ON THE RECORD

Jon Bauck­ham with the lat­est news from the world of fam­ily his­tory

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - ON THE RECORD -

The scan­ning and tran­scrib­ing has been a com­plex, lengthy and ex­pen­sive task

Ge­neal­o­gists gain web ac­cess to 1939 Reg­is­ter

Records of mil­lions of peo­ple across Eng­land and Wales at the start of the Se­cond World War have been made avail­able for re­searchers to view on Find­my­past A de­tailed ‘census’ of res­i­dents across Eng­land and Wales on the eve of the Se­cond World War has been pub­lished on the web.

Af­ter con­firm­ing the re­lease date in an email sent out to sub­scribers, find­my­past.co.uk pub­lished the 1939 Na­tional Iden­tity Reg­is­ter on Mon­day 2 Novem­ber, en­abling users to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion about mil­lions of civil­ians on­line for the first time.

Com­piled on 29 Septem­ber 1939, the Reg­is­ter was used to help the UK Govern­ment plan for war against Ger­many, which had been de­clared ear­lier that month. As a re­sult, the fully search­able records pro­vide de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­u­als and other mem­bers of their house­hold, in­clud­ing date of birth, mar­i­tal sta­tus and oc­cu­pa­tion.

Al­though mem­bers of the Armed Ser­vices were not in­cluded in the head­count, in­for­ma­tion about spe­cific wartime roles can be found on the orig­i­nal hand­writ­ten sched­ule, list­ing whether peo­ple served in or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Aux­il­iary Fire Ser­vice. Af­ter search­ing through the col­lec­tion, Who Do You Think

You Are? Mag­a­zi­nee also dis­cov­ered that some had past mil­i­tary du­ties recorded, in­clud­ing the reg­i­ments they served in dur­ing the First World War.

How­ever, de­tails of peo­ple born af­ter 1915 or those not known to have died be­fore 1991 are redacted from the Find­my­past re­lease.

While ge­neal­o­gists were keen to share their dis­cov­er­ies on­line (many us­ing the Twit­ter hash­tag ‘# eve­ofwar’), a lot of Find­my­past cus­tomers were dis­ap­pointed to dis­cover that ac­cess to the 1939 Reg­is­ter was not in­cluded as part of a stan­dard Find­my­past sub­scrip­tion, with the pric­ing struc­ture only of­fi­cially con­firmed in the week be­fore the records were re­leased.

In­stead it costs £ 6.95 to ‘un­lock’ each house­hold record (£ 24.95 for a bun­dle of five) and gain ac­cess to a tran­scrip­tion, record im­age and con­tex­tual re­sources in­clud­ing maps, pho­to­graphs, aphs news­pa­per cut­tings and lo­cal pop­u­la­tion sta­tis­tics.

“I al­ready pay enough for my Find­my­past sub­scrip­tion, so I’m not im­pressed to see there is an ad­di­tional, very high cost for this,” said Lau­ren Thomas Sul­li­van on the Who Do You Think You Are? Mag­a­zine Face­book page.

How­ever, other users such as Martin James high­lighted that the price was “a lot cheaper” than it orig­i­nally cost to ac­cess the 1939 Reg­is­ter.

Prior to the digi­ti­sa­tion, fam­ily his­to­ri­ans were re­quired to pay £ 42 for de­tails of each in­di­vid­ual by send­ing a form to the Health & So­cial Care In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre (for­merly the Na­tional Health Ser­vice In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre).

This ser­vice was launched in the wake of high­pro­file cam­paigns led by pro­fes­sional ge­neal­o­gists Guy Etchells and Steven Smyrl, who suc­cess­fully lob­bied to make the Reg­is­ter avail­able to mem­bers of the pub­lic.

In re­sponse to the com­plaints, a Find­my­past spokesper­son told Who Do You Think You Are?

Mag­a­zine the ad­di­tional charge was “nec­es­sary” due to the high cost of the digi­ti­sa­tion pro­ject.

“While we wanted to house the 1939 Reg­is­ter on the Find­my­past web­site to make it easy for sub­scribers to in­te­grate with their cur­rent records and tree, the scan­ning and tran­scrib­ing of the 41 mil­lion records has been a com­plex, lengthy and ex­pen­sive task.

“Find­my­past has also man­aged the redac­tion and un-redac­tion pro­cesses for closed records, us­ing stan­dards and rules de­fined by The Na­tional Ar­chives. To re­coup the costs, there needed to be an ex­tra charge for th­ese records.”

Ac­tor Alec Guin­ness ( listed as Alec G Cuffe) and his wife Merula are both listed on the Reg­is­ter. The doc­u­ment scan also makes it pos­si­ble to see de­tails of other house­holds on the same street

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