Herefordshire Newspapers Online

I have just discovered this great free resource online.

Herefordshire newspapers from around the county from the year 1832 where available.

Titles include:

  • Hereford Times
  • Hereford Journal
  • Kington Reporter
  • Kington Times
  • Ledbury Guardian
  • Leominster News
  • Ross Gazette

They are not searchable at the moment but are fascinating to broswe through – you can easily lose a day!

Using Description of Prisoners Books

For the greater part of the 19th century it was in some cases impossible to identify new prisoners with any certainty just from the prison registers[i] but one of the measures used was the Description of Prisoners book. Prison staff took physical descriptions for each prisoner as they arrived at the gaol and recorded them in books that are arranged in alphabetcial order by surname.

The 1902 Convict Prison Standing Orders gave detailed instructions on how to measure convicts and how to record their physical condition and items such as tattoos, birthmarks and moles.[ii]

The Description of Prisoners Books for Dorset available online through Ancestry range from 1858 – 1879 and are fascinating reading.   When the entries were completed they included stature, complexion, hair, eyes, remarks (i.e. tattoos etc.) and number of children. These details, especially occupation and parish can help to confirm the identity of the prisoner listed in the prison registers.  Later books also included photographs of teh offender.


A page from a Dorset Description of Prisoners book courtesy of


Unfortunately, for some reason, in the Dorset books women are listed but the columns are left blank. Also, if a man was convicted more than once during this period his details would only be entered on the first conviction but usually this is indicted in subsequent entries.

Findmypast and Ancestry hold some books but the majority are to be found in local archives.  There is also a good range of Australian books available.

[i] Priestley, Phillip. (1985) Victorian Prison Lives. London: Methuen. P. 121.


[ii] Ibid. P. 12.


Using English Prison Registers

Prior to the 1877 nationalisation of prisons in England and Wales, local prisons kept their own registers and as a result they vary between county and indeed between individual gaol. The number and time-span of registers available also varies from place to place as well as the number of registers that have been digitised. Normally, local prison registers are kept by the corresponding local records centre and are not indexed so you would need to have a very good idea of when your ancestor was convicted before you start searching.

In the case of Dorset, each volume is then sub-divided into type of conviction so again a knowledge of the type of crime committed would be useful. One of the main advantages of digitisation is that on the whole, prison registers are indexed and therefore searchable by name and by date.

Information given in prison registers from the 1850s onwards include the offender’s name and age, the crime they were accused of, place of offence,  where and when they were tried, sentence, religion and degree of education.

Earlier registers will also give a description of the prisoner. The information given by the prison registers on their own is useful but limited. There are no details of the offence itself and if the prisoner has a common name, they are lacking identifiers such as occupation and place of residence that will confirm that you have the right person. The next stage in the research process will be the description of prisoners book which will be the subject of my next blog.

Ancestry has a wide range of criminal records but sometimes this just involves a name, date, offence and sentence.  Findmypast also has a wide range including Home Office calendars of prisoners 1868-1929, after-trial calendars of prisoners 1855-1931 and  Irish prison registers.  Several indexes of prisoners at individual gaols are available at Black sheep ancestry


Using Irish Catholic Parish Registers online

Church registers of marriage and baptism are considered to be the single most important source for family history researchers before the 1901 census. The National Library of Ireland has made available on –line their complete collection of Irish Catholic parish registers from1740s to the 1880s.

They are available for free which is wonderful but there a few things you need to know when starting your research:

  • The records are categorised by parish and there is no name index. This means that you find the parish you are looking for and then have to scroll through to find the record you want. To make things easier it is useful to have a fair idea of the date/place you are looking for but overall time and patience is needed. The website does provides a parish map which is essential especially for those not based in Ireland.


  • Some parishes are better served than others and it is very unlikely that you will come across a parish with complete records. If your research is like mine, then some of the events you are looking for fall in the gaps between registers. Most rural parishes begin their registers in the 1820s.


