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What are Electoral Registers?
Electoral registers are lists of those eligible to vote in parliamentary and local government elections. They were first compiled under the 1832 Representation of the People Act, and have been produced annually since then (except 1916-1917 and 1940-1944).
The registers are most frequently used to:
- Discover who lived at an address and for how many years they lived there
- Find out the number of people in a household who were eligible to vote
- Locate missing individuals
What do they contain?
Before 1918, the registers list the names of electors in alphabetical order, with their residential address and details of the qualification that entitled them to vote (typically the type of property they owned or rented).
From 1918, the standard arrangement became to compile registers by street within each constituency and polling district. This arrangement makes it more difficult to find an individual or family if you don't already have some idea about the area where they might have lived.
Who could vote and when?
Today, almost all men and women of 18 years old or over can vote, but it is important to remember that this has not always been the case. Women were excluded from voting in parliamentary elections until 1918, and whilst men over 21 were allowed to vote from as early as 1429, they had to own land or property to be eligible, and this property qualification remained until the early 20th century. It was only in 1928 that most people over 21 finally won the right to vote.
Franchise reform began in 1832 with the first in a series of Acts of Parliament:
- Representation of the People Act, 1832 Enfranchised men over the age of 21 who owned property worth at least £2 a year, generally middle-class males.
- Representation of the People Act, 1867 Expanded the vote to men owning or renting property worth at least £5 per year, which included skilled workers and craftsmen, and some tenant farmers.
- Representation of the People Act, 1884 Extended the right to vote to include men who owned, rented or lodged in property worth at least £10 a year; this enfranchised rural labourers.
By the beginning of the 20th century, about 60% of the adult male population was eligible to vote in parliamentary elections, but women were still excluded. However, this was about to change:
- Representation of the People Act, 1918 This Act allowed a far greater percentage of the population to vote. It permitted men over 21 who had resided in a constituency for more than 6 months to vote, thus extending the vote to the majority of males. Women aged 30 could vote, but only if they were householders or married to a householder.
- Equal Franchise Act, 1928 Allowed women the same voting rights as men. All men and women over 21 were able to vote.
- Representation of the People Act, 1969 Lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18 (although the changes do not appear until the 1971 registers).
So, remember that registers of electors only contain the names of those eligible to vote at any particular time. Also bear in mind that whilst somebody might have been entitled to vote, they may not have actually registered and consequently would not appear in the lists of voters.
Although the percentage of the population that was eligible to vote grew throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were certain groups and individuals who remained unable to vote, and as such do not appear
in electoral registers. They include:
- Peers of the Realm
- Aliens, unless they had become British citizens
- Anyone serving a prison sentence
- "Idiots and lunatics"
- Conscientious objectors (1918-1923)
- Policemen, until 1887
- Postmasters, until 1918
People who were not in their constituency at the time of an election are known as "Absent Voters"; the largest such group were members of the armed services. Lists of Absent Voters were produced for some constituencies during the First World War, but none are held in the Record Office. Between 1945 and 1948, service registers were produced alongside those for civilians.
Electoral Registers at the Glamorgan Record Office
For the period until 1974, there are two main series of electoral registers at the Record Office:
- Registers for the County of Glamorgan
These give the names of voters eligible to vote for members of parliament for the county of Glamorgan. The Record Office holds registers for the period c.1840 to 1974, although there are gaps in the series.
- Registers for Boroughs
From 1832, the towns of Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr Tydfil were able to return their own members to parliament independently from those for the county, and the lists of electors in these boroughs form separate series. The boroughs of Aberdare and Rhondda were similarly excluded from the county series from 1914/15 until 1974 having gained the powers of a parliamentary borough.
The Record Office's holdings for the boroughs of Aberdare, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda, both as part of the main series and as separate series, are incomplete and can be summarised as follows:
Aberdare: 1840-1910, 1913, 1931-1937, 1939, 1945-1974
Cardiff: 1949-1950, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1959-1974
Merthyr Tydfil: 1840-1907, 1918, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954-55, 1959-1974
Rhondda: 1840-1914, 1950-1974
Swansea: Held by the West Glamorgan Archive Service in Swansea.
The division of the County and Borough series ends after the 1974 local government reorganisation, following which the registers are arranged according to local authority. Registers for the areas within the former counties of Mid and South Glamorgan (and their successor authorities) are held for the years 1974 to present. Those for West Glamorgan (and its successors) from 1974 onwards are held by the West Glamorgan Archive Service in Swansea.
Some of the registers for the county boroughs that are not held at the Glamorgan Record Office are available at the following locations:
|Aberdare|| Aberdare Library,
|+44 (0)1685 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Merthyr Tydfil|| Merthyr Tydfil Library
|+44 (0)1685 email@example.com|
|Swansea|| West Glamorgan Archive Service,
|+44 (0)1792 firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Cardiff|| Cardiff Central Library,
|+44 (0)29 2038 email@example.com|
|Rhondda|| Treorchy Library,
|+44 (0)1443 773204/ 773592||Treorchy.firstname.lastname@example.org|
Format of the Registers of Electors
The ways in which the registers of electors were arranged altered periodically, according to the changes in local government. This table illustrates the format of the registers at a given date, and will help when ordering volumes in the searchroom:
|1840-1885:||1 volume for each year covering the whole county of Glamorgan.|
|1886-1888:||3 volumes for each year, dividing the county into 5 divisions: Eastern, Southern, Mid, Gower and Rhondda.|
|1889-1914:|| 2 volumes for each year arranged roughly in alphabetical order by electoral district. They cover the county and some boroughs.|
Except: 1889, 1894-95, 1914: these are bound in 4-6 volumes and divided into Eastern, Southern, Western, Mid and Rhondda divisions.
|1915-1917:||No registers were produced, with the exception of one for the Southern Division of Glamorgan in 1915.|
|1918-1974:|| 7 volumes for each year for the Glamorgan constituency, covering the divisions: Aberavon; Llandaff and Barry; Ogmore; Caerphilly; Neath; Pontypridd; Gower.|
Between 1919 and 1926, registers were produced twice a year. Between 1940 and 1944, no registers were produced.
