53 million+ England and Wales electoral registers now on Findmypast
Genealogy subscription website Findmypast recently announced the release of more than 53 million electoral registers for England and Wales. The new database, England & Wales Electoral Registers 1920-1932, improves upon Findmypast’s previous electoral register collection by “reprocessing the original documents in order to improve image quality,” states a company press release.
“For the very first time, the Registers can now be searched accurately by individual names in a similar way to other indexed collections currently available on Findmypast. Searches will now also cover all of England and Wales and matching records from the registers will feed into hints for all customers with a Findmypast Family tree.”
These records cover a critical time in British history: the period between the 1911 census and the 1939 Register. The 1921 census won’t be published until 2021; the 1931 census was destroyed in a fire; and because of World War II, no census was taken in 1941.
Electoral registers for England and Wales
“Electoral registers are listings of all those registered to vote in a particular area,” explains the Findmypast release. “The lists were created annually to record the names of eligible voters and their reason for eligibility, such as their residence or ownership of a property. Registration for voters in England has been required since 1832 and registers were typically published annually, making electoral fdsregisters and excellent resource for tracking ancestors between the census years or for uncovering the history of your home or local area.”
Here’s a sample record from 1930, from Great Lumley in Durham County, Chester-le-Street Division, England:
Tips for searching Findmypast’s electoral register collection
While Findmypast’s enormous new collection will be a boon for many researchers, others may come up empty for some dates and places. Findmypast describes its online register holdings as “modest to 1885, good from then until 1915 and modest again from 1918 to 1932.” In part, that’s because more electoral registers continue to be imaged.
But the British Library itself, from which Findmypast has sourced its collection, doesn’t have total coverage, either. “The Library’s collection is complete for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1947 onwards, but patchy before World War 2,” states the British Library Collection Guide webpage for its electoral registers. “Registers were not published during the latter years of World War 1 (1916–1917) or World War 2 (1940–1944).”
Understanding constituency boundaries
To locate your ancestors in extant registers, Findmypast suggests trying to identify your relative’s Parliamentary constituency (an electoral area) during the time period in question, based on what you know from census and other records. Constituency boundaries have changed over time. A guide called British Library’s Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832 (click to access a free PDF version) has a list of historical constituencies, when they existed and which for which years electoral registers are at the British Library. Then explore the collection on Findmypast to see whether the registers you want have been digitized yet. Try browsing the county and constituencies for the years you need. You don’t need a subscription to search the records, but you will need one for accessing promising-looking search results. (Not familiar with Findmypast? This video tutorial can help you get up to speed on this must-use British Isles genealogy website.)
You’ll want to remember that women over 30 gained the vote in the United Kingdom in 1918, a right finally extended to all women over 21 in July of 1928. So you may find plenty of your female relatives in electoral registers of the 1920s and early 1930s!
A final tip
For those with London Roots: genealogy subscription site Ancestry.com has electoral registers for London from 1832 to 1965, thanks to its own partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives.
Discover a wealth of information on one of genealogy’s “Big 4” websites. Learn what records you can access, how to search them, Findmypast’s unique features, and more in this 30-minute video presentation.