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Electoral registers

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Jump to: What are electoral registers?  What do they tell us?  Searching the registers

One of the great things about democracy is the number of documents it generates! Lists of voters can help you follow your ancestors' movements in-between census years.

What are electoral registers?

Electoral registers are lists of people within a particular area who were able to vote in national and local elections. They were created each year from 1832.

The registers were started as the result of controversy over who was allowed to vote. The government came up with strict rules around land ownership - and the fact that all voters had to be male - and insisted that anyone who met their criteria had to register in advance.

Gradually over time, the rules were extended to allow more and more people to take part in elections. By 1884 most men over the age of 21 were included, and in 1918 the first women were able to vote. This means that you'll find more of your ancestors listed in the resgisters as time goes on.

What do they tell us?

All electoral registers include each voter's name and address. In earlier records, you'll often also find details of how they met the criteria to take part in the election. This might include the size and location of their property, whether they owned or rented it, and even their occupation.

Because a new register was created every year, these records let you pinpoint changes in your ancestors' lives. For example, if you've discovered from census records that a relative moved house between 1841 and 1851, you can follow that person through the registers to see exactly what year their address changed.

They also provide clues about even more significant details. Look for when an ancestor first appears in the registers and as long as it's before 1969, you can guess that year marked their 21st birthday. Or, find their final appearance and assuming they haven't moved away, you've probably found the year they died.

Searching the registers

We're gradually adding more collections of electoral registers from around the country. There are two ways in which you can use these records.

Your first option is to search like you would with any of our other records. Simply type in a name plus maybe a year when you think they're likely to appear, and see what turns up.

Remember, unlike our census collections, each collection of electoral registers covers several years. Your ancestors are likely to appear several times, so make sure you look through the search results to find every match.

Alternatively, you can browse our registers by place. Look for the 'Browse this collection' options on the right of the search page, and simply select an area to browse. You can then look through all the records for your borough by clicking the arrows in the top-right corner, to see how many of your ancestors you can spot