcript
    Inc. full dates of birth, occupations, address & updated names

    Original Image
    A scan of the original register page

    Again on http://search.findmypast.co.uk/search-world-Records/1939-register?_ga=1.126946317.1463252744.1442909432 there is no obvious reference to some of the records not being immediately available, and you have to go right to the bottom of the page to the section on "What happens if my ancestor's record is closed".

    I will be generous and suggest that they are being unintentionally misleading, even if I think they know exactly what they are doing.

  4. I just found 15 households. Several comments:
    On the plus side - they contain actual birth dates. And I found spouses of several cousins. The search engine is OK, but I found it easier to sort by the given name. I also had more success just using the exact surname.
    On the minus side - the cost, of course. It is way too high for what is provided.. One of my finds spread over two pages. I could see the second page, but the download kept giving me the first page. There are no birth places so sometimes I couldn't tell if I had the right family. Navigation generally is awkward. From a result screen I couldn't find the FAQs. And when I did, they were general findmypast FAQs, with very little that was specific to the register. There weren't any to answer my questions. I couldn't find any guide re how to read the results. There were codes that didn't make sense to me. Everything I see focuses on how the register came to be and was processed, but very little on how to use it. And I'm spoiled by Ancestry and Family Search, but I missed the automatic citations that they provide. .

    1. The citation in the form of the full TNA Reference (starting RG 101) appears on the transcription page.

  5. The 1915 Register for England and Wales also no longer exists - the evidence is on one of the message boards or lists that I read but don't ask me which one!

  6. Hi, have you any idea what the column headed See Instructions on RHS of the registration document contains.
    My Uncle has a DTA numbers along with a note to Corres.

    1. Suggest you ask the National Archives folk via their dedicated blog post at http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/1939-register-census-census/#comment-658286 - they've been answering Q&As there