Joan Rice in 1939

As some of you know, I am a genealogist and have recently started my own business. My website can be seen here. Family history has been a passion of mine for over 35 years. I have been fascinated with history all my life, particularly the medieval period and the legend of Robin Hood. 

Tony Wait Genealogist and Family Historian

As a youngster I first saw Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men in the 1970's. This film made a huge impression on me and I started this blog to raise awareness of this forgotten film and the lives of the actors and actresses that appeared in it.

One star of that film, has been the topic of many of my blog posts, Joan Rice (1930-1997). Combining my interest in family history and my love of the movie I have slowly pieced together her life story.

Joan Rice as Maid Marian

Joan was born Dorothy Joan Rice on the 3rd February 1930 at the City Hospital in Derby.  Her parents were Harold and Hilda Rice (née Watson). Harold and Hilda had married a year earlier.

Very little is known about Joan's early childhood and this is something I would like to work on. 

The 1939 Register

One avenue of research is the 1939 Register. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced over the airwaves that Britain was at war with Germany on September 3rd 1939. The 1939 Register was taken twenty six days later, over a single weekend and was created essentially for identity cards, evacuations and rationing. Sadly this survey is the only surviving record of the population between 1921 and 1951. The 1931 Census documents were completely destroyed in a fire and the 1941 Census was not taken because of war. So this is the closest to modern times that I will get because of the law protecting confidentiality.

Detail of the 1939 Register showing Dorothy J Rice

I found Joan, or Dorothy as she was known then, living in Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire with the Watson family. George Watson the head of the household, was probably Joan's grandfather a brewery labourer aged 63. Her grandmother Rebecca was a year younger. Next we see Thomas G Watson aged 36 and John W Watson aged about 20. These men were possibly her uncles. Dorothy J. Rice is the fifth person living at 47 King Street. Her date of birth is given as 3rd February 1930 and she is at school. The last person to be recorded at the property is Gwendoline Bullock a domestic worker aged 29.

This is an example of how genealogy can help give a glimpse of the past. My research shows that Joan (Dorothy) and her sisters did not directly go to Nazareth House orphanage, after her father was imprisoned for child abuse.

If you would like me to investigate your family history, please contact me at