Monday 2 November 2015

1939 National Register for England & Wales launches
The 1939 National Register is now online
FindMyPast launched the 1939 National Register for England and Wales this morning and I've spent more time than I should have exploring it!

On my 'number one' search – my long-time quest to find my great grandfather's emigrant brother – I have been disappointed. I can't find him at the address handed down to me, and I can't identify him in the Register with any certainty from among the other John Doyles of around the same age. On another search, I've uncovered an entry for an extended family member at a completely unexpected address; I'll be delving into this in due course, but I don't think it's going to yield anything except perhaps some gossip.

While my own research hasn't been helped by this collection, I'm sure there are all kinds of discoveries being made today by other researchers, even if their voices aren't too apparent tonight on social media. I've taken a quick mooch around the most obvious outlets this evening to see what kind of reaction the collection is receiving. It's clear to see there's a lot, and I mean a lot, of complaint about the price of access to the Register. Much of this is coming from existing FindMyPast subscribers who had expected this collection to be included in their existing package. Others are complaining that nigh-on €10/£7 is too much for an individual household schedule.

I have some sympathy with these views, and time will tell whether FindMyPast has lost its commercial mojo. Researchers will decide whether the fee is realistic mainly on the value of what they discover. So will I. The thing is, if I'd found my John Doyle, his register entry would, in all likelihood, have led me to information crucial to my family history research, in which case, the subscriber-discounted fee I paid this morning would be marked up as 'great value'. Without that discovery, it's been an expensive day.

Aside of the cost issue, the National Register section of the FindMyPast site holds plenty of background information to put the collection into perspective, and the search facility is easy to use. My search results were, without fail, delivered instantly, throughout the day, which is impressive on the first day of a major release.

However, the redaction of some entries seems to be causing some confusion among researchers. If the redaction were subject to just one rule ie no disclosure of details of any individuals who would be less than 100 years old today, it would be straightforward. Instead, we have '1991' thrown in to muddy the waters, and I don't think an explanation of this complication has been given suffficient prominence on the site.

A very quick history: Following the war, the National Register became the basic admin register of the National Health Service and was continually updated until 1991. Deaths were noted, changes of name on marriage were noted for women, and so on. Since 1991, the Register has not been updated.

So, let's say you're searching for someone...

... born pre-1915: she/he will appear in the Register will all details 'open'
... born after 1915 and died before the end of 1991: she/he will appear in the 'open' Register
... born after 1915 and died after 1991: her/his details will be redacted from the Register until the 100th anniversary of her/his birth. However, you can submit a copy of her/his death certificate to 'open' the Register entry.
... born after 1915 and is still alive: her/his details will be redacted from the Register.

The issue is slightly complicated by the historical practice of women changing their surname on marriage; if your individual married before 1991, you should search using her married surname.

On one of the searches I made today, I found a redacted entry for a family member who died in 2007. I have his death certificate and I've submitted it to FindMyPast's Evidence of Death checking service (free to subscribers). An email response tells me the redacted entry should be unlocked within 10 days (starting tomorrow). I'll let you know how it goes.