Whether you are compiling your family history or tracing the history of your house, electoral registers can be a useful source.
Electoral registers are listings of those people eligible to vote in parliamentary or local elections. You need to be aware that the electoral registers held by Southampton Archives and the Local and Maritime Studies Library only cover the areas within the boundaries of the borough/city of Southampton and that these boundaries have changed over the years.
The earliest register of 1832 records just 1403 voters in Southampton: by 1990 there were approximately 159,000 names on the register. Before 1918 the right to vote was based on a property qualification and (for parliamentary elections) generally excluded women. The Reform Act of 1918 gave women over 30 and all men over 21 the right to vote. A further act in 1928 gave votes to women on equal terms with men.
Some 19th century registers list voters in alphabetical order within ward, however as the electorate grew, names in the registers began to be arranged by ward, then street then house number. Whilst this is useful for compiling house histories, it can be frustrating for family historians since there are no alphabetical indexes to the registers.
You can view electoral registers from 1832 to date, although there are some gaps. No parliamentary registers were compiled in 1917 and 1940-1944. There are no surviving electoral registers for Southampton between 1919 and 1929.
Also available are:
- poll books (1727-1837, with gaps) listing those who voted in parliamentary elections together with a note of the candidates who received their votes.
- Burgess lists were drawn up for local elections: these include women (those who met the required property qualifications) as early as 1869.