Elec­toral reg­is­ters

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Elec­toral reg­is­tra­tion was in­tro­duced by the Re­form Act of 1832. Orig­i­nally, there were sep­a­rate ‘vot­ers lists’ for lo­cal and Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, mainly be­cause dif­fer­ent rules ap­plied to each: Burgess Rolls list peo­ple en­ti­tled to vote in lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions; Par­lia­men­tary Reg­is­ters list peo­ple en­ti­tled to vote in Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions; Parochial Reg­is­ters list peo­ple who are en­ti­tled to vote in parish coun­cil elec­tions.

In gen­eral, un­til 1918 the laws gov­ern­ing who could vote in lo­cal elec­tions were more lib­eral than for Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions – for ex­am­ple, from 1869 un­mar­ried rate-pay­ing women could vote for lo­cal coun­cil­lors, but not for Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

Since 1918, a sin­gle Reg­is­ter has been com­piled an­nu­ally for each con­stituency – ex­cept for 1916-17 (1915-17 in Scot­land) and 1940-1944 when none were pub­lished. In 1868, 1885, 1919-1926 and 1945-1946, two were pub­lished each year. Only those on the reg­is­ter were, and are, en­ti­tled to vote. From 2003, it has been pos­si­ble to opt out of the pub­lic edi­tion of the reg­is­ter. They are ar­ranged by Par­lia­men­tary Divi­sion, then by ad­dress (pre-1878 is of­ten ar­ranged al­pha­bet­i­cally by vot­ers’ sur­names). They list ev­ery per­son qual­i­fied to vote, give ad­dresses and (be­fore 1918) de­tails of the prop­erty giv­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

A copy of the cur­rent voter’s lists will be found at the rel­e­vant lo­cal li­brary or ar­chives. A na­tional set, from 1947, is kept at the Bri­tish Li­brary and is cur­rently be­ing digi­tised by Find­my­past with a rea­son­able col­lec­tion of ear­lier reg­is­ters. The Na­tional Ar­chives of Scot­land holds some Elec­toral Reg­is­ters for Scot­land and the Na­tional Li­brary of Wales holds many for Wales. The where­abouts of copies of the his­toric reg­is­ters are listed in Elec­toral reg­is­ters since 1832; and Burgess Rollss (3rd edn, Fam­ily His­tory Part­ner­ship, 2008) by Gib­son & Rogers. Find­my­past first placed his­toric Elec­toral Reg­is­ters on­line in 2011. Ances­try fol­lowed in 2012 with Lon­don Elec­toral Reg­is­ters cov­er­ing 1835 to 1965.

Elec­toral reg­is­ter for Fins­bury, Lon­don, 1875

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