The British Library holds the national set of current and past Electoral Registers. In 2004 the Registers took up 3.21868km or 2 miles of shelving. Approximately 800 volumes are added to the collection each year. Assuming the number of volumes and size remains the same, c. 40.64m per year, by 2024 the registers will take up more than 4km of shelving.
What are Electoral Registers?
Electoral Registers are lists, created annually, of people who are eligible and registered to vote. These lists include reasons for eligibility, such as their ownership or occupation of a property as a tenant, or in some cases as a lodger.
Electoral Registers are lists, created annually, of people who are eligible and registered to vote. These lists included reasons for eligibility, such as their ownership or occupation of a property
Until 1918, the right to vote was closely linked to property. Electoral Registers were first introduced in 1832 with the Great Reform Act. As the number of voters increased and polling days were reduced to one day, there was a need to establish the right to vote in advance of the polling day. To that end, electoral registers were created.
What can I search for?
Electoral Registers are a powerful resource for genealogists. For the first time, these registers are available online and can be searched by name.
Previously, when researching your family history you would need an address in order to find your ancestor in the register for that constituency. Today, we can search by name across thousands of places to discover your ancestors.
What will I find out about my ancestors?
The register can in some cases be used to estimate your ancestor's year of birth or death. From the 1918 Reform Act, your ancestor would have first appeared in the register after they reached voting age.
The voting age for men was 21 and for women was 30 until 1928 when it was lowered to 21. Therefore after 1918 birth year can be estimated by taking away the voting age from the first year your ancestor appears in the register. Further, your ancestor would have ceased to be registered after their death.
These registers also demonstrate the dramatic change of the British electorate that occurred over a century: with the Parliamentary vote gradually being extended to working class men and ultimately to women.
What else will I discover?
The Electoral Registers are a special resource for family historians because you can discover your ancestors in an exact location between the census years. You can also discover the history of your family home, such as who lived in your home before you.
Using the registers, you can discover who lived in your home before you
Have you ever renovated and found layers of wallpaper or discovered items from a previous owner in your attic? Is it possible that someone famous lived in your house?
Now you can find the names of those who called your house their home for a period of time. Furthermore, you can see how the area around your home developed over the years as new homes or businesses were built.