Release of 1939 Register for England and Wales

1939 Register symbol on FindMyPast
1939 Register symbol on FindMyPast

The recent release of the 1939 Register has brought fresh excitement to British researchers. This is one of the most important documents created for twentieth century British research, because the 1931 census was destroyed during the war, and the 1941 census was never taken. I was going to write earlier this week about this but I am glad that I did not as search techniques and results presented have changed. I will provide some background information, an introduction on how to search the records and some case studies.

Background information

In December 1938 it was announced that if Great Britain went to war then there would be a National Register. Following the declaration of war of 3 September 1939 the National Registration Day was set as 29 September 1939. For those who have seen the PBS show Home Fires this event was shown in one of the early episodes. Every civilian was to be recorded, with forms being issued to over 41 million people throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland, though only the records for England and Wales have been released. Completion of the cards resulted in the issuing of national identity cards which were required to be carried at all times up to 1952, ration books, and later were used for establishing the National Health Service. The use of this record for the National Health Service is why you will see recorded the married surname of many women marrying later, and also why some people younger than age 100 are not hidden in the records, their deaths having been recorded up to 1991 in the records. If you can document that someone has died then records currently closed can be opened up.

Search for Walter Crowhurst on Advanced search screen showing all options
Search for Walter Crowhurst on Advanced search screen showing all options

How to access. The 1939 Register has been released online by FindMyPast in partnership with The National Archives. The Register consists of over 7,000 volumes with over 1,200,000 pages providing names, dates of birth, addresses, marital status, occupations, and sometimes additional comments for over 41,000,000 people. FindMyPast claims a 98% accuracy rate in transcription, so my ancestors must fall into that 2%, with more on this later.

FindMyPast provides additional background information, including a nice short U-Tube video about the Register, and a getting started guide on their website, though part of this is already out of date.

Anyone can do a search in the 1939 Register for free on FindMyPast, but to unlock the images you will need to purchase credits (300 credits unlocks 5 households). The purchasing of credits applies whether you are a subscriber or not. Providing you use the same registration email each time, then you will not have to pay to view the register pages in the future.

Search Options – You can do a simple search on first and last name; birth year and where they were in 1939. This might work for you but the advanced search screen opens up a great number of options. You can search on First and Last names, with variants; birth year, with optional range of years; date and month of birth; place keyword; sex; occupation; marital status; street; borough / district filter; county filter; country filter; first and last name of other household member; plus TNA reference. If you scroll down the search screen you will find explanations of these fields and these should definitely be read if you don’t find who you are looking for.

Example – Walter Crowhurst – gg-grandfather

Free preview screen for Walter Crowhurst household in Strood Rural District, Kent
Free preview screen for Walter Crowhurst household in Strood Rural District, Kent

Let’s provide some examples. We will start with a search for Walter Crowhurst, born 1859 – my gg-grandfather. Because of the age there are only two options and we choose the one in Strood R.D. in Kent. The preview screen shows Walter Crowhurst born in 1859, in a house with two other people. There are no closed entries in this household, implying that the other two people are either known to be deceased or would be over 100 years old. To see all the details the household needs to be unlocked. This is where you need to register and purchase credits (a subscription to FindMyPast is separate and not required).

Unlocked results screen for Walter Crowhurst household
Unlocked results screen for Walter Crowhurst household

Unlocking the household shows us that Walter Crowhurst was born 12 Sept 1859 is a pensioner, and is living with two of his sons: Victor James Crowhurst, born 21 Jun 1896 a farm labourer; and John Lenard Crowhurst born 13 Sep 1898 a Labourer. The new information for me is that beside John Lenard’s name we have in the comments section – Pensioner Gunner 21 years in Royal Artillery with the number NC1031520.