  • Do not dismiss differences in surnames. My family changed from Grady to O’Grady in the late 19th century and there was a gradual hibernisation of names in certain areas so keep your mind open!


  • Some registers provide more information than you are expecting. Next to my great-uncle’s baptism is a handwritten note that records his marriage in Chicago, the name of the bride and the date.


  • The majority of registers record Baptisms and Marriages. There are few Burial registers. Prior to 1880, only 214 Irish Catholic parishes recorded burials compared to 1042 that recorded records of baptisms.[1]


So what do baptism records contain? They are the most useful of the parish registers and especially later ones can tell you:

  • the date of baptism
  • the names of the child
  • the father, the mother (including maiden surname, although not always included on earlier records)
  • the sponsors or godparents. Sponsors or godparents were often related to the child
  • the child’s birth date
  • the family’s place of residence


Marriage records do not contain as much useful information as baptismal ones but can tell you:

  • the date of the marriage
  • the names of the bride and groom
  • the names of the witnesses.


If you do find a burial register, they can give you:

  • the name of the deceased
  • date of burial
  • sometimes an occupation or residence (townland)


[1] FamilySearch. (2015) Ireland Catholic Church Records.

Researching WW1 UK Air Services

The Royal Air Force (RAF) was formed in 1918 by the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) which was formed in 1912 and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) which was established in 1918.[1] What is not widely known is that the WRAF was founded in 1918 and had over 25 000 servicewomen by the armistice.[2] Disbanded in 1920 they were brought back in 1939 for WWII.

The titles and ranks of air force personnel are different to that of other armed forces. Since 1914 the air services have been organised into squadrons, which were grouped into wings. By late 1918 the RAF had 188 squadrons with over 22 000 aircraft, 27 000 officers and 264 000 other ranks.[3] These statistics highlight the fact that although your ancestor may have been serving in the air force, they were more likely to be involved in ground work such as engineering rather than being pilots themselves.

RFC and RNAS Officers

Before the formation of the RAF in 1918, RFC and RNAS officers were included in the army and navy lists. The names of officers serving in the RFC are given in the monthly Army List, which is held by the Royal Air Force Museum, TNA and the Imperial War Museum.[4] RNAS officers appear in the Navy List (held at TNA), and RAF officers are in the Air Force List, which is held by the Royal Air Force Museum, TNA and the Imperial War Museum.[5] The service medal rolls at TNA can be used to confirm the rank and dates of service of a member of the RFC or RNAS.

NCOs and airmen in RFC and RNAS

RFC (discharged or died before 1 April 1918): Many of these records were destroyed during the Second World War. The surviving records are available at TNA in the WO 364 class.[6]

RNAS: Records of all ratings who served in the RNAS at any point are at TNA in class ADM 188.

Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificates

Early RFC and RNAS pilots who learned to fly at civilian schools obtained an Aviator’s Certificate from the Royal Aero Club.   These are available on Ancestry. The index cards consist of a front and back of a 3×5 card. There is one card per pilot. On the front side of the card is listed information about the pilot, including:

  • Name
  • Birth date
  • Birthplace
  • Nationality
  • Rank, regiment, or profession
  • Date and place of certificate
  • Certificate number

On the back side of the index card, if anything, is usually a photograph of the pilot. The Royal Air Force Museum also can provide copies of the Certificate Record Cards, which give the pilot’s rank or profession, and frequently also a photograph.

Brief biographies of the over 1,400 NCOs and other ranks who joined the RFC before the outbreak of war, some of whom later became pilots, are given in: I McInnes & J V Webb, A Contemptible Little Flying Corps (London Stamp Exchange, 1991).

RAF Officers

Service records of officers who served in the RAF during the First World War are in the series AIR 76 at The National Archives and consist of the records of over 99,000 men.[7] The records were created from the inception of the RAF in April 1918. However, they also include retrospective details of earlier service in the Royal Flying Corps or Royal Naval Air Service, where appropriate. The records can be downloaded (for a fee) from the TNA website.

