2 November 2015 was an auspicious day for family and local historians. The 1939 Register, known colloquially as The Wartime Domesday Book, was released.The Register was a reaction by the British Government to the threat of war. Forty-one million people were listed by 65,000 enumerators. Their records showed the name, full date of birth, address, marital status and the specific occupation of the vast majority of the population. It was in effect an interim census.The so-called ‘Hundred Years’ privacy rule means that unless an individual noted in the Register died after 1939, their details cannot be viewed if they were born after 1915. This means that in the example and the schedule below, if the record of a household has a note that the details of a member or members are officially ‘closed’ and have been redacted. This refers to individual(s) who are aged twenty-four or under.The Register was used to issue National Identity cards, for rationing and, when WW2 ended, to set up the National Health Service. As a consequence, some details such as addresses were updated. Single women who married between the summer of 1939 and around 1945 also had their details altered. For example, in the piece below, my aunt Margaret (‘Maggie’) Wray’s name has been altered to Whitby after she married Ron Whitby in the latter part of 1939. Likewise, my mother’s name was also altered from Mills to Wray after her marriage to Dad in 1945.Below is a sample of the Register which shows the residents at Chequers Cottages, Preston including my father, Sam Wray, and his mother, Emily.
The reasons that folk were so enthused by the release of the Register were that the 1921 census will probably not be released until 2022; the 1931 census was destroyed; there was no census in 1941 with Britain in the grip of war and the 1951 census will not be available for more than thirty-five years. Therefore, the Register is an important snapshot of who lived where at a time when there are as yet no census details, albeit it is basically a searchable data base like a national electoral register which includes occupations and full dates of birth.In the case of Preston, I have copies of several years of electoral registers. These include the records from 1930 and 1951. (The electoral registers for the mid-1930’s are at the British Library, not Hertfordshire Archives.) By checking these registers it is possible to say where most of the inhabitants of the village were living in 1939. As viewing fifteen households costs almost £55 - and there were more than seventy households at Preston in 1939 - it is cheaper to drive to the National Archives (where the full details of the Register can be viewed for free!) than downloading the entire Register of the village now to discover the occupations of villagers.In the meantime, here is a summary of the people of Preston aged over twenty-four years in 1939 and their likely abodes:
Sydney WDoris KLizzieFrank TGladysThomasAnnie MAmosGeorgeSarahArthurLizzieEmilySamMargaretHenry JGertrude K Leonard TLeonard CAda LKatieHerbert WJohn ThomasLucy JHerbertPhyllisFrankMaggieWillieErnestLizzieRichardVioletFrankFrederick OEva ConstanceFrank TLucy KEdward MJohn B Phyllis RThomas EAlice R HarryBertram GPhyllis JPhilip DEthel M Owen AEllen WRosie VMichael OEphraim RElizabeth EJames EMartha LWilliam K Evelyn M George WBertha E MaryRalston de VinsAnnie C Ernest F Florence MHarryMargaret ERose M IAllanJeanette IJoanLeonard C William JFlorence E Josephine JIrene MayWilliam AHarrietEmma Rosa MArthur WMary L HaroldNora MHenryArthurReginald C TEva C BArthur JKateGeorge HEllen ArthurAnnieKathleen AArthurAgnes DMinnieArthur Horace Robert EGeorge WNellieHubert TElizaJames APercy JLucy J L Nora EFrederick GFrancis AThomas F JackHarold RAlice SWilliam JennieWilliam AEmilyCharles E GladysGladysRobert EJoanMarjorieEllenEdith MDorothy MLesley W JStanley ELilyJeanette AJohn ThomasDaisyWilliam AReginald GBeatrice MOlwen GThomasMinnieMay C AEmily EHannah MLilianClara SFrederick WDaisy MGeorgeLilian MHerbertEmilySydney JohnIvy CWilliam JMaryJohnClara SErnest WEvelyn JPamelaFrederickAliceViolet AWilliam FPercyAlbert B TCarolineWalter CPhiladelphia CAlice MArthur JSamuelRobertLouisaCuthbert RFrankNaridEdward ADorisFrederick HClariceVyvyen ACynthia MMarjorieAlisonElizabeth AMargaret EHelenAlison