Explore the single largest Findmypast collection with approximately 220 million names of voters. The collection is made available online for the first time in association with the British Library. You can search the records by personal name, polling district, county and constituency, as well as by keyword search to discover the history of your family home in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Electoral registers were compiled annually, which means it is likely you will uncover multiple records for your ancestor.
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. The details in the registers may vary slightly, but in most you will find a combination of the following information:
Each record is displayed as a PDF document. 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.
This is the small text box on the left-hand side of the screen. It will provide you will the following information:
Year - Registers are dated using the year they were compiled, not the year they were in force, as is British Library practice. For example, the register from the Township of Everton in the Parliamentary Borough of Liverpool states, ‘Persons entitle to vote at any election of a member or members to serve in parliament which shall take place in and for the Borough of Liverpool, between the last day of November, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two , and the first day of December, on thousand eight hundred and fifty-three .’ In this example, Findmypast has recorded the year as 1852.
Polling district or place – This will include polling districts or wards. Civil parishes are not indexed and will need to be searched by keyword.
Archive and British Library shelfmark
Searching PDFs is a different experience to searching other indexed records. Use our Search tips provided below as a guide.
If you find that there is misinformation in the transcription box, please report the error at email@example.com
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.
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.
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 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
Voting Reform Laws
The nineteenth century witnessed significant changes to the voting laws and the representation of the people. Prior to 1832, voting rights were limited and representation was unbalanced in Parliament. As the working class grew with the Industrial Revolution, pressure was placed on Parliament to reform both the people’s voting rights and their system of representation. The early nineteenth century saw massive public meetings, riots and even conspiracies against the government. Reform first came in 1832 with the Great Reform Act. The rest of the century saw a number of reforms passed and by the early twentieth-century universal suffrage had started to come to Great Britain.
Before 1832 the franchise for English counties was essentially confined to 40-shilling freeholders. In English boroughs there was no uniformity and the franchise was determined by custom or charter.
Representation of the People Act 1832
In 1832 the borough franchise was standardised and simplified and the existing county franchise was supplemented by a complex variety of new franchises. In English boroughs, the franchise was now extended to both the £10 householder who occupied property, either as owner or tenant, worth £10 per year and to lodgers, as long as the value of the occupied property divided by the total number of lodgers exceeded £10 per year. In all cases, the householder had to have been in possession of the property for twelve months. In English counties, 40-shilling freeholders, who previously qualified for the vote, were joined by £10 freeholders (henceforth the basic qualification), £10 copyholders or long leaseholders (for 60 years) and £50 tenants or short leaseholders (for 20 years), joint tenants whose separate interests amounted to 40-shilling freehold or £10 leasehold. The vote was also extended to certain mortgagees, annuitants and shareholders in landed property of sufficient value, and to certain office-holders, beneficed clergy, irremovable schoolmasters, parish clerks and sextants. Furthermore, the Reform Act disenfranchised most of the rotten boroughs, which were boroughs with a very small electorate that were being used for undue representation in the House of Commons. For example, Old Sarum at Salisbury had only seven voters but two MPs.
Representation of the People Act 1867
The 1867 Reform Act extended the borough franchise to all householders subject to a one year residential qualification and the payment of rates, and to lodgers occupying lodgings worth £10 per year subject also to one year’s residence. It extended the county franchise by including those occupying land worth £12 per year or owning land worth £5 a year. As a result, representation was increased for industrial centres and decreased for the smaller towns. Women and poor men were still denied the right to vote in Parliamentary elections. The passing of the Reform Act of 1867 doubled the electorate in Wales and England from one million to two million. However, there were about 30 million people in Britain at this time.
Secret Ballot Act of 1872
The Secret Ballot Act of 1872 required that all parliamentary and local elections be held by secret ballot. Prior to this Act, voters could have been bribed or intimidated by landowners or employers. The landlord or employer could have been present during the voting process and allowed to check individual votes. A second act, The Corrupt and Illegal Practices Act of 1883, was passed as a further measure to remove bribery from voting.
Franchise Act of 1884
The 1884 Reform Act extended the 1867/68 householder and lodger franchise for boroughs/burghs to counties and created an occupation franchise for those with lands or tenements worth £12 a year. For the first time the franchise was substantially uniform in constituencies throughout Great Britain. This meant the vote was further extended across the male working class population.
1918 Representation of the People Act
This act enfranchised all men over the age of 21 and any woman over the age of 30 who was “entitled to be registered as a local government elector in respect of the occupation in that constituency of land or premises (not being a dwelling-house) of a yearly value of not less than five pounds or of a dwelling-house, or is the wife of a husband entitled to be so registered.”. It abolished the property qualifications for men. Also, men over the age of 19 and currently serving in the armed forces could vote. Many of their names can be found on the Absent Voters Lists. A separate vote was given to those with a business qualification and to graduates of British Universities. These changes saw the size of the electorate triple from 7.7 million to 21.4 million. Women now accounted for about 43% of the electorate.
1928 Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act
The act expanded the 1918 law and gave the vote to all women over the age of 21 regardless of property ownership. The act was passed by the Conservative Party and became law on 2 July 1928.
One of the most remarkable changes of the twentieth century, which is documented in these electoral registers, is the extension of the vote to women on equal footing with men. This change did not occur quickly but took almost a century of campaigning. The suffragists believed that women deserved the right to vote because, just as men did, they paid taxes and were expected to abide by the same laws. They believed women should be treated as equal citizens of the country and as free people.
