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The way places are organized and indexed in the 1939 Register has me somewhat befuddled. Sometimes even when looking at an original page, the parish or village name is not shown, making it difficult to know where the household you are looking at was actually located. This may be due to the fact that other redacted lines on the page cover this key information. Fortunately, for the images I have looked at so far, I know where the addresses were even though it is not always obvious from looking at the record. However, I am wondering if any information can be gleaned from the Enumeration District (ED) codes.

Take this example from reference RG 101/6272A. At the top of the page is written three pieces of location information:

  • E.D. Letter Code: ROLQ
  • Borough, U.D. or R.D.: Southwell R.D. [Rural District]
  • Registration District and Sub-district: 431/2

The enumeration districts used in the 1939 Register were based largely on those from 1931 census. Using the 1931 census reports it is a fairly straightforward matter to determine that registration district 431 is Southwell, and sub-district 2 is Kneesall. However, there are still a large number of parishes in this rural district and registration sub-district.

FindMyPast have published a list of ED area codes which is useful to bookmark even though it does not tell me any more than is on the record itself. This list confirms that ROL corresponds to Southwell RD. The ED letter code is based on this three digit area code plus an additional sequential letter.

Clearly there are a number of EDs within Southwell RD (one of which is ROLQ). Presumably each enumeration district had specific boundaries - otherwise people could be easily duplicated.

I am unsure whether the area covered by an ED was determined by local or national authorities. This could affect where ED information can be found.

How can I determine what area was covered by an ED - either boundary descriptions, maps, or lists of parishes (or parts of parishes) included in that ED?

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There might be ED maps at The National Archives, but so far, I haven't been able to determine a good archive reference for them.

Searching on Discovery, the catalog of The National Archives, for the keywords "RG 101" and "maps" brought me to this page describing Records of the General Register Office, Government Social Survey Department, and Office of Population Censuses and Surveys. Within this page are two references to groups of GRO records with maps:

  • Maps of superintendent registrars' districts, RG 18.
  • Maps of superintendent registrars' districts and sub-districts are in RG 18.

Both of these lead back to the main catalog description for RG 18. Filtering for records at TNA, "1925 - 1949", "Maps and Plans" and records of the GRO leaves one entry which turns out to be the main description for the records about the 1939 Register arrived at with the earlier search.

Starting with a fresh search and browsing through RG 18 yields some entries for 1 inch and 6 inch Ordnance Survey maps for the 1921 Census, which might be a good starting point. I did not see an entry for ED maps while doing the browse.

TNA's main research guide on the 1939 Register says:

The enumeration districts used for the Register were based broadly on those used for the 1931 Census, sub-divided into smaller units. Some were altered to account for the expansion in housing or to coincide with reorganised voting district boundaries. The general rule was that an enumeration district should contain no more than 300 households, not counting institutions. For more information about enumeration districts please read understanding the 1939 registration districts.

That link goes to an article on Findmypast, which has no mention of maps. However, see the 10 tips for searching the 1939 Register like a pro by Niall Cullen (19 May 2020), which shows how you now have the option to view a map from 1888-1913, another from 1937-1961 and a present-day map for a given search result.

In addition to the research guidance on Findmypast, KiwiTrees has a filter tool for determining 1939 Register: Enumeration District Piece Numbers.

The British Library has several guides to electoral registers on their site. Using guides such as Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers Since 1832 in conjunction with maps on A Vision of Britain might help, but if you are looking for enumerator's maps that define the actual street boundaries of each ED, so far I have not been able to find them.

For a case study, see Census etc: 1930s | 1939 National Register of England and Wales at the One-Name Study site Atcherley family history website.

Correlate districts with other historical maps?

These maps aren't keyed to the 1939 Register specifically, but check the Ordnance Survey maps at the National Library of Scotland. In some of the series, there are maps from the late 1930s or early 1940s that show the district boundaries, like this 1:25,000 series map of Plymouth.

enter image description here

Thanks to the Twitter followers listed below for their contributions to this answer:

| improve this answer | |
  • A lot of your links seem to be going to dead searches :-( – Barnaby Aug 2 at 9:47
  • @Barnaby Thanks, I've taken out all the links to the defunct OnePlaceStudiesXTRA blog and added some new ones. I hope this is clearer. – Jan Murphy Aug 4 at 22:50

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