The 1939 Reg­is­ter

Within a month of war be­ing de­clared on Ger­many in 1939, the Bri­tish Govern­ment car­ried out a pop­u­la­tion head­count that is now avail­able to fam­ily his­to­ri­ans. Sarah Wil­liams takes you through this amaz­ing re­source

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - REGISTER -

On the night of 29 Septem­ber 1939, house­holds up and down Bri­tain, from the re­motest Shet­land Is­lands to the crowded back­streets of Lon­don, filled in a form that de­tailed ev­ery­one who was stay­ing that evening, in­clud­ing their name, date of birth, mar­i­tal sta­tus and oc­cu­pa­tion.

Po­lice­men on pa­trol that night had spe­cial forms they filled in for the home­less and tramps they en­coun­tered on their route. Al­lowances were made for com­mu­ni­ties of Ortho­dox Jews who were com­ing to the end of the eight-day Feast of Taber­na­cles and were for­bid­den by faith to put pen to pa­per – they were al­lowed to fill in their forms 24 hours later. Res­i­dents lined up in in­sti­tu­tions and ho­tels to com­plete their de­tails.

Only eight years pre­vi­ously, house­holds had car­ried out the same task for the 1931 census, but this was dif­fer­ent. This wasn’t census night, it was Na­tional Reg­is­tra­tion night.

Ger­many had in­vaded Poland at the start of Septem­ber and Bri­tain mo­bilised its armed forces and de­clared war on Ger­many two days later. The Govern­ment needed an ac­cu­rate snap­shot of the na­tion. How many mouths were there to feed? What hu­man re­sources could be called upon? How many men were there of

Who Do You Think You Are?

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