Registers for Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Swansea, Aberdare and Rhondda boroughs (where available) are bound separately.
|1974-1978:||The counties of Mid and South Glamorgan are split into the following divisions: Aberdare; Cardiff; Merthyr Tydfil; Ogwr; Rhondda; Rhymney Valley; Taff Ely; Vale of Glamorgan|
|1979-1996:||Registers cover the local authority areas as follows: Cardiff City; Cynon Valley Borough; Merthyr Tydfil Borough; Ogwr Borough; Rhondda Borough; Rhymney Valley DistricT; Taff-Ely Borough; Vale of Glamorgan Borough|
|1997 onwards:||Registers cover the local authority areas as follows: Bridgend County Borough (to 2001); Caerphilly County Borough (to present); Cardiff City and County (to 2002); Merthyr Tydfil County Borough (to present); Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough (to 2006); Vale of Glamorgan County Borough (to present)|
A note about Penarth... The Penarth area may be included in the Glamorgan registers or the Cardiff Borough registers, depending upon the date. It is included in the Glamorgan Register until 1914, but from 1918 to 1970, it is part of the Cardiff constituency, and included in the register for Cardiff South East. From 1971, Penarth can be found in the registers for the Barry division.
A note about Cardiff... The following areas of Cardiff were at various dates outside Cardiff County Borough, and therefore included in the Llandaff & Barry Division of the Glamorgan series (the date in brackets indicates when the area became part of the county borough): Birchgrove (1922); Ely (1922); Fairwater (1922); Llandaff (1922); Llandaff North (1922); Lisvane (1974); Maindy (1922); Penylan (1922); Rhiwbina (1967); Rumney (1938); St Mellons (1974); Whitchurch (1967)
As well as the main series of registers, the Record Office also holds the University of Wales Register of Electors for Parliamentary Elections, 1938
The year given on an electoral register relates to the year in which it came into force, whereas the qualifying date for inclusion in the register was usually in the previous year. For genealogists, the qualifying date is the most important as it establishes ownership, occupancy, or residence at a particular address on or before that date. Many voters may have died or moved on by the time the register came into force.
The table below gives details of the main changes to qualifying dates and the date registers came into force:
|From||Qualifying date||Date coming into force|
|1832||31 July||1 December|
|1843||31 July||30 November|
|1867||31 July||1 January|
|1878||15 July||1 January|
|1885||31 July||1 January|
|1918||15 January & 15 July||15 April & 15 October|
|1926||15 July||15 October|
|1928||1 December||1 May 1929|
|1929||1 June||15 October|
|1948||20 November & 15 June||16 March & 1 October|
|1949||20 November||16 March|
|1953||10 October||16 February|
Earlier lists of voters
Lists of Freeholders
From the 1536 Act of Union, Glamorgan was represented in parliament by one MP, elected by the freeholders in the county. The lists of freeholders are arranged by hundred (an ancient division of the county), and then by parish, and contain only the names of those eligible to vote for the Glamorgan representative.
The following lists are held at the Record Office:
- List of Freeholders, 1772 (DXGC265/2)
- Poll of Freeholders of Glamorgan, 1744/5 (DXGC265)
- Alphabetical list of Freeholders in Glamorgan, 1820 (Q/D/R4)
- Alphabetical list of voters in the county, post 1819 (Q/D/R5)
Poll books were produced to show publicly the votes cast in parliamentary elections. They contain lists of voters in a given election, usually accompanied by details of their residence and occupation. They can also indicate for which candidate they voted. However, they only include those who actually used their vote, rather than all those eligible.
The Record Office holds Poll books for the following elections:
- County Elections, 1756 (Q/D/R1)
- County Elections, 1820 (Q/D/R2)
- Cardiff Elections, 1820 (Q/D/R3)
- Poll book for the election of MP for Borough of Cardiff and contributory boroughs of Cowbridge and Llantrisant, November 1868 (DX400/2)
Land Tax Records (Q/LTA)
Land tax was a scheme introduced in 1692 by the government to increase revenue. Typically, the annual records of land tax assessment give details about estates and properties, including the names of the owners and occupiers, along with the amount of tax charged. The earliest that survive for Glamorgan date back to 1766, though most date to after 1780 when duplicates began to be kept amongst the records of the County Quarter Sessions. These were used by the Clerks of the Peace to establish men's electoral rights based on his payment of land tax on freehold property. The latest land tax assessments that the Record Office hold date to about 1831, when reform of the voting franchise meant that duplicates no longer had to be collected or retained in Quarter Sessions records.
© Glamorgan Record Office, Cardiff, Wales.
- This page was last modified on 3 February 2015, at 00:18.
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