skip to content

Electoral Registers or Burgess Rolls (Including Scotland)

Nature of Source

Electoral registers were compiled annually and list all adults eligible to vote in local and national elections within each polling district together with details of their qualifying property. The Representation of the People Act 1832, commonly known as the Reform Act for the first time modestly extended the vote to non-property owning males. The Act widened the franchise to include those renting property at an annual rate of £10 or more a year but still only covered about 15 per cent of the male population. Before the Act the vote was largely restricted to freemen and freeholders. The Act introduced Registers of Electors which recorded the names of all those entitled to vote and not just those who voted. The Secret Ballot Act of 1872 abolished the recording the names of voters and the recipients of their votes.

The second Reform Act of 1867 extended the vote to virtually all male householders living in towns. With the passing of the Franchise Act of 1884, which extended the franchise to working men in urban areas and agricultural workers, about 65 per cent of male householders over the age of 21 appear in the registers. The Representation of the People Act of 1918 enfranchised all males over 21 and women over 30 which accounted for about 85 per cent of people. Finally in 1928 universal suffrage was introduced whereby all residents, male and female, over 21 gained the vote.

Women may be found in earlier lists of parish electors and from 1867 in local municipal elections if they were the ratepayer. From 1888, women can also be found in the electoral registers covering local council elections.

Before 1918 the names were listed alphabetically but after 1918, names were listed by district similar to the census so an address must be known. In large towns and cities the registers were arranged by electoral ward and in counties by parish. From 1885 to 1915, for people qualified to vote under the lodger’s franchise, the landlord’s/landlady’s name, weekly rent and number of rooms rented were recorded in the registers.

No registers were compiled between 1917 and 1918 and 1940 and 1944. Also check the absentee voter lists compiled in 1918 which mainly list servicemen and women on active service and will include their service details.

There are two columns in the registers containing letters showing for which election the elector had the franchise, whether parliamentary or local government. The following tables show a sample of the codes used in the registers depending on the year the registers were compiled. For a comprehensive guide to the codes used see here.

 

For Men

For Women

R = Residence qualification

RW = Residence qualification

B = Business premises qualification

BW = Business premises qualification

O = Occupation qualification

OW = Occupation qualification

D = Qualification through wife’s occupation

DW = Qualification through husband’s occupation

NM = Naval or military voter

J = Juror

SJ = Special Juror

 

Elector

R = Residence

B.P = Business premises qualification

H.O. = Occupation qualification

D = Qualification through wife’s occupation

NM = Naval or military voter

J = Juror

SJ = Special Juror

 

In Scotland burghs were separate parliamentary constituencies from the counties and some burghs were grouped together as one constituency.

See also
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Jurors' Lists/Freeholders' Lists
Poll Books

Where Found

British Library (Electoral Registers. The British Library has the national collection of printed electoral registers from when they were first produced under the Representation of the People Act 1832 to the present day. The Library's collection is complete for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1947 onwards, but patchy before World War 2)
London Metropolitan Archives
Society of Genealogists (County coverage)
The National Archives Library
ScotlandsPeople Centre (Sheriff Court Records including post 1832 electoral records; Burgh records including burgh voters' rolls. The ScotlandsPeople Centre is the official government resource for family history research. ScotlandsPeople Centre is a partnership between the National Records of Scotland and the Court of the Lord Lyon. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland and General Register Office for Scotland)
County Record Offices
Local libraries
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Filmed copies of poll books and electoral registers)

Period Covered

1832 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name and address (also the qualifying address) of the elector. Whether owner, tenant or boarder. Property description and value. Useful for house histories. Occasionally ages and occupations.

