28/07/2017
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The 1939 Register at Findmypast

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A guide to the 1939 Register – what it is and how it can help you find out more about your ancestors on the eve of the Second World War.

The 1939 Register covers all of the population of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in a similar way to the 10-yearly census. It provides a snapshot of the nation just before the outbreak of the Second World War and allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, their occupation and the other occupants of their house and neighbourhood.

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National Registration Day was 29 September 1939 and this was the day that the enumerators visited every household in Britain, taking down details of each civilian in the country. The information was used immediately to issue identity cards and later helped with decisions about conscription and rationing, and the founding of the NHS.

The 1939 Register is particularly important for family historians since the 1931 census was destroyed by fire during the war, and a census wasn’t taken in 1941 due to the war. This means that there is a 30-year gap - from 1921 to 1951 - which the 1939 register helps to fill.

How to search for your relatives in the 1939 Register

You can search the 1939 Register exclusively at Findmypast, as part of a 12-month Great Britain or Rest of World subscription package. You will be able to carry out a free search using a wide range of fields to help you to identify the correct record prior to unlocking it, whether you're looking for an individual, a household or an institution.

The records of people who are younger than 100 and still alive, or who died after 1991, are officially closed, to protect the privacy of individuals and their families. More than 33.7 million records are available to view, and more will be added as individual records become available under the 100-year rule.

1939 Register: get started video

Watch this Find My Past video with search tips:

1939 Register search tips

  • If your relative had both a maiden name and married name during their lifetime, try entering both into the surname search box at the same time
  • Once you find your ancestor, click the address tab at the top of the page to explore records of the neighbours!
  • Try the search in a different way – you have the option to enter an occupation and a town name to find the number of people working in a particular occupation at the start of the war

Start your search of the 1939 Register on Findmypast.

(Images copyright Imperial War Museum with the exception of 1939 and 'who lived in your house? which are copyright Findmypast)

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