The UK’s National Archives has announced that the ‘1939 National Register’ for England & Wales is to be digitised through collaboration with Findmypast.co.uk. This exciting news validates CIGO’s campaign – begun in 2008 – to establish that the general public had a right of access to data from the Register which relates deceased persons or those born more than 100 years ago. Will Scotland and Northern Ireland now find commercial partners to work with too?
Those who followed CIGO’s campaign will be aware that it was successful in using the UK’s Freedom of Information Act to force the National Health Service Information Centre to back-down from its “no access” policy to the National Register and to establish a fee paying access service.
The information recorded in the UK’s National Register – while sparse compared to census records – is actually superior because it records dates of birth rather than just ages. This means that identifying people can be achieved with far more accuracy than census records allow – particularly if an individual is residing outside of their family home.
Of great important to Ireland is that data in the National Register which relates to living people will be redacted, thus ensuring compliance with the UK’s Data Protection Act. From the view point of Irish genealogists, the use of redaction through modern technology establishes a precedent that such a policy could also be applied to Ireland’s 1926 census. While redaction is not what genealogists really want, its use would help allay the fears of the Central Statistics office, which has made its view clear that it would not support any change in the Statistics Act 1993 which places data about living people in the public domain.