Emm Waifs and Strays 1939 Register

Why have I not updated my blog recently?  Because I’ve spent days and days collating all Emm(ses) in the 1939 register – over 300 now and still counting….

The 1939 Register was compiled for national security reasons when the British Government was faced with the prospect of all-out war.  It is one of the UK’s most important documents of the 20th Century and crucial for family historians bridging the gap between the 1921 census (unlikely to be released before 2022 due to the cost and effort of digitisation) and the destruction of the 1931 census by enemy action. An individual’s ID card number became their NHS number at its foundation in 1947.  It listed all civilians living in the UK in 1939. Military personnel were not listed unless they were on leave when the register was being conducted.

My forays into 1939 have been fascinating, illuminating and unbelievably frustrating! You can’t believe the number of Alfreds, Alberts, Mildreds, Georges, Daisies (plural of Daisy anyone?) Who is who?   And when an Emm was obviously living away from home, trying to match a a husband and wife living and working elsewhere was horribly time consuming.

One little lad, for instance, Thomas Emm, aged 6, was in Langwith  Isolation Hospital, Blackwell, Derbyshire.  It took me ages to work out his parents were Samuel Emm (colliery hewer heavy worker born 1893) and wife Avis (nee Whitfield) who lived just down the road at 70, the Woodlands, Blackwell.    This isolation hospital, opened 1908, treated infectious diseases like diphtheria and scarlet fever.  Thomas’ treatment was clearly successful as he married in 1957.

The Blackwell Rural District Council Annual Report of 1938 (the same time the 1939 Register was compiled) is a fascinating statistical insight into the area including the number of privies, middens, condemned housing etc – stuff you wouldn’t normally discover…

Information (continuously updated until 1952) revealed in the Register  includes name, address, date of birth, gender, marital status (widowed, married or single) and occupation. The majority of women were performing ‘unpaid domestic duties’.  This is transcribed online but viewing the original document reveals crucial defence-of-the-realm annotations like ‘ARP’ and ‘air raid warden’. Even more useful is when a woman’s surname is crossed out with a handwritten amendment (often in a different colour ink) stating her post 1939 married name.

For anyone still alive, their details are obliterated by a black bar and ‘closed record’ however, this gives a clue to any children a couple may have had.

See the National Archives page for more information. The Register can be accessed at subscription sites Ancestry and FindMyPast, often accessible for free at public libraries.

A reminder, if you are an Emm, descended from an Emm, or married to an Emm, you can discover more at our next Emmposium taking place in Wiltshire on the late May bank holiday 2019.  Please contact me for details.  Our Emm trees are now even more informative and over 70 feet long!  You have been warned….

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