The records usually provide the following information:

  • full name
  • date and place of birth
  • next of kin
  • occupation
  • date of commission
  • subsequent promotion(s)
  • the units the officer served in (including the dates he joined and left the units)
  • the date the officer relinquished his commission, his date of death or his retirement date

The records may also contain the following information:

  • details of specialist courses attended
  • information about the type of aircraft flown
  • details of any honours and awards and the dates they were announced in the London Gazette
  • next of kin (although the relationship may not always be specified)

The Fleet Air Arm Museum also holds copies of records similar to AIR 76 and ADM 273.

Other RAF servicemen

Service records for other airmen of the RAF who served during the First World War are available in AIR 79 which is available through Findmypast. However some of the records in this collection are not available as the individual was either commissioned as an officer, in which case his service record will probably not survive (look for him in the records of officers AIR 76), or because the record is still kept by the Ministry of Defence.

The amount of information listed varies, but the records can include:

  • First name(s)
  • Last name
  • Attestation year
  • Attestation date
  • Attestation age
  • Birth year
  • Birth date
  • Birth parish
  • Birth town
  • Birth county
  • Occupation
  • Spouse’s first name
  • Marriage year
  • Marriage date
  • Children’s name(s)
  • Children’s birth year(s)
  • Children’s birth date(s)
  • Age
  • Religious denomination
  • Next of kin details
  • Physical description
  • Trade classification
  • Special qualifications
  • Awards or decorations
  • Details of former service
  • Will particulars
  • Military training
  • Details of promotions, reductions, and casualties
  • Details of injuries attained during service
  • Results of medical examinations


WRAF records 1918-1920

AIR 80 at TNA are the service records of around 30,000 airwomen who served with the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) between 1918 and 1920 [8] and can be downloaded for a fee. These records include volunteers from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, Women’s Legion drivers and the Women’s Civilian Subordinates.

The women were based in Britain at first, performing roles such as drivers, mechanics, cooks or office clerks. Later around 500 women served in France and Germany.[9]

Information on the service record can include the following:

  • age
  • address
  • religion
  • marital status
  • dependants
  • details of next of kin
  • statement of services and promotions
  • transfers
  • trade or profession
  • physical description
  • discharge details

A service record can contain one or more of the following:

  • an enrolment form
  • a certificate of discharge on demobilisation
  • a casualty form for active service

You might also find a statement for the services form.

Royal Air Force Museum

The collection of the Royal Air Force Museum comprises several hundred thousand objects ranging in size from aircraft to lapel badges. The Museum’s library and archives collections include items such as First World War Casualty Cards, Aircrew Logbooks, fine art, medals and uniforms, film and sound, memoirs, RAF Historical Society Journals Personal papers, casualty cards and aircraft records.

Researchers wishing to view material held in the Royal Air Force Museum’s library and archives should make an appointment by telephone, fax or e-mail with the Department of Research and Information Services well in advance of their proposed visit. Enquiries should be made in writing (enclosing an SAE) and should contain as much detail as is already known, in particular the individual’s name, service number, rank and approximate dates of service, also mentioning any sources which have already been consulted.

Department of Research & Information Services, Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London NW9 5LL. Tel: 020 8205 2266 Fax: 020 8200 1751



First World War Casualty Cards

The RAF Museum holds an extensive set of record cards relating to deaths, injuries and illness suffered by Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force personnel (and ex-Royal Naval Air Service after 1 April 1918). The collection can be searched online at[10]

The records start at about 1915 (although earlier losses were recorded retrospectively) and run up to approximately 1928. They cover all theatres of operations for that period.

The records are not complete but a variable amount of information can be gleaned from them. Some cards record the movements of prisoners of war or give summaries of Courts of Inquiry for accidents occurring in the United Kingdom. Details recorded for other ranks are usually much briefer than those for officers. Serial numbers and types of aircraft are sometimes given.[11]

Other sources of casualty information include the weekly Rolls of Honour in the London Gazette (held by TNA, the Guildhall Library and the British Library) and the magazines Flight and The Aeroplane (both held by the Royal Air Force Museum). [12]The Imperial War Museum holds copies of the Rolls of Honour of many schools, businesses and other organisations.

