Findmypast in association with the British Library have made available online Electoral Registers for England & Wales 1832-1932 . You can search the records by personal name, polling district, county and constituency, as well as by keyword search to discover the history of your family home in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Electoral Registers are lists created annually of people who are eligible to vote and include their reason for eligibility, such as their residence or ownership of a property. Until 1918, the right to vote was closely linked to property ownership. The details in the registers may vary slightly, but in most you will find a combination of the following information:
- Address or abode
- Nature of qualification or a description of property
- Name, description and residence of landlord or other person to whom rent is paid
- Occasionally occupation or age
The format of each register can vary depending on the constituency or the year of the register. . The normal arrangement is in address order; that is to say, within the register for each polling district, streets are listed in alphabetical order and properties within them are listed in sequence. In rural areas voters are normally listed in alphabetical order of surname within the smallest unit of local administration – parish, community or townland. The electors are listed by surname followed by their first name.
The registers include anyone entitled and registered to vote in either parliamentary (national) or local elections. The requirements for voting eligibility changed a number of times between 1832 and 1928. Prior to 1918, only men owning or occupying a residential or business property and some male lodgers could vote in national elections. Then after 1918 all property restrictions were lifted and all adult males could vote.
In that same year, women over the age of 30 who met minimal property qualifications were given the vote and a separate vote was given to those with a business qualification and to graduates of British Universities. Finally in 1928, all men and women of voting age (21) could vote, regardless of employment or property qualifications. The voting age was further reduced to 18 in 1969.
Contrary to popular belief, women can be found in registers dating from the late nineteenth century and not just as lodgers’ landladies. Although women only gained the parliamentary vote in 1918 (and then only if they were over 30 and met minimum property qualifications), some women had the municipal franchise from 1869 and could vote in county council elections when these started twenty years later.
The electoral registers are a special resource for family historians because you can discover your ancestors in an exact location between the census years. Also, through the registers you can discover the history of your family home, such as who lived in your home before you. Furthermore, you can see how the area around your home developed over the years as new homes or businesses were built.
It is important to know that the England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1832-1932 is not complete. Holdings are modest to 1885, good from then until 1915 and modest again from 1918 to 1932. It should also be noted that during the First World War compilation of the registers was suspended and was then resumed in 1918.
Furthermore, constituency boundaries have changed frequently over the years and borders of certain polling areas have been moved.
In registers from about 1850 onwards, the word ‘successive’ can appear next to a person’s residence. This means that the individual has moved within the last 12 months and their qualification to vote carries over to the new home.
Registers after 1918 included the following codes:
A dash ( – ) – Person could not vote in the election
R – Residence qualification
BP – Business premises qualification
O – Occupational qualification
HO – Qualification through husband’s occupation
NM – Naval or military voter
Registers after 1928 include two codes next to an elector’s name. The first code is a qualification to vote in parliamentary elections. The second code is the voter’s qualification to vote in local elections.
R – Residence qualification (man)
Rw – Residence qualification (woman)
B – Business premises qualification (man)
Bw – Business premises qualification (woman)
O – Occupational qualification (man)
Ow – Occupational qualification (woman)
D – Qualification through wife’s occupation
Dw – Qualification through husband’s occupation
NM – Naval or military voter
Attached to names, the following extra codes can sometimes be seen
J – Eligible to serve as juror
SJ – Eligible to serve as special juror
a – Absent voter