Electoral Registers

A guide to the collections at Derbyshire Record Office.

First produced in 1832, electoral registers are a record of all those persons entitled to vote at parliamentary, local and parochial elections.

They are a useful tool for family historians looking for the addresses of their ancestors, for house historians looking to see previous occupiers of their property, and local historians interested in the residential development of a particular area.

What is available

Derbyshire electoral registers are available between 1832 and 1999. For registers after 1999, please contact the relevant district or borough council. Registers were produced annually from 1835, except:

  • 1916 and 1917, due to World War One
  • 1940-1944, due to World War Two; registers were produced in 1945 or 1946 for a particular district, not both
  • 1919-1929, when two registers were produced, one in the Spring and one in the Autumn.

Registers covering Derby borough (later city) are available up to 1900 only (for registers after this date, please contact the Derby Local Studies and Family History Library). There is an incomplete run of registers for the borough of Chesterfield – Chesterfield Library holds a complete run from 1974.

Finding the Right Register

Between 1832 and 1867, Derbyshire was divided into two electoral divisions, North and South; each then sub-divided into smaller polling districts. The districts have changed many times since 1867 and it is essential to know which division covered the place in which you are interested to be sure you order the correct register.

Details of the electoral registers available can be found via the online catalogue (note the registers themselves cannot be seen online). You can also Search the Catalogue to find the results for the place you are interested in:

  • Reference Number: ER/*
  • Any Text: enter the place name you are interested in (we recommend using the parish name)
  • Date: if you have a particular date in mind, e.g. 1876 or 1920-1935

The full reference number of each volume will include an abbreviation for the division and the date, e.g. ER/ILK/1920. It is this reference you will need to order the relevant register through the search room.

Electoral registers covering 1832-1900 are available on microfiche in the Computer Room, and these original registers will not normally be retrieved in the search room. The microfiche are arranged by year and then by division. It is advisable to search the online catalogue in the first instance to identify the correct division. A hard copy index which includes the microfiche reference number is also available in the Computer Room.

Using Electoral Registers

The arrangement of electoral registers changes over time, as does the level of detail included. Before 1918, only registers covering larger towns such as Derby and Chesterfield will include specific addresses. In these cases, the information is generally arranged alphabetically by street name within each polling district. Other registers tend to be arranged alphabetically by surname, which is generally very handy for family historians, but less so for house historians.

Particularly after 1948, identifying which polling district a specific street is in does become more problematic, and there are some streets that have one side in one district and the other side in another district. There are even some streets where the two sides are in entirely different divisions. In the absence of street indexes (which may be available for some divisions from the late 1980s), it is advisable to search all relevant districts to identify the street.

Remember, the right to vote (enfranchisement) was extended to various categories at different times during the 19th and 20th centuries. Not finding an individual or a property does not always mean that they or it was not there.

Timeline of Voting Entitlements for Parliamentary Elections
  • 1832: Great Reform Act – Men over the age of 21 years, and who either owned property worth at least £10, or who occupied land worth between £2 and £5, or were tenants paying rent of £50 per annum.
  • 1867: Second Reform Act – Extended to men over the age of 21 years, and who owned property worth at least £5.
  • 1884: Third Reform Act – Extended to freeholders of inherited land (or land acquired by marriage) worth 40s; freeholders of any land worth £5. 60% of male householders over the age of 21 now have the vote.
  • 1918: Representation of the People Act – property qualifications abolished meaning the franchise is extended to all men. Women over 30 also enfranchised if they also own property, are a University graduate, or a member of (or married to a member of) the Local Government Register (a record of persons paying property taxes).
  • 1928: Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act – Franchise extended to women over the age of 21, on equal terms with men.
  • 1971: Registration of the People Act (1969) – Voting age for all citizens reduced to 18 years.
Absent and Service Voters’ Lists

Due to the First and Second World Wars, at the calling of the 1918 and 1945 elections, many citizens were not resident at home as they were serving in the military. For this reason, Absent Voters registers (known as Service Registers after the Second World War) were produced. Derbyshire Absent Voters Lists for 1918 have survived only for the Chesterfield, Ilkeston and Western electoral divisions – follow the links for each division to download PDFs of the original registers.  Service registers for May 1945 are held for the following divisions: Belper, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derby City, Ilkeston and High Peak. Service registers for October 1946 are held for all divisions.

Poll Books

Before the Secret Ballot Act of 1872, poll books were produced recording how individual electors voted.  Sometimes the cause of eligibility (such as residence, burgess/freeman) is also included.  Books for disputed elections 1768-1869 can be accessed in the search room (Ref: Q/RE/2/1-93). A number of other poll books survive elsewhere among both the archives and local studies collections.

Further Reading

There are a number of articles available concerning electoral registers for family history (please see the local studies card catalogue for specific details). Jeremy Gibson’s Electoral Registers 1832-1948 (published 2008) contains useful information about content of registers and voting entitlements.

2 thoughts on “Electoral Registers

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