Having taken advantage of the Black Friday deal with FindMyPast and nabbed myself a World subscription I was looking forward to searching the 1939 register.
I knew the 1939 Register was going to become available as part of the subscription package and receiving the email during half term I jumped at the chance to search for my parents.
There is a mix of surnames in my maternal line (my grandmother Lucy was born a Thomas, was fostered by a married aunt named Denning and thereafter became Denning – my mum’s birth is registered as a Denning but she was brought up a Smale) but despite this, Lucy was easy to find in the 1939 register. I was able to find the property on Google Maps too and have a wander round the area.
The intrigue came when I searched for my father …
First of all I want to say it’s been fabulous having the research I’ve already done confirmed by the information I found in the register!
Previous research in civil registrations has found the marriages and children for my grandfather’s siblings (which have confirmed family stories) but then I had found only ‘possible’ marriages for the following generation. On the 1939 register, they are still young enough to be living at home and the transcripts I’ve found show their married names with their maiden names in brackets. Which is evidence that those possible marriages I found are now confirmed. Hurrah!
In the baptism registers for some of my relatives there have been dates of birth alongside the date of baptism (or it’s been supplied by a descendent). The 1939 register confirms dates of births too. I can imagine this resource saving family history researchers quite a lot of money (although I would still recommend you purchase certificates for your direct line).
I’ve loved looking at the occupations of not only my own relatives but also their neighbours. I think it gives a more complete picture when you’re able to imagine them in their environments, including the people they would interact with socially. The wives (who stayed at home) I’ve noticed are recorded as either ‘unpaid domestic duties’ or ‘housewife unpaid.’ My father’s 16 year old sister Ivy is recorded as an ‘aircraft component viewer’ while his 18 year old brother Tommy is an ‘aircraft automatic setter.’ Obviously jobs relevant at the start of WWII. My Google search hasn’t turned up much so if you know anything about these occupations, please let me know!
Another fabulous find for me was that I also found my gt grandmother, Emma nee Seakens, living with my great aunt Emma Louise and her family. My father’s sister, Frances May is also living there. In my first genealogical post on the blog I briefly mentioned that my father and his siblings were split up after WWI and never lived together again.
And so I come to the mystery …
My father’s (Alfred Augustus Rose) first marriage took place in January 1938 in Hackney (which is where the Rose family had been for two generations) to Ethel Margaret Barnett. My late half-sister Margaret was born July 1938 (oh those paper trails revealing secrets) also in Hackney. So it’s reasonable to think they would all be residing in Hackney on 29th September 1939 when the register was taken – right? Imagine my surprise to find my father living with his father, step-mother, sister and brother in Hackney and no wife or child. My first thought was that he had signed up and was at his parents on leave. But that’s the very start of WWII. My father did fight during the war but his papers can’t be found so I have no idea of dates etc (I do have medals) but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been in the September. And he is recorded as being a French Polisher. Where were they then? I love a good mystery, something to get me thinking and solving 🙂
At first I couldn’t find them. I’m usually in a hurry (purely because I need to know and I need to know right now!) just entering the basic information and mostly what I am looking for is returned in the search. This time though I had to look further at the other things I could enter which might make a difference.
I didn’t know where they were but I did know that Ethel had to be with 1 year old daugher Margaret. Entering Margaret in the ‘other household member’ I found them. They were in Dunmow, Essex living with childless young married couple Ernest and Alice Nightingale. Essex? All my father’s extended family were still in Hackney. Previously I’d also researched Ethel’s parents and Essex just hadn’t come into it so I knew the connection wasn’t through her. The first thing I did was search the distance. Today, 36 miles along the M11 doesn’t sound so far does it? but in 1939 … I then looked at their occupations. Often you’ll find a connection that way for example I’ve already mentioned my father was a French Polisher (my grandfather and great grandfather were also French Polishers. You can read more about RTE on a post I wrote during National Suicide Prevention Month) and Ethel’s family have connections with cabinet making and pianoforte tuning. It’s not so hard to believe that both families moved in those similar circles and that’s how they met. But Ernest? A bricklayer. So they probably didn’t know each other through their occupations.
It wasn’t until I started finding out more about Dunmow that the light bulb pinged. It was rural. It was the start of WWII. Evacuation? And I stumbled across an article on the Dunmow Broadcast from 2009 which for me, adds that colour and depth to information I crave when I’m researching family history. It is the memoir of a woman who was evacuated (with her sister) to Dunmow on 1st September 1939. This is a lovely account of being taken in and loved as a part of the family.
As I mentioned, all of my grandfather’s siblings were accounted for in Hackney with their spouses and families. I wonder how long Ethel and Margaret were in Dunmow and the difference it made to not only Ethel’s relationship with my father but also how Margaret viewed our father.
My father and his family moved to Dorset just before the war ended. Ethel died 2nd February 1962 aged 46 and is buried at St Andrew’s Church in Kinson.
I found Ethel’s grave in 2008 which although untended, did have a Christmas wreath laid by it. Someone was still thinking of her.
I’ve felt quite excited again being back researching and finding out things I didn’t know. My imagination has been fired up and I can’t wait to find more time to do more searching through FindMyPast records.
I’ll leave you with a photo of three generations of the Rose family together at the wedding of my gt Uncle Richard Rose who was born in 1899 and married in 1923. It’s not good quality as it’s a copy of an original. I’ve found all the Rose clan in the photo on the 1939 Register.
My father is the first child sat on the floor at the front on the left. His sister Frances is sat at the front far left. His brother Daniel is the child standing far right.
I won’t go through all of the people! but my gt grandmother Emma nee Seakens is the first row of adults 2nd from left and my grandfather is right at the back, offside centre to the right hand side and you can just see his head and bow tie!
Another great tool for researching is the British Newspaper Archives. I’ve done a small amount of research on one of my direct branches and found some information in the British Newspaper Archives which helped me place a Charles Seakens (who was born within two years of my own Charles which led to confusion for me back in 2008 in the first place!).
Have you used the 1939 register yet?
Do you think I’m right that Ethel and Margaret were evacuees?