Details for Walter Crowhurst of Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, Kent
Details for Walter Crowhurst of Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, Kent

Given his age this suggests that he probably served during World War One but will not likely show up in any of the normal WWI records because he continued to serve after the war, and thus his records will still be at the Ministry of Defence. Walter’s address is given as Rose Cottage, Upper Halling, with no street being provided. It is common for houses in Britain to have names and so care is needed if an address search is performed.

Map showing location of Rose Cottage in Upper Halling where Walter Crowhurst Resides.
Map showing location of Rose Cottage in Upper Halling where Walter Crowhurst Resides.

Scrolling down the screen on the opened results page you will find a map highlighting where the house is located. You can see the house on the 1888-1913 Ordnance Survey six inch map, or the 1937-1961 Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map. This can give you an indication of how the neighborhood has changed over time, though in this example it has not changed much.

Example – James Croudace – g-grandfather
Let’s search for James Croudace my great-grandfather born according to the 1939 Register on 10 Nov 1884 but this is actually incorrect because his birth certificate shows that he was born on 7 Nov 1884. This example highlights the care needed with trying to search using the dates of birth. James is listed as a widow and working as a general labourer. Note that the address is shown on this image as 29 ditto, with no indication above showing what street is. On the preview page the address is shown as 29 West Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne CB, Northumberland, England. So be careful that you have collected all the information that the record provides as it may not all be on the actual image.

No relationship is known to any of the other people in the rest of the household but it is a good example of what additional information you may find. Annie Graham born 17 Feb 1910, probable wife of Joseph Graham is overwritten in green ink to show a new married surname of Bickerdyke, while off to the side also in green is a dated entry 26-2-69 showing CR283 New, actually this is the date of her new marriage.

Example – Richard and Jean Finnigan – grand-parents

Unlocked results screen for Richard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan of 93 Aldwick Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Unlocked results screen for Richard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan of 93 Aldwick Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne

The above examples were easy to find. Let’s see how creative you might have to get. I was looking for Richard Finnigan born 22 Sep 1904 but he was not found in the search because of a FindMyPast transcription error on the month, and Richard giving a wrong year of birth, plus no Finnigan’s showing up on the results page. I did a search for Jean using date of birth and again no Finnigan matches. I recalled that the family moved in the 1930s as part of a slum clearance to Aldwick road in Newcastle-upon-Tyne so I did a search – but there were no Finnigan’s on the street. The search was repeated just for the street name, and there were multiple results screens but one potential Richard and one potential Jean. Now when I first did the search the TNA reference number was given and you could search on that number to reduce the number of potentials. It showed the Richard and Jean to be on the same page of results, with one closed record. I wish the TNA reference option was returned because it gave me enough encouragement to think I had the correct family in spite of the errors.

Unlocked results screen for Richard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan of 93 Aldwick Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Unlocked results screen for Richard Nicholson Finnigan and Jean Finnigan of 93 Aldwick Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne

I paid to unlock the record and it was the correct family – Richard + Jean + 4 closed records (not 1as the search screen suggested). So why was the family so difficult to find? In the FindMyPast index their surname was listed as ~??? – try finding that surname on a search, though it is readable as Finnigan. Richard is employed as a Brass Foundry labourer in the heavy works, and in the comment field listed as an ARP Warden, the first documentation I have of this family story. The other confirmation I have that I have the correct family is that Richard’s middle name – Nicholson – has been added in green ink.

Example – Reginald Ernest Milner and Jane Milner- grandparents

My grandfather Reginald Ernest Milner, born 6 August 1904, plus his wife Jane Milner (nee Croudace) born 22 January 1909 along with my father James B.W. Milner born 4 October 1929 (died 1980), plus two closed brothers are all missing an unaccounted for in the 1939 Register. I have tried all sorts of combinations of names, dates and no names but with no luck so far. I think this family may fall foul of one of the exceptions in that military families are not included and I suspect Reginald was in the Army reserves and may already have been called up. My understanding is if he was in the army he would not be in the Register, but does that mean his family was not either? I include this family in the blog to point out that not everyone is easy to locate and therefore you have to think about why not. Is it an indexing problem, missing information or do they meet one of the exceptions. Unlike the Finnigan I am not sure where this family was in September 1939 – Mill Lane, Newcastle; farming in Essex; visiting family in Kent; at an army base in Yorkshire. No matter I can’t find the family anywhere.

