For each person, I usually enter each census as a fact in my software, to keep track of who I've identified in each census. However when it comes to the UK 1939 Register this becomes problematic.

There seems to be no good, standard fact type for this document. In GEDCOM there are a couple of choices – Census, or Residence.

The 1939 Register is not technically a census (although many genealogists, rightly or wrongly, treat it as one).

Where someone is recorded on the 1939 Register is not necessarily their residence.

Making a custom fact type is a possibility, but is less ideal as it may not be supported by every genealogy software, and in my experience can be messy when exporting GEDCOMs to other software or websites.

Is there any standard or best practice as to which fact type should be used for the 1939 Register?

This topic has been discussed more generally in the past, but not as it applies to the 1939 Register: Should I record a Census as a Census or a Residence?


2 Answers 2


If you want strict Gedcom compliance, then your only options are 'Census' and 'Residence'. (Some programmes will allow you to generate custom events, but those won't 'travel well').

I would use 'Census'. Although not actually a Census, it was:

designed to capture the details of every member of the civilian population on a specific date

(from the National Archives)

which is similar to a census, which captured where an individual was on the date of the census, not where they habitually resided.

Admittedly, the place captured in the 1939 is more likely to be a habitual residence, given its use in creating identity cards and ration books etc. However, given the fact that military personnel were not included, so the register didn't include everybody's habitual residence, I believe it's closer to a Census-substitute than (say) an electoral roll or directory (for which I would use Residence).


I would say that the answer depends on what you are going to use your data for. In my case I enter the 1939 as a census but when I produce reports for general consumption, I omit all types of census and just print the information about the person. What matters is their job, residence, birth details, etc. It's hardly that interesting to know that they were counted on a census on one day, in my view. Weren't they all? (Well, no, not quite....)

Census events for me are just there to track whether I've got the data, not a final report.

On the other hand, if you are exchanging GEDCOMs with someone who would have a fit of the vapours if you use Census as an event, then that's a different matter. Me, I even use Census for recording Protestation returns in the 1600s!

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