An­no­tated Doc­u­ments

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - RECORD MASTERCLASS -

1 POLLING DISTRICT AND WARD

These are listed at the head of ev­ery page. Note that the wards are usu­ally ar­ranged in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der. A street in­dex is of­ten at the front.

2 NAMES OF ELEC­TORS

Vot­ers’ names are pro­vided sur­name first, then first name and mid­dle name (al­though some­times just ini­tials). No women are in­cluded in the 1913 ex­am­ple, un­like that for 1931.

3PLACE

OF ABODE

Roads, streets and so on are given in al­pha­bet­i­cal or­der un­der each ward. House num­bers may be con­sec­u­tive, or ar­ranged with the odd num­bers first fol­lowed by the even num­bers.

4NATURE

OF QUAL­I­FI­CA­TION

Ab­bre­vi­a­tions ap­pear in reg­is­ters af­ter 1918, in­clud­ing ‘–’: the per­son was in­el­i­gi­ble to vote; ‘J’: they were el­i­gi­ble for jury ser­vice; ‘R’: res­i­dence qual­i­fi­ca­tion; ‘B’: busi­ness premises qual­i­fi­ca­tion; ‘O’: oc­cu­pa­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion; ‘D’: they had a qual­i­fi­ca­tion through their spouse’s oc­cu­pa­tion; and ‘NM’: they were a mem­ber of the mil­i­tary. A ‘w’ is ap­pended when the reg­is­tered per­son is a woman.

5DESCRIPTION

OF QUAL­I­FY­ING PROP­ERTY

Usu­ally the same as place of abode, but some vot­ers did not live in the prop­erty that qual­i­fied them to vote.

(and later manda­tory) for each con­stituency, with those women en­ti­tled to vote at mu­nic­i­pal but not par­lia­men­tary elec­tions recorded.

Rich Re­source

Elec­toral reg­is­ters are ar­ranged by par­lia­men­tary divi­sion, polling district, and then by ad­dress. Be­fore 1878 many are ar­ranged al­pha­bet­i­cally by vot­ers’ sur­name. They in­clude the name and place of abode of the voter and, un­til 1948, the na­ture of their qual­i­fi­ca­tion to vote. Be­tween 1885 and 1915 the names of the land­lords, weekly rent and num­ber of rooms rented for those who qual­i­fied to vote un­der the lodger’s fran­chise are also in­cluded.

Ab­sent vot­ers’ lists en­abled ser­vice­men and women, and some oth­ers, to vote when they were away on ac­tive ser­vice. Most cover the few years af­ter 1918, with some through to 1939.

A Cen­tury Of Change

Un­til 1918, there were prop­erty qual­i­fi­ca­tions that gave en­ti­tle­ment to vote. In 1918 most men aged 21 or over be­came el­i­gi­ble to vote in par­lia­men­tary elec­tions for the first time, as did women aged 30 and over who were lo­cal gov­ern­ment vot­ers, or their wives. The vot­ing age for women was low­ered to 21 in 1928, and in 1969 to 18 for both men and women. In Scot­land it was re­duced to 16 for all elec­tions in 2015.

Copies of the his­toric elec­toral reg­is­ters should be found at the rel­e­vant lo­cal li­brary or ar­chives; you can find these by search­ing The Na­tional Ar­chives’ elec­tronic cat­a­logue Dis­cov­ery (see the Re­sources box). The only na­tional set (Eng­land, Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ireland), from 1947, with a rea­son­able but far from com­plete col­lec­tion of ear­lier reg­is­ters, is stored at the Bri­tish Li­brary.

The sub­scrip­tion web­sites an­ces­try.co.uk, find­my­past. co.uk and thege­neal­o­gist. co.uk each have col­lec­tions of elec­toral reg­is­ters and vot­ers’ lists for Eng­land and Wales, as well as Scot­land and Ireland. Most of these are lim­ited to just a few coun­ties and dis­tricts within them, and to sin­gle or short runs of years. It is there­fore vi­tal to check the web­sites’ de­scrip­tions of record sets to see what is cov­ered.

An­ces­try and Find­my­past each host a ma­jor col­lec­tion of elec­toral reg­is­ters. An­ces­try has the Lon­don Met­ro­pol­i­tan Ar­chives col­lec­tion at search.an­ces­try. co.uk/search/group/lon­don_ met_archives; this is the most com­pre­hen­sive set for the Lon­don and Mid­dle­sex ar­eas. Find­my­past hosts the Bri­tish Li­brary col­lec­tion, for Eng­land and Wales only, 1832–1932. Reg­is­ters from 1920 to 1932 have just re­cently been in­dexed: search. find­my­past.co.uk/search-worl­drecords/eng­land-and-wale­s­e­lec­toral-reg­is­ters-1920-1932 while ear­lier records are still just browse-only PDFs. With so many now on­line, elec­toral reg­is­ters have be­come a key ge­nealog­i­cal tool.

PAUL BLAKE is a writer and lec­turer on ge­neal­ogy, the pres­i­dent of the East Sur­rey Fam­ily His­tory So­ci­ety, and a Fel­low of the So­ci­ety of Ge­neal­o­gists. WEB­SITES

DIS­COV­ERY

wdis­cov­ery.na­tional ar­chives.gov.uk

Search TNA’s cat­a­logue to dis­cover where elec­toral reg­is­ters are held lo­cally. Also check the rel­e­vant archive’s on­line cat­a­logue.

PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY CON­STITUEN­CIES AND THEIR REG­IS­TERS SINCE 1832

wbit.ly/bl-con­stituen­cies This free 377-page PDF from the Bri­tish Li­brary is a com­pre­hen­sive list of elec­toral reg­is­ters held by the li­brary. If you can’t find some­one in the Find­my­past col­lec­tion, this can be a use­ful way of check­ing that the rel­e­vant elec­toral regis­ter is ac­tu­ally in­cluded.

‘It is vi­tal to check the web­sites’ de­scrip­tions of record sets care­fully’

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