ON THE RECORD
Jon Bauckham with the latest news from the world of family history
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