Summary – For those with ancestors or relatives still in England or Wales in 1939 you should be looking at this resource. You can do free searching in the indexes, but you will have to pay to see the results. It will provide birth dates, which you may or may not have already, give locations and occupations, and may provide additional information.

News: UPCOMING Virtual Institute – An In-Depth Look at the ‘Big Four’ Records of English Research

Paul Milner - Virtual Institute for Genealogy - the Big Four Records for English Research - English Census research - English Parish Register research - English probate research - English Church Records Research
Paul Milner – Presenter for the Virtual Institute

UPCOMING Virtual Institute: “An In-Depth Look at the ‘Big Four’ Records of English Research”
By Paul Milner

30 May and 6 June 2015

Standard $69.99
Plus $99.99
Click here to register for this course
When doing English and Welsh research there are four major record groups that most researchers will or should utilize – civil registration, census, church records and probate potentially covering the time period from the 1380s to the present. With the ever increasing numbers of these records being put online through free or subscription based services it is becoming easier to find individuals. Speed though often increases the risk of finding a person with the right name in the right place, but who is not the correct individual and thus the researcher goes off climbing a tangential or incorrect family line.

These institute presentations will take an in-depth look at the four major record groups – civil registration, census, church records and probate as they relate to research in England and Wales. You will get a good grounding in how and why the records were created, how they are organized, their content, how to find them online and offline, and how to effectively use them to construct a solid family tree. Case studies are used throughout highlighting search techniques, problems to watch for, and how to use the records as a starting point to put ancestors into context. The fundamentals are provided for those new to English and Welsh research, but the case studies and tips will be of value to more experienced researchers.

Paul Milner, a native of northern England is a professional genealogist and international lecturer, having presented extensively on British Isles research in the USA, Australia, Canada and England. He is the author of Discover English Census Records (forthcoming, UnlockThePast 2015); Buried Treasures: what’s in the English parish chest (UnlockThePast, 2015); Discover English Parish Records (UnlockThePast, 2014); Genealogy at a Glance: England Research (Genealogical Publishing Co, 2011); plus co-author with Linda Jonas of A Genealogists Guide to Discovering Your English Ancestors: How to find and record your unique heritage (Betterway Books, 2000); and A Genealogists Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors: How to find and record your unique heritage (Betterway Books, 2002). He holds an advanced degree in Theology and is particularly knowledgeable about the church and its role in record keeping.
Paul is the course coordinator for the English and Scottish research tracks at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He has also taught the Scottish track at the British Institute in Salt Lake City organized by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. Paul is currently the book review editor for the BIGWILL newsletter and recently retired review editor of the FGS FORUM. He is the past-president of the British Interest Group of Wisconsin and Illinois (BIGWILL), and a past board member of the Association to Professional Genealogists, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the Genealogical Speakers Guild. Paul focuses on British Isles resources and methodology on his blog at www.milnergenealogy.com.

Course Schedule (all times U. S. Eastern) – each session is 90 minutes with Q&A
30 May 2015
• 11:00am “English Civil Registrations: Tips for use and problem solving”
• 1:00pm “Making Sense of the English Census”

6 June 2015
• 11:00am “English Parish Registers: How to Access, Use and Interpret”
• 1:00pm “Tips and Tools for Navigating the English Probate System”

England Times – 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Perth Australia Times – Saturday 30 May 11:00 pm and Sunday 1 June 1:00 am
Sydney, Australia Times – Sunday 1 June 1:00 am and 3:00 am
Wellington, New Zealand Times – Sunday 3:00 am and 5:00 am
The webinar will be recorded and made available at a later date for purchase.

