Monday, 15 March 2010

More on Northern Irish 1939 National Register

Following the securing of information from the 1939 National Register for Northern Ireland (see 1939 Northern Irish FOI request successful) PRONI has confirmed with me today that all future Freedom of Information requests will require both proof of death and an address. This differs to Engand and Wales where only an address is needed, and to Scotland, where only date of death is required.

So how has the 1939 info supplied helped with my research?

The details I received were very limited, but extremely useful. I received my grandfather's name, his occupation and date of birth. I knew from trade directories in both Scotland and Ireland that he had moved from Glasgow to Belfast in 1936, and family tradition had it that this was so that his kids would avoid conscription. It's a long story, but my grandfather lived in Brussels throughout the First World War with his family as enemy aliens - his father collapsed and died in 1916 whilst hiding from the Germans (he was in hiding in a Dutch resident's house in Brussels for 16 months), and my great uncle John was soon after interned by them in a POW camp in Germany as a civilian.

So family tradition had it that my grandad basically moved to Ulster fearing that he was about to live through an imminent Nazi occupation in Britain and to protect his kids from conscription, which did not apply in Northern Ireland. The problem with this family tale is that the eldest kid was just 1 year old in 1939, so I just don't buy that! I suspect Charles actually moved to Belfast to take up a management position in a Clydesdale shop (the firm I knew he worked for in Belfast in the 1950s), and the fact he was a branch manager in 1939 now seems to add weight to that. It may be that he moved over to avoid conscription himself, but I doubt this, he joined the RAF in the war, after all, and I now also know from the 1939 details that it was after the war started that he did so.

More important was the birth date however. His death cert from Donaghadee, Co. Down, in 1987 stated he was born in 1904 in Inverness. This was in fact completely wrong. He was born in Belgium - his three siblings in Brussels (I have their certs) and he himself we believe in St Gilles on the outskirts of Brussels (still looking for that). But he attended school in Inverness for a year in 1910, and his surviving school records there state that he was born 1905, not in 1904. His marriage cert age also suggested 1905, but the 1939 record, where he was the informant, categorically stated 1905. So I've actually learned quite a bit from surprisingly little info.

In addition to these details, I was told that there were three individuals in the house, the others are my grandmother and uncle - he's still alive. Info will only be given out for those on the register now deceased, so I am now in the process of obtaining my grandmother's death cert.

I've had similar revelations with 1939 records from both Scotland and England, so in each case to date it has been worth the effort in pursuing these. Of course, charges are now involved for these in Britain, and I suspect will soon be forthcoming in Ulster also, which all has to be weighed up as to whether it is worth applying or not!

Professional genealogical problem solving and research
Researching Scottish Family History (New book)

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