ON THE RECORD

A cen­tury’s worth of English and Welsh elec­toral reg­is­ters have been made avail­able to search on Find­my­past in a part­ner­ship with the Bri­tish Li­brary

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The lat­est news and data re­leases

A vast col­lec­tion of elec­toral reg­is­ters has been pub­lished on the web for the first time. Span­ning 1832-1932, the lat­est find­my­past.co.uk re­lease con­tains ap­prox­i­mately 220 mil­lion en­tries, each re­veal­ing de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about vot­ers across Eng­land and Wales.

Search­able by name, year, par­lia­men­tary con­stituency, county and key­word, the records list the ad­dresses of in­di­vid­u­als and the means by which they were el­i­gi­ble to vote. As the reg­is­ters were com­piled on an an­nual ba­sis, fam­ily his­to­ri­ans can track the move­ments of their an­ces­tors in the 10-year gaps be­tween census years and dis­cover the for­mer oc­cu­pants of their houses.

Ex­plor­ing the col­lec­tion also gives re­searchers the chance to un­cover the story of Bri­tish democ­racy since the early-19th cen­tury.

Be­gin­ning in 1832, the records cap­ture de­tails of the first men to be­come en­fran­chised by the Great Re­form Act of the same year. Whereas pre­vi­ously only a wealthy mi­nor­ity had been able to elect a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, the Act ex­tended this right to all men pay­ing a yearly rent on their prop­erty of £10 or more. How­ever, the new vot­ers still only rep­re­sented a small per­cent­age of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. It was not un­til 1928 that suf­frage was fi­nally granted to all cit­i­zens over the age of 21 re­gard­less of gen­der and eco­nomic sta­tus. As a re­sult, the to­tal size of the reg­is­ters avail­able for each year ex­pandsp sig­nif­i­cantly. Cr ucially, the re­lease also in­cludes Ab­sent Vot­ers’ Lists for 1918-1921, bear­ing the names of sol­diers and sailors who had been on ac­tive ser­vice dur­ing the First World War.

“Th­ese reg­is­ters are an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful re­source for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans,” said Find­my­past’s Paul Nixon. “With this record set now on­line, Find­my­past has an un­bro­ken col­lec­tion of census, land and sur­vey records from the be­gin­ning of Queen Vic­to­ria’s reign, right through to the start of the Se­cond World War.”

The records were cre­ated from mi­cro­film copies held at the Bri­tish Li­brary. Pre­vi­ously, it was only pos­si­ble to ac­cess the col­lec­tion by brows­ing the mi­cro­film or set of printed vol­umes in per­son.

Jac­quie Carter, ser­vice and con­tent lead for sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy and medicine at the Bri­tish Li­brary, said she was ea­ger to ex­plore the dataset. “As a his­to­rian, I’m champ­ing at the bit to get stuck into this re­source,” she said. “Just a few clicks will re­place hun­dreds of hours of page turn­ing.”

Just a few page clicks will re­place hun­dreds of hours of page turn­ing

The 1832 Great Re­form Act ex­tended suf­frage to all adult males pay­ing a yearly rent on their prop­erty of £10 or more. How­ever, most peo­ple re­mained ex­cluded

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