Further References

Craig, F.W.S. Boundaries of British Parliamentary Constituencies 1885-1972: Parliamentary Reference Publications, 1972


Directories and Poll Books in the Library of the Society of Genealogists: Society of Genealogists


Gibson, Jeremy. Electoral Registers 1832-1948; and Burgess Rolls: Family History Partnership, 2008  

Gibson, Jeremy & Rogers, Colin. Electoral Registers Since 1832: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990


Websites

www.bl.uk/collection-guides/uk-electoral-registers (British Library Collection Guides: UK Electoral Registers)
https://www.bl.uk/britishlibrary/~/media/subjects%20images/government%20publications/pdfs/electoral-registers-and-their-uses.pdf (British Library: UK Electoral Registers and their Uses)
www.bl.uk/britishlibrary/~/media/subjects%20images/government%20publications/pdfs/parliamentaryconstituencies.pdf (British Library: Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers Since 1832. This index lists constituencies alphabetically, gives the Library's register holdings and shelfmark for each, and also offers a historical introduction about the franchise and voter registration as both changed over time)
www.electoralregisters.org.uk
(Information about electoral registers, electoral rolls, poll books from 1700 to the present day, how to access the registers online, how to make the most from your searches, what is available and not available, and much more)
www.thefamilyhistorypartnership.com/hints-tips/lists-of-names-pollbooks-and-electoral-registers.php (Lists of Names: Pollbooks and Electoral Registers, by Stuart A. Raymond)
http://217.154.230.218/NR/rdonlyres/37CAD668-217E-46C2-B877-DFA02B3C7D9D/0/infono21.pdf (Electoral registers at the London Metropolitan Archives)
www.devon.gov.uk/index/councildemocracy/record_office/family_history_3/electoral_registers.htm (Devon Record Office: Electoral Registers)
www.surreycc.gov.uk/heritage-culture-and-recreation/archives-and-history/surrey-history-centre/surrey-history-centre-help-for-researchers/archives-and-history-research-guides/electoral-registers (Surrey History Centre Research Guide: Electoral registers)
http://freespace.virgin.net/owston.tj/franch.htm (The Developing Franchise - British Isles)
www.victorianweb.org/history/hist2.html (The Victorian Web: The Reform Acts, by Glenn Everett)  
www.election-maps.co.uk (Modern parliamentary constituency boundaries)
www.parishchest.com (Online store selling electoral register data from a variety of suppliers)
www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Records_and_archives/london_generations.htm (London Generations catalogue for the whereabouts of registers)
www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/burgh-records (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Burgh Records)
www.nrscotland.gov.uk/research/guides/sheriff-court-records (National Records of Scotland: Research Guides: Sheriff Court Records)