Genealogy and DNA: King Richard III case study

Portrait of King Richard III
Portrait of King Richard III

Identification of the Remains of King Richard III using Genealogy and DNA

Today a detailed paper with all supporting documentation and analysis has been released proving that Skeleton 1 found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, England was indeed the remains of King Richard III. The king was buried in 1485 following his death at the Battle of Bosworth. He was the last king killed in battle.  The solution to the problem lay in tracing the mtDNA through the female lines from his sister, as there are no known male descendants of King Richard III. In many ways since this is a descent from Royalty it was relatively easy to trace even with the name change in every intervening generation.

There is the primary article that should be read, there were a couple of places it got a little technical but generally it is understandable. You should also read the supporting documentation analyzing the DNA results and then look at the 19 generations of genealogy, direct lines only. The foot notes provide a great source list for anyone doing medieval or early modern research. What was also fascinating was the reconstruction of the contemporaries of Richard III to make sure that there were no other possible contenders for a DNA match among his peers who might have been at Bosworth, or might have died in that period, and there were not.

Read the full article published online today in Nature.

Early Registration for British Institute closes September 15

Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website
Header for the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History from their website

Early Registration Closes September 15 for the British Institute.

The 2014 British Institute to be held 20-24 October in Salt Lake City is organized by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History.

This year’s speakers and topics are:

Scottish Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond by Paul Milner
Scottish laws, regulations and records are different from the rest of the British Isles, yet with enough similarities to create confusion for the unwary.  This course will address the fundamentals of all the major record groups, examining how to search the indexes, exploring what is and is not available online. Case studies will highlight the research and record evaluation processes to determine next steps. Individual consultations are available to assist each participant with their personal research.

Researching Your Irish Ancestors by David Rencher
This course is designed to help the student of Irish genealogical research, whether beginning or advanced. Strategies for establishing a sound beginning and building on that foundation using proven research techniques will be coupled with an understanding of what records sources are available online, on microfilm and in Ireland. Individual half-hour consultations are provided with the course coordinator to assist each participant with ways to extend their research.

Welsh Family History Made Simple by Darris Williams
Welsh family history is different from other localities in some significant ways. Those differences are not impossible roadblocks. Understanding the peculiarities is a good first step to success. Record knowledge is important but not the key. Understanding how to search, evaluate evidence and collate information will resolve many difficult research situations. This course will provide examples of problems, aw well as strategies and skills for learning more about your ancestors.

From Simple to Complex: Applying Genealogy’s Standards of Acceptability to British Research by Tom Jones
Through hands-on activities, lectures, and discussions, participants will learn how to use widely accepted standards to measure their genealogical work’s accuracy and to assess others’ genealogical conclusions. In the process they also will learn about genealogical research planning, its implementation, genealogical reasoning, and the preparation of credible genealogical products.

For speaker biographies, details on lodging and registration go to www.isbgfh.org

Yes, I am teaching the week long course on Scottish Research so do come join us.

 

Unlock The Past 8th Genealogy Cruise from England to the Baltic Seaports 11-25 July 2015

Saturday 11 July 2015 to Saturday 25 July 2015 Baltic Cruise
8th Unlock The Past Genealogy cruise from Southampton to the Baltic Seaports 11-25 July 2015.

Unlock The Past has confirmed the key speakers on its 8th Genealogy Cruise for 14 nights from Saturday 11 July 2015 to Saturday 25 July sailing from Southampton England to the Baltic Seaports aboard the Celebrity Eclipse, operated by Celebrity Cruises.

The key speakers are Paul Milner (myself, just in case you came here via a search engine and you missed who’s blog you are reading); Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List fame (http://cyndislist.com) from the United States; Carol Baxter, the History Detective, a great history writer from Australia (www.carolbaxter.com) ; and Chris Paton from Scotland who writes British GENES, a must-read blog for keeping up-to-date on the news from the genealogy world in the British Isles (http://britishgenes.blogspot.com). Other speakers who have provisionally signed up include Rosemary and Eric Kopittke, and Helen Smith from Australia; and Carol Becker from the United States. All but Cyndi Ingle have been on past Unlock The Past genealogy cruises, so are well known by this cruising audience.

