Neal relations at Cuckoos Cup, The Wrekin

See your ancestors get the vote

NB. Key to abbreviations at the end of this article, followed by some info on entitlement to vote.

The latest collection of records available from is the ‘London Electoral Registers 1835-1965’ which “includes over 150 million names from right across the old counties of London and Middlesex”. Of course many of these names are repeated over the years, and the information contained is largely just name and address, but you could find fuller names (e.g. I’ve discovered one person’s middle initial of M was for May), and perhaps additional members of the household, particularly after 1918 {1}. And just possibly, you might narrow down a woman’s age – at 1918 only women 30 years or over were added to the register, changing to 21, same as men, from 1928.

There are some oddities in the data. In just a quick browse I discovered a number of weird placings of constituencies – in 1956 Woolwich West appears under Newham (as there is a North Woolwich, this is just about plausible), while in 1919 Greenwich has become attached to Hammersmith – miles away with several boroughs in between. However, these may quite possibly be down to how the original documents were archived, and not a transcription error as such.

And of course the data you get out is only as accurate as the data put in. Electoral rolls can date quickly, which is one reason why they are done every year. For instance, Jesse Shephard appears twice in 1928, both registers shown as in force 15 Oct 1928 – 30 Apr 1929. He married Sep 1927, so is this the year he moved out of his parent’s house at 5 Cranleigh Road (Tottenham South)? As well as being listed there, he is also at 21 The Cambridge Road, Downhills (Tottenham North). Compiled under the old rules, I guess, as his wife is not listed with him, being ‘only’ 26 in 1928.

This is another of Ancestry’s collections from the London Metropolitan Archive. See that link for more details or go direct to the search page. Note 1 below gives more on the changes in voting eligibility.


Dorset Electoral records 1839-1922‘ were also added at the same time as the London ones, but no announcement made.

Abbreviations used

Key to abbreviations used (not all years). Taken from 1928, 1935 and 1950 registers – the key can be found by going to the first page of the printed register (or a section of).

Followed by a w for Women, without for Men.

  • R – Residence qualification
  • B (or BP) – Business premises qualification
  • O – Occupation qualification
  • HO – Qualification through husband’s occupation
  • D – Qualification through wife’s/husband’s occupation


  • N M – Naval or military voter
  • S – Service(s) voter
  • a – Absent voter
  • J – eligible as Juror
  • S J – Special Juror
  • Y (young?) – not entitled to vote until following October?
  • L “not entitled to vote in respect of that entry at Parliamentary elections”
  • LC “not entitled to vote in respect of that entry at Parliamentary elections or at elections of County Councillors”


1. Ancestry’s Electoral Register search page has some relevant details about the changes in the voting system and who was allowed to vote – scroll down underneath the search box.

Key dates in women winning the vote from UK Parliament website:

1918 The Representation of the People Act is passed on 6 February giving women the vote provided they are aged over 30 and either they, or their husband, meet a property qualification. 8.5 million women eligible  to vote at the general election on 14 December. The higher age was justified on the basis that otherwise women would be in the majority, due to the huge loss of men in the first world war.

1928 (2nd July) The Equal Franchise Act is passed giving women equal voting rights with men. All women aged over 21 can now vote in elections, with 30 May 1929 the first general election this applies to.

The 1918 Act also abolished almost all property qualifications for men, reduces the time that voters must live in the same place from one year to six months and brought in the annual electoral register. A later law in 1918 allowed women to become Members of Parliament.

And from National Archives Human Rights timeline,

The 1869 Municipal Franchise Act gave the vote to some women rate-payers in local elections. The 1888 County Council Act also gave women the vote at county and borough council elections. However, they could not serve as members. This right was not granted until 1907.

Further notes on electoral reform from Citizenship Foundation (previous website):

1872 The secret ballot is introduced.

1884 Third Reform Act – Most British men above the age of 21 are allowed to vote as long as they have lived in the same place for a year.

And finally, London Metropolitan Archives (the source of the records on Ancestry) should have an information leaflet on the electoral registers with fuller details.



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