Online Databases

National Coverage
www.findmypast.co.uk (England & Wales, Electoral Registers 1832-1932. Lists created annually of people who are eligible to vote including their reason for eligibility such as their residence or ownership of a property. The registers have been released in association with the British Library and include approximately 220 million names. Over 39,000 records covering the City of York have been added to the collection)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Britain, Absent Voters Lists 1918-1921. Registers of eligible voters who were absent from their homes. The registers consist of 100,000 names of service men, women serving with the auxiliary forces, merchant seamen, diplomats and others working in occupations recognised as supporting the war effort. Also available to browse)
www.findmypast.co.uk (UK Electoral Registers 2002-2013. The electoral registers contain the names and addresses of most UK citizens over the age of 18)
www.peopletracer.co.uk/electoral-roll (UK Electoral Roll: National rolls for 2002-2005)
www.192.com/people/electoral-roll (Electoral Roll. Since 2003, 192.com has only published the edited Electoral Register annually. 2002 was the last year the full electoral register was available)
London
www.ancestry.co.uk (London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965. This database contains selected annual lists of names and residences of people in London who were eligible to vote in elections, provided in association with London Metropolitan Archives)
https://familysearch.org (England, London Electoral Registers, 1847-1913. This collection contains transcribed electoral registers with original images containing lists of names and addresses of registered voters filmed at the London Metropolitan Archives. The register show persons entitled to vote at any election of a member to serve in parliament, or to serve on the county council of the county of London)
www.rootsuk.com (Roots UK: 2005 London electoral roll)
Regional
www.ancestry.co.uk (Census & Electoral Rolls: Datasets include: London Electoral Registers, 1835-1965 in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives; Anglesey Wales Electoral Registers, 1832-1977; Bexley, Kent, Electoral Registers, 1734-1965; Dorset Register of Electors and Poll Books, 1839-1922; Gloucestershire, Electoral Registers, 1832-1974; Midlands, Electoral Registers, 1832-1955. This database contains voters lists including electoral registers, burgess rolls, poll books, and absent voters lists for Birmingham and some of north Warwickshire; Newcastle upon Tyne Electoral Registers, 1741-1974; Norfolk Register of Electors, 1813-1952; North Nottinghamshire Register of Voters, 1885; Sutton Surrey Electoral Registers, 1931-1970; West Yorkshire, Electoral Registers, 1840-1962; Surrey Electoral Registers, 1918-1945)
www.ancestry.co.uk (London, Overseer Returns, 1863-1894. This database provided in association with the London Metropolitan Archives contains overseers’ returns of electors listing people who have claimed the right to vote in a parish. The returns are arranged in annual bundles by polling district. The names of electors are listed alphabetically within each parish giving the place of residence and the address by which the elector has gained his vote)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Electoral Rolls in Census, land & surveys. Cheshire Electoral Registers, 1842-1900; Devon, Plymouth & West Devon Electoral Registers, 1780-1973; Leicestershire Electoral Registers 1836-1974 Browse; Manchester Electoral Registers Browse, 1832-1900; Monmouthshire Electoral Registers, 1839-1889; Norfolk Electoral Registers, 1832-1915; Hampshire, Portsmouth Electoral Registers, 1835-1873; Wales; Somerset Electoral Registers, 1832-1914)
www.midlandshistoricaldata.org (Birmingham Electoral Registers & Burgess Rolls, includes the Birmingham Absent Voters List, 1918)
Familysearch.org (West Glamorgan Electoral Registers, 1839-1925; Cheshire register of electors 1842-1900; Northumberland Electoral Registers; Norfolk Register of Electors, 1844-1952; Indexed and browsable images of Kent Register of Electors, 1570-1907; Browsable images of Northumberland Electoral Registers; London Electoral Registers, 1847-1913)
https://familysearch.org
(Kent, Register of Electors, 1570-1907. The collection of indexed and browsable images includes burgess rolls, electoral registers, apprenticeship records, militia muster rolls, freeman lists and jury service lists)
www.hertsdirect.org/services/leisculture/heritage1/hals/indexes/indexes (Hertfordshire Names Online: Miscellaneous Names Index: Absent Voters, 1918-1931: From 1918 separate registers were kept of anyone who had applied to vote by post or proxy. The majority of entries are for members of the armed forces)
http://seax.essexcc.gov.uk (Essex Record Office: Essex Archives Online. 13,000 images of electoral registers for various years between 1833 and 1868 plus 1918 and 1929. To find these search the catalogue for Images under 'Refine your search' using the search term electoral register. Add a place-name or date range if you wish)
www.irishfamilyresearch.co.uk (Irish Family Research: Searchable databases arranged county by county)
http://genealogyz.blogspot.co.uk (Free Databases for Genealogical Searching: Links to free databases of transcribed records)
Scotland
www.findmypast.co.uk (Scotland, Linlithgowshire [West Lothian], Electoral Registers 1864-1931. Containing over 23,000 records from the British Library collection, the Scotland, Linlithgowshire [West Lothian], Electoral Registers 1864-1931 cover the traditional county of Linlithgowshire. The county became West Lothian in 1921 and is one of 34 traditional counties in Scotland. Also available to browse)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Census & Electoral Rolls: Datasets include: Fife Scotland Voters Lists, 1832-1894; Glasgow Electoral Registers, 1857-1962)

Also look for electoral register transcriptions at the individual county pages at GENUKI.






CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Poll books for various towns and counties)
S & N Genealogy Supplies (Poll books covering London, Westminster, Northumberland, Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, York, Yorkshire)
UK Genealogy Archives (Register of Electors - Calne, Wilts 1853; The Poll Book for West Norfolk, 1865)
Back To Roots (Poll books for Norfolk, 1817; Norwich, 1768; Frome in Somerset, 1896; Gloucestershire, 1832)
www.midlandshistoricaldata.org  (Birmingham Electoral Registers & Burgess Rolls, includes the Birmingham Absent Voters List, 1918)
Centre for Wessex History and Archaeology (Hampshire and Surrey County Council Elections: 1889-1974, by Roger Ottewil)