FindMyPast and the National Archives have announced a joint project to put online the 1939 National Identity Register.
This was basically a mini-census that was taken on the night of Friday 29 September 1939 (at the start of World War II). The British Government conducted the survey because it wanted updated statistics on the population so that identity cards could be issued. It was also required in case a draft was needed, in case of mobilisation and mass evacuation of the general population and in case rationing was required (which was introduced a few months later in January 1940). For genealogists, the 1939 National Identity Register makes up for the regularly-scheduled 1941 census, which did not take place due to the war.
The details recorded in the 1939 National Identity Register include name, residence, sex, date of birth, marital status, occupation and whether the person was a member of the armed forces or reserves. The process for the enumeration worked as follows. On the night of Friday 29 September 1939, some 65,000 enumerators delivered forms to each household. Each household was responsible for filling out their own form. Two days later on the Sunday and Monday, the enumerators returned to collect the forms. The enumerators checked the forms and (if there were no problems) issued a complete identity card on the spot to each member of the household.
There was a strong incentive for everyone to register correctly. Other than societal pressure given that war had just broken out, it was widely broadcast that anyone who “neglected” to register would not be eligible in the future for ration books. The 1939 register covers some 40 million individuals. Given the absence of a 1931 census (the records were destroyed in a fire in December 1942) and a 1941 census (never taken due to the war), this record set will be very valuable to family historians. No date has been given as to when the records will be available online.
If you want to be kept informed about the project, you can register at www.1939register.co.uk One thing to note is that due to privacy issues, information on individuals still alive today will not be included in the database.
Thanks to Genealogy in Time for highlighting this news.