"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

On the Genealogical Dark Age (1921–1951)

Well, it’s been nearly an entire week since I last blogged, I think. Life slightly took over this week, as it sometimes does, but as promised, I am going to write something today. It’s been a quiet week for me on the genealogy front to be honest, so nothing exciting to reveal from my own research. However, all this talk of the 1940 census across the pond has got me very jealous.
The 1911 census release was so exciting. From when I started my research I had been desperate for the fresh batch of records and the thought of waiting 5 years for them was so frustrating. Like how people remember exactly where they were when they heard about Kennedy being shot, I clearly remember the announcement that the 1911 records were to be released early – even though I was watching TV on my own at the time, I pretty much went crazy with excitement!
Unfortunately, we really do have ten years to wait until our next census release here in the UK, and that will be the last one for quite some time. The 1931 census was destroyed by fire in 1942, and no census was taken in 1941 due to the war. This means that after the release of the 1921 census in January 2022 (when I will be 36, eek!), there will be a thirty year gap until the release of the 1951 census (by which time I will be 66, even bigger eek!)
It does beg the question of what will drive genealogy in the interim period, however, and how difficult it will be for new generations to get started with their research. However, given that more and more records are appearing online every day, perhaps this abundance of electronic data will make up for the lack of censuses?
Doing a spot of research for this post, I found out about one possible source of info for this period that I wasn’t aware of – the 1939 National Identity Cards. This was a wartime measure, designed to make tracking and managing the population easier, both for security reasons and to help with planning measures such as rationing and mobilisation.  
Approximately 46 million cards were issued. Information gathered for each individual was: their address, name, sex, date of birth, marital condition, occupation and whether a member of the armed forces or reserves. Cards were enumerated in a similar way to the census, with a district code and a schedule line identifying a household, so that the system can be used to identify other household members, much like the census.   
All the information that was recorded on the cards has been retained and can be accessed via the National Health Service Information Centre. There is a search charge of £42, and data is only available for individuals who have died and are now recorded as deceased. You can search for an individual by name, as well as requesting up to nine other individuals living at the same address, and you can also search for up to ten unnamed people at a known address.
I am tempted to put this search to use, though it’s not vital to my research at the moment, and it is quite pricey (particularly compared to a standard 1911 census search that would give much the same information). I’d like to think that this data will in future become more readily, or at least more cheaply, as it is the nearest thing we have to a census in that thirty-year ‘genealogical dark age’ between 1921 and 1951.
L x

No comments:

Post a Comment

Don't be shy...