Findmypast Releases the 1939 Register of England and Wales

Findmypast Releases the 1939 Register of England and Wales

Findmypast.com just released the newly digitized 1939 Register, a listing of the civilian population of England and Wales taken at the end of September 1939, when World War II had just broken out. Called "The Wartime Domesday Book," the listing was used to issue identity cards, plan evacuations...

Findmypast.com just released the newly digitized 1939 Register, a listing of the civilian population of England and Wales taken at the end of September 1939, when World War II had just broken out. Called “The Wartime Domesday Book,” the listing was used to issue identity cards, plan evacuations, establish rationing and fulfill other wartime needs.

Each household record includes the names of the inhabitants at the address, dates of birth, marital status and occupation. 

For those researching British roots, this release is at least as significant as the 1940 census was for Americans back in 2012. The 1939 Register is the only surviving record of the population of England and Wales between 1921 and 1951, so it bridges a 30-year gap in history while providing a significant source of genealogical data.

Accessing records works differently than for other collections, and it’s not included in your Findmypast subscription.

Instead, you search for a household and click Preview on a result to make sure it’s the right one. Then you can “unlock” that household’s records for 60 credits, a cost of $10.95. You purchase the credits in bundles of one ($10.95), five ($37.95) or 15 ($82.95) households.

Although pricey, you do get more for the money: In addition to an image of the original register, the unlocked records include old maps and photos, local statistics, and newspaper articles (as indicated in the image above).

If you have more to spend (perhaps for a Christmas gift), a link on the transcript page for your unlocked register lets you purchase a customized coffee table-quality book with your family’s Register page, infographics and other information (here’s what it looks like), similar items in a frame (see an example here) and other 1939 souvenirs.

Some interesting population data from the 1939 Register:

  • The civilian population of England and Wales was 41 million, living in 12 million households, with an average of 3 people living in one household. (Compare that to the 1940 US census, where the population was 132.2 million, living in 35 million households, an average of 3.7 people per household.)
  • In England and Wales the average age was 33 for men and 35 for women. (In the United States, it was 29 for both men and women).
  • At the beginning of September 1939, under the threat of German bombing, 1.5 million children, women and disabled were evacuated. The 1939 Register, which was taken at the end of September, shows only 2 percent of the population in London was aged 0-10.
  • 53 percent female and 47 percent male (50.17 percent of the US population was male; 49.83 percent was female)
  • Almost 50 percent of women in England and Wales fulfilled a domestic role, either unpaid at home or in service. (In America in 1940, 57 percent of women were devoted to full-time domestic duties, for those in the labor force, the number one occupation was clerical worker).
  • The most common occupation for men was ‘retired’, with ‘clerk’ as second. (For US men the top two areas of occupation were manufacturing and agriculture.
  • 46.2 percent of the population was married, 45.6 percent was single and 6.5 percent widowed. ( In 1940 in the United States, 61.07 percent of the population 15 and older was married.)

Search the 1939 Register on Findmypast here.

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  1. Thank-you for the really interesting comparisons between England/Wales and the USA. My dad was American and my mother was English, and they were both children at the start of the war, so it’s fascinating to see how the societies that they grew up in were statistically so different.
    Incidentally, I’m guessing that the high proportion of men having "retired" as their occupation was because a significant number of younger men had already joined the armed forces by the time that the register was taken, so possibly they weren’t counted in the statistics.
    And just once quick corrective note – 41 million people in 12 million households gives an average of 3.4 people per household, not 3.
    But otherwise, some really great stats, so thanks!