13 January 2012

Found and lost in London

I've spent a fair bit of time searching in the London, England, Electoral Registers, 1835-1965 database placed online by Ancestry earlier in the week. It's filled some significant gaps and is a great new online resource. But as is often the case in family history, it has also opened up a whole bunch more questions.

Some were answered by the sections on Historical Background and Searching the Registers located below the Ancestry search panel. The London Metropolitan archives information leaflet here is also worth reviewing.

Although I've not reviewed it the small publication Electoral registers since 1832 : and burgess rolls, a Gibson Guide, might also be helpful. There's a copy in the BIFHSGO library. A newer version is also available.

Ancestry have a habit of exaggerating the scope of databases and updating without letting you know what's added.

I searched for my grandfather who was living in Hendon in the 1930s. He has a distinctive middle name and I was fortunate it was included in the lists from 1930 to 1936. Then nothing after that.  I wondered if he'd dropped the middle name, moved to a different area, or if perhaps the districts were changed. I checked the browse collection for Hendon and found it only had content from 1918 to 1930, even though the searchable database went to 1936.

The situation was even more stark for Harrow where I found my other grandfather in the database to 1936 but the browse file only went to 1899.

What happened to the other years between 1835 and 1965 as advertised in the database title? In the whole dataset there's no data for years before 1847 and after 1961.

Looking a little deeper, going through the database year by year for the surname Smith, there is no data for 1850, 1854, 1855, 1863, 1864, and the war years 1915, 1916, and 1940-44. Smith voters in the database first exceed 1,000 in 1886 then jump to 14,694 in 1890 remaining fairly steady to WW1. Women over 30 were enfranchised and numbers increased to 32,208 in 1918. Again in 1929 all men and women 21 and over gained voting rights and Smith voters reached 52,919. Voter numbers drop from the late 1930s as fewer lists are included in the database.


Audrey Collins said...

I came to much the same conclusions, John. You will also notice from the browse menu that not all London boroughs are included.

You will find lots of women from 1889 onwards, when the London County Council was established, and women could vote in those elections, though not Parliamentary elections until 1918 or 1929.

JDR said...

Good observation Audrey. My knowledge of London boroughs over the years isn't good enough to spot if any are entirely missing.
Yes, lots of women property owners. I also spotted a list of freemen voters, my John Derby Allcroft, distantly related by marriage, was a member of the Drapers.

Teribus said...

At least you've got some - try the north of England - ie proper North like Cumberland, Northumberland - do they know we exist!

Anonymous said...

There were no Electoral Rolls/Registers for the years 1940-1945 (World War Two) for security reasons. MPs and Local Councillors were elected unopposed, although there were 'threats' of other candidates. If any of these had gone to a ballot, pre-war (out-of-date) registers would have to have been used.
Trevor (Cupar, Fife, Scotland), who has been exercised by this question recently.