Information on place of burial or commemoration can be obtained from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. They can also supply some military and personal details.


Further Reading:

Imperial War Museum website

Austerberry, B. (1999) Gazetted Awards to NCOs and other ranks of the aerial forces, 1914-1924. Jade Publishing.

Hobson, C M. (1995) Airmen Died in the Great War. J B Hayward & Son:

McInnes, I. & Webb, J.V. (1991) A Contemptible Little Flying Corps: Being a Definitive and Previously Non-Existent Roll of Those Warrant Officers, N.C.O.s and Airmen Who Served in the Royal Flying Corps Prior to the Outbreak of the First World War. London Stamp Exchange.

Spencer, William. (2008) Air Force Records for Family Historians. The National Archives.

Tomaselli, Phil. (2007) Tracing Your Air Force Ancestors.

Williamson, H.J. (1992) The Roll of Honour: Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force for the Great War 1914-1918. Naval & Military Press.


[1] Herber, Mark. (2004) Ancestral trails. P. 432. Sutton Publishing.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Royal Airforce Museum. (2008) Information Sheet No.1: Personnel Records, First World War, RFC, RNAS, RAF, WRAF.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The National Archives. Royal Air Force officers’ service records 1918-1919.

[8] The National Archives. Women’s Royal Air Force Service Records 1918-1920.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Royal Airforce Museum. (2008) Information Sheet No.1: Personnel Records, First World War, RFC, RNAS, RAF, WRAF.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Royal Airforce Museum. (2008) Information Sheet No.1: Personnel Records, First World War, RFC, RNAS, RAF, WRAF.

Using gazettes for official records

The London Gazette, The Edinburgh Gazette and The Belfast Gazette are published in the United Kingdom and their archives are a useful source of information for finding out about your family history. The website is free to use and is searchable by name as well as being available to browse through.

The London Gazette is the official newspaper of record for the United Kingdom and was first published in 1665 in the reign of Charles II. For 350 years the Gazette has disseminated Government news, regulatory and legal information, and trade and business news. It ceased to be a newspaper many years ago, but exists as the prime source of official notices. Furthermore, if has been joined by two sister publications – the Edinburgh Gazette and the Belfast Gazette – which fulfil a similar function to the London Gazette in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

The Edinburgh Gazette and The Belfast Gazette do not date from as early as The London Gazette. The Edinburgh Gazette first published in 1699, but with several breaks, has been published continuously from 1793 to the present day. The Belfast Gazette from 1921. Its forerunner was The Dublin Gazette, first published in 1706, and from 1922 published under the title Iris Oifigiuil.

All of the Gazettes are now published under the auspices of The Stationery Office, and contain a great range of official announcements such as

  • Announcements of appointments in the armed forces. The promotions of navy, army (both regular army and militia) and air force officers usually can be found. An officer’s commission was not considered official until he was “gazetted” – meaning that he was listed in the London Gazette. A list of officers killed and wounded at Waterloo appeared as a supplement to the Gazette on 1 July 1815 but other ranks did not normally appear until about the time of the Crimean War when full lists of casualties were given. Lists of money due to their dependents were also publicised there, as they were in the First World War.
  • Bankruptcies.  From almost its earliest days notices about bankruptcies began to be published in the London Gazette and in the course of the 18th century it became standard practice to publish a formal statement there, showing the name, address and occupation of the bankrupt. In 1785 some 500 were listed; by 1850 the number had grown to about 2,000 a year.
  • Captains, Mates and Civil Servants. With the introduction of certificates of Competency for Masters and Mates of merchant vessels in 1845, they were published in the London Gazette and the entries there show the date and place of birth of the master or mate, his ticket number, class of certificate, his present or last previous service, and the date and place of the examination. They are last shown in 1850. In a similar manner, those who passed the Civil Service examinations were also listed when these were introduced in 1855. These lists, which only show the name of the candidate, continued for many years.
  • Court announcements.
  • Changes of Name. Royal Licences and private Acts of Parliament authorising people to change their surnames have been published in the London Gazette from early times. The more usual deeds poll of change of name have been enrolled (since 1903) on the Enrolment Books
    Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette). Issue 38614. P. 2439. 17 May 1949.

    Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette). Issue 38614. P. 2439. 17 May 1949.

    of the Supreme Court (in J18 at The National Archives, Kew), but since 1914 more detailed regulations have required their advertisement in the London Gazette. Some other declarations of change of name without a deed poll are also advertised there. In many instances the forenames as well as the surnames are changed. I was lucky enough to find my great uncle’s change of name when he was in his 40s.

  • Dissolution of Partnerships. Although there was never any legal requirement to do so, from about 1750 it became customary to list dissolutions of business partnerships in the London Gazette, and by 1850 about 1,500 a year were appearing. The listings, not being obligatory, are not so complete as those of bankrupts.
  • Gallantry awards. Those mentioned in dispatches are also listed, and from 1843 these include other ranks. From 1914 all recipients of honours and awards have been listed.
  • Liquidation notices.
  • Naturalisation.  Prior to 1844 some Letters Patent of denization were published in the Gazette and since 1886 those who receive naturalization certificates have been listed there.
  • Royal Warrant Holders are published annually; these are the tradesmen who supply the various Royal Households and have received a Warrant entitling them to use the appropriate Royal Arms.
  • Probate notices.
  • Planning notices.

Further readingl

Familysearch have a really useful wiki on the gazettes.

Using Church of Ireland Vestry Records

The parishes of the Established Church of Ireland were both religious and civil units with the civic functions mirroring those of our local government today.[1] The vestry was an assembly of parishioners that met to discuss parochial business and was split into two[2]. The select vestry was a committee of rate-paying protestants that levied small local taxes for the maintenance of the church and its officers.[3]

This is of less genealogical interest than the general vestry. Following the abolition of the penal laws, this was made up of all parishioners irrespective of their denomination. [4]   The general vestry levied a local tax or cess that paid for local services such as the repair of roads, cleaning of the streets and the provision of fire brigades and police constables.[5]  The records of the applotment or assessment of the parish cess can provide lists of ratepayers often arranged street by street which can be a useful supplement to the parish registers.

Vestry minutes can often contain:[6]

  • Names of Churchwardens
  • Names of the confirmed
  • Names of cess applotters and payers
  • Names of the poor, widowed and orphaned receiving Parish relief
  • Names of the overseers of the poor and of the roads.

As a rule, vestry records are more available and comprehensive in large cities such as Dublin[7] where there was a significant Protestant population although some rural parishes did operate a vestry system. Some vestry records were destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Public Register Office in Dublin and some have been lost through misfortune or neglect.[8] The Representative Church Body holds vestry accounts for almost all parishes in the Republic of Ireland, a list of those available to view in their library can be found here. Vestry records available for Northern Ireland can be found in the PRONI and are searchable  by Parish. Some vestry records have been published as complete volumes and are available through the National Library of Ireland, and the Public Record Office in Dublin.

Where found, vestry records re an invaluable source that can provide information on the administration of the parish and the personalities involved. They can also be a useful supplement to parish registers and can fill in any gaps that exist.


[1] Ryan, James G. (2001) Irish Church Records: Their History, Availability, and Use in Family and Local History Research. 2nd Edition. Flyleaf Press. P.55. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[2] PRONI. (2012) Local History 2: Church of Ireland Vestry Records. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[3] Ryan, James G. (2001) Irish Church Records: Their History, Availability, and Use in Family and Local History Research. 2nd Edition. Flyleaf Press. P.55. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[4] PRONI. (2012) Local History 2: Church of Ireland Vestry Records. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[5] Ryan, James G. (2001) Irish Church Records: Their History, Availability, and Use in Family and Local History Research. 2nd Edition. Flyleaf Press. P.55. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[6] Maxwell, Ian. (2009) Trace your Irish Ancestors. 2nd Edition. How To Books. P.124.

