The 1939 register is a census-like snap shot of people in England and Wales that was taken just as the Second World War broke out. It was taken on 29 September 1939 and the information was used to produce identity cards and, once rationing was introduced in January 1940, to issue ration books.
There is actually also a 1939 register for Scotland too, but it is not available to view in the same way as the England and Wales register.
Due to this I had largely discounted the 1939 register as a source of information for my research because I was looking for people in Scotland.
When I was visiting my family recently we were talking about my maternal grandmother and about the house she worked in as a Cook in London before the war. We had the address from letters she had written, 20 Halsey Street, and my sister had been along to that address in modern day London and taken a photo of the outside.
My mum wondered whether it would be possible to find out anything about the people who she worked for. This resulted in me realising that I did have a reason to look in the 1939 register after all!
We found her in the register at exactly the address we knew from the letters. Unfortunately only domestic staff were listed at that address, no owners. I don’t know whether this means that they were away or perhaps were military people and so excluded from the 1939 Register because they were counted on some equivalent list that the military kept.
Notwithstanding the failure to discover who she worked for, it was lovely to find her in the register.