An Enumerator and a List of Houses – 1939 Register

As family historians we usually think of the census records and 1939 England and Wales Register as lists of people. However, several censuses and the 1939 register also give us a list of farms and houses – very useful for One-Place Studies and indeed house histories. The 1939 register is an unusual source in that changes have been made at a later date, usually to show a married name, as it was a working document for National Health Service registration. The enumerators varied in their knowledge of the local area and accuracy, so it can be useful to know a little more about them. Accuracy in terms of coverage can be considered by comparing the registers across the years and trying to explain any discrepancies.

1939 Register image accessed ancestry.co.uk July 2022

Sticklepath in 1939 was part of 3 Parishes, this focuses on the Sampford Courtenay enumerator district. The man in charge on 5th October was Ralph Finch (1891-1979).

Ralph the middle of 3 sons to James and Ellen Finch, had two older sisters. Photo c1905 by Lugg & sons of Okehampton.

He was born and brought up in the village, spent most of his life here, and was the last ‘Finch’ to work at the Finch Foundry.

Finch Foundry Workers, Ralph with hand on hip, 4th from the left.

Ralph was the sort of person who was called upon to be the Presiding Officer in the Polling station for Parliamentary Elections too. Here seen in Sticklepath School polling station alongside the younger Roger Bowden his first cousin once removed.

Polling station at Sticklepath County Primary School 1950s or 60s? Who is casting their vote? (Do let me know!)

There were some new residents at the time of the 1939 Register, evacuees, and I think Ralph, who always had a twinkle in his eye and a kind word, will have used the opportunity to say hello and ask both the children and their host families how things were going. With so many families to visit in one day I don’t think he will have accepted many cups of tea on his was around though!

Ralph with Lynette (Violet) his first wife. ‘Tea’ in the 1960’s always included a saucer with the bone china cup and a teaspoon each with lumps (cubes)of sugar. Thinly sliced bread and butter too. I associate this gold hostess trolley with Auntie Lynette.

Whilst there are redactions in the 1939 register for people who may still be living, most heads of households in 1939 would be over 100 today, so it is likely the vast majority of house names will not be redacted. The Schedule helpfully numbers the houses and subjects (people) within so it is clear if a house is fully redacted or not legible. Note Findmypast.co.uk may have less redactions than Ancestry.co.uk

Example from Sticklepath village 1939 Register accessed via ancestry.co.uk July 2022

Some houses have changed name (or numbering in areas elsewhere), and quite a few small houses have been incorporated into larger ones either with extensions, or two or more houses later made into one. Several of the larger houses in the 1911 census and 1939 register were split into several households. Unfortunately there is nothing about numbers of rooms like 1911 census, but together and alongside random addresses from records of life events, wills, directories, newspapers etc, we can start to create a database, a useful list of houses and their occupiers at various points in time. Deeds and newspaper reports of auctions etc. can help with names of owners.

The database of Sticklepath Houses is in its early stages, starting with a list created in 1983 from people’s memories (especially Muriel Ching Bowden nee Finch) now slowly adding the 1939 register houses to the database and the occupants to the SticklepathOne Ancestry.co.uk ‘forest’.

If anyone is willing to share any photographs or information about their Sticklepath house with the Sticklepath Heritage Group or on the website please contact us. Similarly if anyone would like to know if I have information about their sticklepath house, do ask.

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