Geoffs Genealogy Update 7 March 2016
Monday March 7th, 2016 | Geoff
The Find My Past (FMP) website people have added some very interesting sources for us to use in our family history research over the past few weeks. FMP have added a set of Irish Parish Registers that should prove tremendously valuable to people who are researching Irish ancestry. According to FMP’s News page these Catholic registers constitute the largest collection of Irish registers online. They cover “over 200 years of Ireland’s history from 1671-1900. The Irish Catholic Parish Registers contain over 40 million names from over 1,000 parishes that cover 97% of the entire island of Ireland, both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic”.
The people at Ancestry would probably like me to mention that they also have a large collection of Irish parish registers available online.
As it stands these records are of no real use to me, but I mention them for the benefit of any possible readers of this blog who may have Irish interests. I am constantly amazed that in about 30 years of researching I have never yet identified an Irish born forebear, although I remain convinced that there must be some waiting to be found by me.
The other really important addition to FMP’s record set is the 1939 Register, which came online in the last weeks of 2015. Unfortunately, when these records were published, FMP priced them as an extra to the subscription so even if, like me, you pay an annual subscription, you had to pay an extra charge to view them. I, and many other subscribers, protested to FMP about this, and I’m pleased to say that they responded by changing their policy and including the 1939 Register in the UK subscription with effect from 16 February this year. This meant that I could stop my self imposed boycott and in the past few weeks I have been making great use of this wonderful resource which, by the way, is indexed and very easy to use..
The 1939 Register was compiled by the British Government in September 1939, when they had just declared war on Germany. They needed to find out information about all the people in the country – names, ages, occupations and the like, in order to make sure that they made the best use of the skills that were available to be deployed in the war effort. It is rather like a census, in that it lists households and shows the sex, age and occupation of everybody listed. Unlike censuses it does not show birthplaces, but as the precise date of birth is shown, it should usually be pretty easy to find the district in which the birth was registered. Additionally, heads of households were not identified, and the relationship of a person to the head of household was not shown either.
When the register was compiled it was very important to ascertain occupations with a high degree of accuracy, so FMP say that the occupations listed are very much more precise than those shown in the census entries with which we are all familiar.
As there is a 100 years closure on these personal records the records for any persons born within 100 years of the present date have been blacked out and cannot be read. However, where FMP know that a person born over 100 years ago has died they have not blacked out their record, and if you know of a relative who has died, but has been blacked out in this record, there is a procedure whereby you can ask FMP to release the record.
In quite a large number of cases the records have been updated to show when a person subsequently married, and in these cases the bride’s married name is inserted, and is shown with her maiden name – a great aid to finding marriages relevant to your research.
The reason why the 1939 Register is so valuable to researchers will probably be apparent to anybody who has tried to research 20th century ancestry. At last we have a resource that is comprehensive, detailed, and in a particularly valuable time frame.
The most recent census that we can use at the moment is dated 1911, and due to the 100 years closure rule the 1921 census will not be released until 2022. Then there will be a big gap in these most valuable records. The 1931 census was destroyed by a fire during the night of Saturday 19 December 1942 at the Hayes, Middlesex facility where it was being stored. Everything was lost – schedules, enumeration books, the lot, so we shall never be able to see these records. As if that was not bad enough, the 1941 census never took place, because the country was otherwise occupied at that time, so after the release of the 1921 census there will be a thirty year gap until the 1951 census records are published, presumably in 1952. I don’t know about you, but I can be fairly certain that I shall not be here by then!
Thus, the release of the 1939 Register is a very big event for all types of historians, but particularly for family historians, and I would certainly encourage anybody to make good use of it. I have been doing so over the past few weeks, and have been successful in finding people on all my lines of research, including quite a few people who I have known personally.