This cruise will offer over 100 topics offered in 50 sessions; special interest groups; Research Help Zone times offering one-on-one and small group opportunities with the experts; opportunities to purchase Unlock The Past and author publications; with visits to some of the world’s great cities along the way.

From Southampton the cruies will sail to: Zeebrugge (Brussels) Belgium; Warnemunde, Germany; Muuga (Tallinn) Estonia; St. Petersburg, Russia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; and returning to Southampton.

To book the cruise or for more information check out Unlock The Past site at www.unlockthepastcruises.com/cruises/8th-unlock-the-past-cruise-baltic . If the schedule for this genealogy cruise does not meet your need, check out the upcoming Unlock The Past cruises sailing across the Atlantic; a European river cruise; or around Australia and New Zealand. There is certainly lots to choose from, and all are well organized conferences.

Come Join Us.

Book Review: Counting People – A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More

Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More
Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians by John S. More

Counting People: A DIY Manual for Local and Family Historians. By John S. Moore. Published by Oxbow Books, Oxford, UK www.oxbowbooks.com. ₤17.95. US Distributor: Casemate Academic, 908 Darby Road, Havertown PA 19083. www.casemateacademic.com. $35. xii, 247 pp. Index. Softcover.

The book’s introduction states that it is written for undergraduates and postgraduate students wishing to study local populations, and for those people interested in history who want to know more about the number of people in a particular area at some time in the past, how and why that number changed over time, what jobs these people had, the structure of their society, and its constituent households and families. As family historians this includes us and this book is certainly worth reading and using.

The introduction suggests reading the last chapter first, which I did. This chapter on researching, writing and publishing gets the reader thinking about the research process, with good questions to be asked along the way to get organized and get results. It is also designed to get the reader thinking about what end result is desired – article, monograph or book, for that will help determine where to look, how and why. The questions raised here help the reader focus their reading in the other chapters to meet their specific needs.

The book is targeting English demographers, those who want to work with population numbers, but that should not stop family historians using the same sources, though some will just contain just numerical data, still helpful, most are derived from and use personal or family data, and thus contain names. The first two chapters outline the problems and questions to be addressed in researching a specific geographic area (parish, village, town, or county) and the principal methods and sources to be used in addressing these questions. The remainder of the book is divided into three periods looking at the problems and sources to be used. The first period covers the Middle Ages from 1066 through to 1525. The second period is from 1538 to 1837 when parish registers are the main source for English population history. The final section covers 1801 through the present, when the census returns provide a reliable outline of demographic developments, obviously expanded from 1837 with reports from the Registrar General.

Professor Moore assumes no expertise exists apart from a genuine interest in the subject. This means that the specifics are well explained. This might be how names or numbers are recorded in the records and how they need to be modified to get to population figures, appropriate for a demographer. For the family historian the author explains what it took to get on the list in the first place – specific age or income levels, land ownership, eligibility for military service, etc. The book provides a detailed description of what records were created, why and most importantly where to find the records and whether they may be in print or not. The latter is especially important as many of the original records will be in Latin, and on this side of the Atlantic it is easier to access print materials than to personally go look at the originals – though there are risks with that approach. Each chapter has extensive endnotes providing access to primary and secondary sources. Professor Moore practices what he describes with a case study for Frampton Cotterell in Gloucesterhire, providing estimated population figures from 1086 through 1801. This highlights the many sources that do exist for many communities within England.

