The British Government introduced national registration during the First and Second World Wars to help with the administration of rationing, mobilisation, evacuation and conscription. At both of these times of emergency they turned to the Registrars General because of their experience of taking the census of population.
National Register of 1915
A register of adults aged between 15 and 65 was compiled under the provisions of the National Register Act 1915. The Registrar General for Scotland held the registration forms centrally in Edinburgh. Maintenance of the register created a lot of extra work for his staff and for local registrars and it was not continued after the end of the First World War. Further information about the National Registration Act 1915, its related circulars, forms and correspondence, arrangements for administering the register and the additional staff required for creation of the index can be found in General Register Office for Scotland file series (our refererence GRO7/1-22). For full details please search the National Records of Scotland online catalogue.
The records have not survived.
1939 National Identity Register
The Government carried out an enumeration of the population on 29 September 1939 just after the start of the Second World War. The Registrar General for Scotland, who had been making preparations for the 1941 census, was given responsibility for this task. Further information about the register, its related circulars, forms, correspondence and registrars' summaries can be found in the General Register Office for Scotland file series (our reference GRO7/23-56). For full details please search the National Records of Scotland online catalogue.
This time the records did survive and form the basis of the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR). You can find out more about the history of the register in the NHSCR area of this website.
The Register is partially open and you can request the details recorded of someone who has since died. For further guidance see 1939 National Identity Register and how to order an official extract.
Centre for the History of Medicine (University of Glasgow), 'Scottish way of birth and death: from the records of the Registrar General for Scotland 1855-1939' website has a section on war and national registration.
Vivian, Sylvanus, 'History of national registration' (Historical Section, Cabinet Office, March 1951)