Browse through thousands of pages of electoral registers from the British Library. The registers include all of England and Wales. The collection includes parliamentary registers, burgess rolls, parochial registers and county council registers. Narrow your search by year, constituency and/or county. The collection is made available online for the first time in association with the British Library. Electoral registers are a powerful resource for genealogists. To search by name, use the England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1832-1932 record set.
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.
Constituencies have changed throughout the century as voting laws developed and the franchise was extended. To find your ancestor, search through multiple constituencies or places. For more help with the changing nature of constituencies over the years, refer to the British Library’s Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers since 1832, which is available in the Useful Links and Resources.
If you find incorrect years or constituencies, please report the error at firstname.lastname@example.org
The image viewer will begin on the first page of the document. Many of the registers will have a street index or directory at the beginning of the document. Use the arrows at the bottom of the page to browse through the document or enter a specific page number you would like to view.
The detail in each register varies but will include some or all of the following information:
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 which is not always the same as in numerical order. Of course remote rural areas are not susceptible to a street arrangement of the registers and in such cases 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 with the richest information for researchers were those issued between the 1885 redistribution and the First World War. They are also the most complex with several sequences representing the different franchises within registers for the same polling area. The different franchises are the reason for the extra information. Voters listed at their residence with a business franchise will have their business address also listed; those with a lodger’s franchise will have their weekly rent, the number of rooms rented and the name of their landlord, or more usually landlady, listed.
The England & Wales Electoral Registers is the single largest Findmypast collection with approximately 220 million names of voters. Electoral registers were compiled annually, which means it is likely you will uncover multiple records for your ancestor.
The British Library holds the national set of current and non-current electoral registers which form part of the 150 million plus items in its collections. 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. The microfilming of all the electoral registers is an on-going project.
What are electoral registers?
Electoral registers are lists, created annually, of people who are eligible and registered to vote. These lists would include reasons for eligibility, such as their ownership or occupation of a property as a tenant or in some cases as a lodger. 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.
The England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1832-1932 include four types of registers:
Parliamentary registers – list of people entitled to vote in Parliamentary elections
Burgess rolls – lists of people entitled to vote in local government elections
Parochial registers – lists of people entitled to vote in local parish elections
County Council registers – lists of people entitled to vote in county council elections, 1889-1915
Who is recorded in the registers?
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.
Within the City of London, Liverymen were eligible to vote in local elections for mayors, chamberlains and other officers for the City of London. These registers separate the electors by trade and then they are listed alphabetically with their address. In these registers you can discover your ancestor’s trade.
Contrary to popular supposition, 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.
Between 1918 and 1939 absent voters were listed separately, often in foolscap typescript lists not in printed registers. For a few years these contained additional information (a serviceman’s rank, unit and number) which is a boon to researchers but irrelevant for electoral purposes and the information was soon dropped.
What 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. Also, through the registers you can discover the history of your family home, such as 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.
Are there gaps in the records?
It is important to know that while the England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1832-1932 is an extensive collection of electoral registers, it 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. For these reasons, we recommend that you undertake some research in advance to identify the constituency in which your ancestor lived. This is especially important for London, where current boroughs and district names may bear no relation to historic constituencies. For example, between 1885 and 1918, Tottenham was a division of the
Parliamentary County of Middlesex. For help in identifying relevant constituencies, read the British Library’s Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832 available in Useful Links and Resources. In this publication, beginning on page 34, is a list of constituencies in alphabetical ordering, which includes the years that each constituency existed and the years of electoral registers held by the British Library, as well as the British Library shelfmark and any additional notes.
This dataset was created by scanning microfilms of historic electoral registers held by the British Library which existed in 2011. The massive microfilming programme was (and still is) on-going and registers filmed later are not included. This means that not all the constituencies listed in British Library’s Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832 with microfilm shelfmarks beginning SPR.Mic.P are in the dataset.
As the British electorate increased and more people were given the right to vote in both parliamentary and local elections, the registers began to use codes to decipher an individual’s basis of voting qualification.
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