The section of book that I really appreciated was the extensive (57 pages) partially annotated bibliography. This in itself is divided into seven numbered sections: 1 – Introduction to local history; 2a – handwriting, 2b – language, 2c – dating, 2d – computing and history; 3 – Anglo-Saxon England; 4 – Domesday England; 5 – Medieval England, 1135-1525; 6 – Early Modern England 1525-1750; 7 – Modern England, 1750-2011. Each of period sections is subdivided into: sources; countryside; towns; population; economic and social developments. The bibliography does not claim to be a comprehensive listing of all printed sources or studies based on these sources, but some of the sections, e.g. local assizes, manorial records, feet of fines, lay subsidy rolls, are quite extensive. I have already been through this bibliography looking for sources I want to find and have ordered through inter-library loan.

This book will expose the family historian to many resources, some of which will be familiar. I will guarantee though that you will find sources here that you have not heard of, or used. This will be especially true for those researchers who have traced back into the Colonial period and are now jumping the Atlantic and wanting to know what records are available to go back into the Early Modern or Medieval period in English research. This is certainly a book worth exploring.

WWI – Finding the Dead – Commonwealth War Grave Commission part 3

Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Option to filter a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

In the last post we started to discuss the search options for the advanced search screen of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website at www.cwgc.org.  We discussed ways to search  on Surname and Forename, so please do have a look at the last post. Let us take a closer look at some of the other search options and what they mean for your searches, and why you may want to use them.

Country – use this if you know where your ancestor is commemorated. France is not a good choice as there is hundreds of thousands who died there. But if you know that your ancestor died and is commemorated in Argentina, then you are in luck as there is only two options.

Cemetery or memorial – this is useful if you want to get a sense of context, or possibly see who else might be remembered in that location. If you start to type a place and there are multiple options a list will appear. For example, searching on Thiepval brings up four options, selecting Thiepval Memorial and searching on that location shows that 72,338 individuals are memorialized on this one memorial. These are the people for whom no identifiable remains were located to be buried. Corporal Robert Finnegan discussed in the last post is one soldier named on Pier 4D, face 5B.

War – this limits your choice to the First or Second World War

Date of Death – starting and ending – allows you to define a period in which your ancestor died, or to determine how many others died on a given day, possibly indicating if he died in a major battle or in a quiet time. For example, a search for the names of those who died on the 1 July 1916 names 18,708 individuals and obviously does not include those who died from their wounds over the following days. This was the worst day in British military history if you did not already know that.

Served with – lists the forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and South Africa. Be very cautious here as people from the United Kingdom may have served in any of the colonial forces, and many from the colonies did serve in the United Kingdom forces.

Served in – identifies the branch of service – army, air force, navy, merchant navy, civilian war dead and miscellaneous. The last category may need some clarification for this includes: munition workers, Red Cross members, Voluntary Aid Detachments, canteen workers, army cadets, ambulance drivers, war correspondents, etc.

Rank – as you start to type in this field a list of options appears from which to choose.

Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI
Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 names from WWI

Service number – this search may be useful if you have this number from another source, such as a medal roll and want to identify where he is buried or memorialized.

Regiment – can be used to narrow a search, or used with dates to put a death into context. Again when you start to type a list of options appears. For example, searching on the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for the 1 July 1916 shows that there were 833 deaths in this one regiment alone on this day.

Secondary Regiment – should be used with caution as the majority of records contain nothing in this field.

Awards – this enables you to identify those individuals who were awarded a medal (such as the Victoria Cross), or were Mentioned in Dispatches. Returning to the 1 July 1916, with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, and identifying Victoria Cross recipients we identify Eric Norman Frankland Bell of the 9th Battalion. The descriptive citation is provided, adding more color to the day Robert Finnegan died, for the 9th Battalion preceded the 11th Battalion out of the trenches moving towards the German lines.

Additional Information – can be any term but it would need to appear in the additional information part of the database. It might, for example, be used to identify others from your ancestor’s village or street.

There is a lot of material in this database and some experimenting with the search options will narrow your options to find your ancestor, at the same time additional information can be gleaned to put your ancestor into context.