Friday, November 6, 2015

Find My Past

For those of you with subscriptions to Find My Past, there have been some exciting new additions to their website over the past few weeks.  I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

Firstly, Find My Past has put online electoral registers from England and Wales that span the years from 1832 to 1932. In total, this collection consists of some 5.4 million images containing 220 million names. These records can be searched by first name, last name, year, county, constituency and polling district. I love Electoral rolls as they can serve as a valuable supplement to 10-year census records and can be used to trace the address of someone who moved frequently. They can also help to estimate the year of birth and the year of death of an ancestor, as once an individual reached voting age, they tended to stay on the voting list until they died. To estimate the year of birth, simply determine the first time a person appears on the electoral roll. Counting backwards from this year by the minimum voting age provides a reasonable estimate of the year of birth.

Secondly, FindMyPast launched the UK 1939 National Identity Register on Monday 2 November.  Basically, the 1939 National Identity Register, although not a census, did have some similar information to a census, and it was taken on the night of Friday 29 September 1939 just after 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, in case of mass evacuation of the general population and in case rationing was required (which was introduced just a few months later in January 1940). The details recorded in the 1939 National Identity Register include name, address, sex, specific date of birth (not just their age), marital status, occupation and whether the person was a member of the armed forces or reserves. 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. One thing to note is that due to privacy issues, information listed on individuals still alive today will not be included in the database.

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