Looking at the images for the 1939 Register, FindMyPast only displays the left-hand page and the first column of the right-hand page:

enter image description here

I have heard that the right-hand page contains "sensitive medical information" or the like. However, I somehow doubt that one of the columns is specifically devoted to medical notes since it was not until long after the war that the registers became the basis for the NHS registers. And anyway, the original household schedules did not ask for any medical details, so there's no reason there would be a column for it in the register books.

So what exactly is being hidden from view? What are the missing columns?


In the Lost Cousins newsletter dated 1st March 2016, Peter Calver posted his own entry from the NHS Central Register, from one of the later registers. In the newsletter, he shows that the right-hand side has a jumble of codes which he interprets as a list of the places he has lived and some dates. He notes that the format of the register that holds his entry is the same as the 1939 Register except for the heading of the columns on the right-hand page. Of the codes recorded on the right-hand side, he says:

At first glance it looks like a meaningless jumble of numbers and letters, but because I know where I was living at various times in my life I was able to deduce that EX stands for Essex (where I grew up), SOH is Southampton (where I went to university), NEL is North East London (the new name for the part of Essex where I lived), LNB is one of the London boroughs, and MX is Middlesex. None of the dates shown correspond precisely to the dates when I moved - it's more likely they indicate when I first visited a new doctor.

How is this significant in the context of the 1939 Register? The key thing about the 1939 Register is that, having been adopted for use by the NHS, it continued to be updated until the paper records were eventually computerised (this happened at a national level in 1991, but locally it happened earlier - my computer record from the Central Register appears to date from 1983.)

The information that we can't see on the right-hand page of the 1939 Register looks just like the hieroglyphics above - it simply records when the individual concerned moved from one doctor to another. Hardly confidential medical information - so I wonder whether one day we'll be allowed to see it?

To see if his guess is correct, we'd need to have someone born before 1939 (in order to be living in time to be recorded) request their own entry (the way one had to do before the 1939 Register was released by Find My Past) and see if the information from the right-hand side was provided in that copy.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    In addition, Peter's special edition of his newsletter on lostcousins.com/newsletters2/1939special.htm shows a screen grab from an FMP promo video. Though fuzzy (possibly deliberately) it shows that there are just two columns on the r/h page - one of which we see today. The rest of the page is occupied by text similar to that in the link above. – AdrianB38 Jul 2 '16 at 10:35
  • Thanks Jan & @AdrianB38. It's a shame the column is redacted because it looks like it could contain a lot of genealogically-useful information. Since only deceased persons are visible anyway, I wonder if there are plans (or legal provisions) to release this information at any point. – Harry Vervet Jul 2 '16 at 11:06
  • I suspect not before 2039 at best as transcribing and indexing real names 1 column (not 1 line) at a time was problematic enough. Code values will be worse. In any case we seem in the UK to have a deep seated antipathy to releasing medically related data at any time, regardless of logic. Personally I'm not worried about missing anything as people move short distances without changing medical practice - I know my family did. Better to look in electoral registers and phone books to trace people, I think. – AdrianB38 Jul 2 '16 at 11:17
  • Good catch, @AdrianB38! I had completely forgotten about that fuzzy screengrab in Peter's newsletter. If you'd like to post that as an answer, I'll upvote it with pleasure. – Jan Murphy Jul 2 '16 at 18:46

The omitted columns are #11 and #12. On FMP's Original Forms page, the Enumerator's Instructions sheet states:

Column 11 - The enumerator may be instructed not to transcribe the schedule entries as to "Membership of Naval, Military or Airforce Reserves, etc., or Civil Defence Services, etc." from column G of the schedule [...]. But if he is instructed to transcribe those entries, the entry should be made in column 11 on the right-hand page. The entry, if directed to be made, should be an exact copy of the entry in the schedule.

The schedule form (as in your question here) shows that column G is indeed for membership of military or civil defence services. It's not clear why that information was only supposed to be transcribed on demand, though. It's certainly a shame that it's missing from the images.

This example of column 11 (from this record) shows three entries, for army, air raid warden and mercantile marine, which is consistent with the note above:

Example 1939 register Column 11

The twelfth column is labelled "Postings", and so was presumably intended for tracking the whereabouts of military members noted in column 11.

I've seen other notes on the right side of the page that don't appear to be related to military service,and are clearly not in the enumerator's hand. I suspect that once the register passed to the NHS, that side of the page became a general notes field, much as described in @JanMurphy's answer.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Re "not clear why that information was only supposed to be transcribed on demand" - I wonder if this was to do with whether the guys in the military were supposed to be reported or not? So far as I can see, guys already in the military and on military bases were not to complete the 1939 Register. (I believe because they would already have Id cards). Guys in the military and billetted on civilians were also not to complete the Register. Guys on leave were to complete the register (no idea why!). Maybe they reserved the right to ignore Col G if the householder got it wrong. – AdrianB38 Jul 2 '16 at 19:39

Peter Calver's special edition of his Lost Cousins newsletter shows a screen grab that he took from a FindMyPast promotional video - see the heading "What aren't we seeing?" in the linked newsletter (given that the copyright will belong to either FMP or PC, I am not including the image itself here).

Though fuzzy (possibly deliberately for confidentiality reasons) it shows that there are just two columns on the right-hand page - one of which we see today on the FMP images. The rest of the page is occupied by text similar to that mentioned in the 1st March 2016 newsletter linked above.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.