Compile Date: 29 September 1939
The UK Government planned, in 1938, that in the event of war a Register would be compiled detailing all people in the UK. With the formal pronouncement of war at the beginning of September 1939, it was decreed that the Register should be compiled on 29 September of that year.
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, or take 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. As such, the Register continued to be updated and often amendments to names, siginfying a marriage, can be seen on the register. (NB. On seeing these changes on the original schedules, some people have commented on the number of errors that were made, but in fact the changes, as indicated here, are purely updates of the information recorded).
As well as its importance in relation to the war, it also fills a gap in genealogical data as 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.
To provide privacy, the register available for review currently only shows people born more than a hundred years ago, or those born after this date and for whom a death record has been recorded in the Register. Additionally, if someone was born less than 100 years ago and died after 1991, their record will also be closed.
That said, once rationing finished, the importance of the Register was reduced and therefore deaths were often not registered. Additionally, the NHS did not always provide updates to the relevant authorities when somebody died. As such the details for deceased people are often still redacted.
Updates are regularly made as "closed" records are "opened".
Details recorded for every person were:
Also recorded, in a separate column, were war related roles (ARP Warden, etc)