Australia Voting Registers
Because of the lack of Australian census records, electoral rolls are a valuable substitute. Electoral rolls are a census of those who were eligible to vote. Early electoral rolls give an individual’s name, residence, status of property occupation/ownership, and the nature of the rateable property. Electoral rolls were published by each state during election years.
Electoral rolls for New South Wales begin in 1842 and are nearly annual. The rolls for Victoria begin in 1843, but most are incomplete. Those for South Australia survive for 1851, 1852, and from 1903 (the pre-1903 rolls were destroyed by fire). Those for Tasmania date from 1856 and those for Queensland from 1859. The rolls for Western Australia date from 1879, although most pre-1900 rolls did not survive. The following source provides a list of all known surviving electoral rolls for each state:
- Vine Hall, Nick. Tracing Your Family History in Australia: a guide to sources. Second Edition. Albert Park, Victoria, Australia: North Vine Hall, 1994. (Family History Library Call Number 994 D23v.)
Voting rights were tied to property ownership; therefore, all men were not eligible to vote in the early years. Full adult male suffrage was not granted in most colonies until the 1850s and later. Women’s suffrage was not granted in the states until around 1900. Non-British subjects, unless naturalized, were not granted suffrage until the 1940s. Aboriginal suffrage was not granted until 1949.
Electoral rolls are arranged by electoral district and subdistrict, and they are generally not indexed; therefore it is necessary to know the district where your ancestor lived. Districts could change from year to year, so determining the correct district can be difficult. No comprehensive guide to districts exists for any state, although some for specific years do exist. Directories of the area may supply an address that will help you determine the district to search. For information on directories, see the "Directories" section of this outline.
The Family History Library has some electoral rolls for New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia. To find the rolls, look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
AUSTRALIA, [STATE] - VOTING REGISTERS