[7] Ryan, James G. (2001) Irish Church Records: Their History, Availability, and Use in Family and Local History Research. 2nd Edition. Flyleaf Press. P.56. :accessed 13 November 2013.

[8] Ibid.


Using Poll Books In England & Wales

Poll books list the men who voted in parliamentary elections and the candidates for whom they voted until the secret ballot was introduced in 1872. Poll books can be used like the trade directories of the 19th century to locate individuals and to trace their life spans, as well as to discover their political affiliations.

Historical Background

Poll books trace their origins to a 1696 Act of Parliament which was designed to prevent disputed election results and fraud. Sheriffs were obliged to make a list of voters and the candidate they voted for in county elections and these could then be published as poll books. There are some lists of voters that survive pre-1696 but these are very rare indeed.

An Act of 1711 required poll books to be deposited with the Clerk of the Peace and so many poll books survive for elections after this date. The last general election for which true poll books exist is that of 1868.

Who could be listed?

In county elections before the 1832 Great Reform Act, the basic qualification for the vote in county elections was ownership of freehold land worth 40 shillings (£2) a year by men aged 21 and over and until 1774 the man had to reside in the county in which he voted.

Forty shillings had been fixed by an Act of1429 which assessed that an income of forty shillings a year made a man independent, being sufficient to furnish him with all the necessaries of life. However by 1832 forty shillings would just about support a labouring man for a month. Despite this fact the number of people who had such estates in England and Wales was then only about 247,000.

From 1763 the holders of annuities or rent charges on freehold land were also entitled to vote.

Before 1832 the qualification for the vote in borough elections varied greatly from place to place, much depending on local custom.

What You May Find in the Records

Within a poll book the list of electors may be arranged by parish , ward hundred or township.

Poll books for county and borough seats list the names of electors, their parish of residence and how they voted. Poll books may also state and elector’s exact address and (if different) the address of the property that gave him the right to vote. They also may include the voter’s occupation.

WW1 UK Service Records

The first thing to note is that the World War 1 service records available are not complete. I had ajb war recordpictorial evidence that showed my great – grandfather served in WW1 but could find no service record. In the end I found out about his regiment and where he was stationed through his divorce papers!

In 1940 there was a World War Two bombing raid on the War Office in London where the records were held. During this raid approximately 60 percent of the 6.5 million records was destroyed by fire. The surviving service records suffered water damage following the bombing raid, all but were microfilmed by The National Archives. Some are ragged and difficult to read but if you do find one for an ancestor they are a great source of information.

The records should include:

  • soldiers discharged between 1914 and 1920
  • soldiers killed in action between 1914 and 1920
  • soldiers who served in the war and died of wounds or disease without being discharged to pension
  • soldiers who were demobilised at the end of the war

Information available in these records includes:

  • Name of soldier
  • Age
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation
  • Marital status
  • Previous experience in the armed forces including territorial forces
  • Date and place of attestation
  • Physical description
  • Name and address of next of kin
  • Name, date and place of birth of any children
  • Places and dates of campaigns
  • Injuries
  • Medals
  • Bounties awarded
  • Regimental number

There is a free index of WW1 service records at FamilySearch but to see the images themselves you will either need to be a paid member of Ancestry or Findmypast, or to go in person to the National Archives at Kew.

The British Army also contained regiments from parts of the former colonies. The service records in WO 363 and WO 364 at TNA include regiments such as:

  • the West African Field Force (such as Nigerian, Gold Coast, Sierra Leonean and Gambian Regiments. Covers only British Army non-commissioned officers of European descent)
  • British West Indies Regiment
  • the West India Regiment

Service records for soldiers serving in the armies of Commonwealth countries (such as Canada, New Zealand or South Africa) will be located in their respective archives.

Electoral Registers for England & Wales

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:

  • Name
  • 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