Somerset Electoral Registers 1832-1914
How can I use these datasets?
- While census records provide addresses at ten-year intervals and civil registration
records do so for each event, electoral registers are the only records that
provide frequent, regular and authoritative information on an ancestor's
property. They can therefore be used to trace changes of address year by
- Also, they are the only records for this period which provide direct evidence as
to whether an ancestor's dwelling is rented or owned, and then whether by leasehold
or freehold (sometimes even the length of the lease is given).
- In addition, they may give an indication of trade or business premises not apparent
from other records, or provide other information about the property, such as the
existence of a garden or pasture.
- The geographical organization of the original printed volumes can make finding an
individual difficult, not least since you need to be familiar with the electoral
geography of Somerset for the relevant year in order to know where a particular
town or parish is listed. Even if you have a "home" address for ancestor from other
records, he might claim his vote on the basis of some other piece of qualifying
property elsewhere in the county.
- Origins' index to these records overcomes these problems by providing a complete
searchable text, which means you can search on any combination of personal name
and place both for the individual volumes and for a longer timespan. And even if
your ancestors never gave a Somerset home address in other records, this makes it
possible to check very quickly whether they had a significant property holding in
What are the Somerset Electoral Registers?
The Reform Act of 1832 introduced a radical reform of the country's parliamentary
constituencies, and, to the benefit of family historians, gave rise to a coherent
national system of voter registration, whose records survive.
Local officials in each constituency oversaw the annual compilation of the definitive
list of those entitled to vote, which was then published in print - the Register
Since the right to vote was conferred by ownership or occupation of property, the
registers record not only the names of the voters but details of each man's property
These qualifications changed between the start of the registers in 1832 and 1918
(when universal male suffrage made property details irrelevant), but essentially
any male who owned or rented property above a certain value was entitled to vote.
See full details of how the constituencies
changed over time in Somerset
For more on the Somerset Electoral Registers see
About Somerset Electoral Registers