The 1939 Register and its lasting value
In December 1938 it was announced in the House of Commons that in the event of war, a National Register would be taken that listed the personal details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Register was to be a critical tool in coordinating the war effort at home. It would be used to issue identity cards, organise rationing and more
Having issued forms to more than 41 million people, the enumerators were charged with the task of visiting every household in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to collect the names, addresses, martial statuses and other key details of every civilian in the country, issuing identity cards on the spot.
The identity cards issued were essential items from the point the Register was taken right up until 1952, when the legal requirement to carry them ceased. Until that point, every member of the civilian population had to be able to present their card upon request by an official (children’s cards were looked after by parents), or bring them to a police station within 48 hours. The reasons were numerous – it was essential to know who everyone was, of course, and to track their movements as they moved house, as well as to keep track of the population as babies were born and people passed away.
The 1939 Register, then, represents one of the most important documents in 20th century Britain. The information it contains not only helped toward the war effort, it was also used in the founding of the National Health Scheme NHS.
In addition, the 1931 census was destroyed during an air raid on London and the 1941 census was never taken. The 1939 Register, is therefore the only surviving overview of the civil population of England and Wales spanning the period 1921-1951. It bridges a census gap that risked losing an entire generation, and is a fascinating resource for anyone interested in understanding 20th century Britain and its people.
Ref: The information on the 1939 person count is from the Find My Past Company in conjunction with the National Archives. It is interesting that you can see every single person that was alive in the UK on 5th September, 1939! It probably missed far fewer people than the census. I am now semi-retired and finally have time to pursue my family tree. Will this be the year I finally link to that manor house in the North?! I did a count of references to the name variants which is interesting: some will be errors of course. Have I missed any?
This last variant is listed on our website - did it exist at some point?
Julie Stuart-Thompson, UK. 1/8th Blincko
PS Editor’s note: According to the previous article, you might have missed some if the following names prove to be derivations of Blencowe.