In the nineteenth century, the right to vote in national elections continued to be extended to more men after the Great Reform Act of 1832, with the Second Reform Act of 1867 and then a Third Reform Act in 1884. MP Henry Hunt on behalf of Mary Smith presented the first petition for women’s suffrage in August 1832.
From 1869, women were allowed to vote in local elections. The Municipal Franchise allowed female ratepayers to vote in municipal elections and serve on the board of guardians. This was further extended to women voting in county or borough elections in 1888 with the County Council Act. However, it was not until 1907 that women could become members of county councils. And in 1908, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became the first woman to be elected mayor and served her post in Aldeburgh.
Suffragist groups were being established throughout the country under various names, all with the same goal of obtaining the right to vote in Parliamentary elections. In 1897, regional groups were brought together under the name of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Fawcett was encouraged from a young age to have an interest in political issues. She became exposed to women’s politics while visiting her sister, Elizabeth Garett Anderson, who was training to be a doctor in London and would become the first female doctor.
Women’s suffrage societies lobbied and petitioned Members of Parliament for women’s suffrage. Between 1870 and 1884, the issue was debated almost every year in the House of Commons. In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, frustrated with the lack of progress for women’s suffrage, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The motto of the WSPU was ‘Deeds not Words.’ At this time, two separate groups emerged, suffragists and suffragettes, both campaigning for women’s right to vote in Parliamentary elections. Suffragists campaigned through peaceful methods like lobbying, but the suffragettes were willing to use any means necessary to achieve women’s suffrage. The Daily Mail first coined the term suffragettes in 1906. The WSPU was definitely a union of suffragettes. Findmypast’s newspaper collection hosts 17,896 articles about suffragettes from 1906.
The suffragettes began an energetic campaign of civil disobedience, which at times could turn violent. They broke the windows of 10 Downing Street and damaged paintings in public galleries. Those who were arrested for these acts embarked on hunger strikes in prison and some were subjected to force-feeding. Another group, the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) was created in 1907. They participated in further civil disobedience such as passive resistance to taxation and non-cooperation with the census. In 1908, members of the WFL suspended a ‘Votes for Women’ banner from the Ladies Gallery in Parliament.
One of the most notable acts in the name of women’s suffrage was in 1913. Known suffragette Emily Davison walked onto the track of the Epsom Derby horse race and was killed by King George V’s horse. Her intentions are still unclear today, but thousands of supporters for women’s suffrage turned out for her funeral.
While the suffragettes continued their militant campaigns and gained further national attention, suffragists and groups like NUWSS continued to work peacefully, gaining constitutional and political support. In the early twentieth century, women were not united in their belief in women’s right to vote. In 1908, the Women’s National Anti-Suffragist League was created. However, there were many men, including some MPs, who supported women’s suffrage. Everyone was debating the issue and neither gender was united in its stance.
Once the First World War broke out, many of the suffrage societies and organisations suspended their campaign during the war years. Women took up employment in jobs traditionally held by men in order to help the war effort. However, most employers justified paying women lower wages than they would have paid to men. During these years, women proved that they were equal to men in the workforce and this went on to strengthen the arguments in favour of women’s right to vote.
The war further influenced Parliament’s decision to extend the vote because it became clear that under the current law, men who had been away from their homes and fighting in the war were not eligible to vote. Therefore, in 1918, the property qualifications for all men over the age of 21 were abolished. Furthermore, politicians were convinced to extend the right to vote to women over the age of 30 who met the property qualifications. The NUWSS and the WSPU both disbanded but a new group arose, the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship. The organisation not only canvassed for equal voting rights but also equal pay and to end further discrimination against women.
It was not until ten years later, with the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, that women and men over the age of 21 could vote equally. Millicent Fawcett wrote in 1928, ‘It is almost exactly 61 years ago since I heard John Stuart Mill introduce his suffrage amendment to the Reform Bill on May 20th, 1867. So I have had extraordinarily good luck in having seen the struggle from the beginning.’ Fawcett died the following year on 5 August 1929.
Searching a PDF is a different experience to searching transcribed records. To help you find your ancestor, we have put together search tips to guide you. Remember that you are searching records that have been digitally scanned and then converted to machine-encoded text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This process is not perfect and the machine may have misread characters, especially in personal names, which causes searches to fail. Try alternative approaches such as repeating the search in a different year, or scanning all the voters in a civil parish
Searching for names
The search returns results based on proximity (how close together the words are located), thus a search for Henry Smith will also bring back William Henry Smith or a search for John Smith, may return John Prickett on Smith Street.
The name variant search check box will not work with a PDF search. Instead, try searching for your ancestor using multiple spellings of their name. For example, your Great Aunt Katherine may have spelt her name as Catherine or possibly the Brook family used to have an ‘e’ on the end and spelt the name as Brooke.
Use the keyword field to do a wildcard search. By inserting an asterisk on either side of the word, it will search for various spellings of that word. For example, ()Geo() will return Gregory and George.
In some registers, the first name was abbreviated. If you cannot find your ancestor by their first name, try an abbreviated spelling. For example, the name William could be listed as W or Wm.
In this search experience, you are searching through the original text as it was recorded, therefore, you may come across local variants or accidental misspellings, such as, the use of sewerage farm in Cambridgeshire Western Division instead of the normal sewage farm.
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.
Many of the registers will have a street index or directory at the beginning of the document. You can either get to the beginning by continuously clicking the previous button on the PDF screen or you can start a new search for the constituency and year and then order the results by image number. By doing so, the top image would be the first page and you could then click through the images from the beginning.