Midlands Historical Data. Midlands Electoral Rolls 1832–1955. Midlands Historical Data, Solihull, West Midlands.
This database contains voters lists—including electoral registers, burgess rolls, poll books, and absent voters lists—for Birmingham and some of north Warwickshire.
Electoral registers are lists of individuals who are eligible to vote during the time a register is in force (usually one year). Registration for voters in England has been required since 1832, and registers were typically published annually, though some years had two. Registers were not published during the latter years of World War 1 (1916–1917) or World War 2 (1940–1944).
Poll books trace their origins to a 1696 act of Parliament designed to curb disputed election results and fraud. The remedy included requiring sheriffs to make a list of voters and the candidate they voted for in county elections. These could then be published as poll books. Poll books continued to be used for various elections until the secret ballot was introduced in 1872. Poll books will not list all residents of an area. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements for the franchise; also, poll books list only those who actually cast a vote.
Burgess rolls are voters lists for local elections.
Restrictive property requirements denied the vote to much of the population for years, though restrictions were eased somewhat in 1867 and 1884 through the Second and Third Reform Acts. They were finally removed, for men, in 1918, when most males age 21 and older were allowed to vote. The franchise was extended to some women over the age of 30 in 1918, but it was not until 1928 that the voting age was made 21 for both men and women.
Thus, the number of names appearing on voters lists increases with the expansion of suffrage in England.
Absent Voters Lists
This database includes absent voters lists for several years, which include the names of service personnel. Midlands Historical Data notes that "the Absent Voters list for 1918 has special significance. There was a general election in 1918, and the list was drawn up to record the 73,000 people entitled to vote who were not at home. Nearly all these voters were on active service, and in many cases this list records their rank, service number, regiment, and of course their address."
What You Can Find in These Records
These voters lists cover Birmingham and some of northern Warwickshire. The lists will typically provide a name, address, and year, and some may include additional details. For example, poll books may list candidates, occupation, and who a person voted for. Both poll books and burgess rolls may record property that made a person eligible to vote. As noted above, absent voter lists can record service details for military personnel.
There are some gaps in the records in this database, and they should not be considered a comprehensive collection of voters lists for either Birmingham or Warwickshire for the period.
This index was created using text recognition software. Records were not transcribed.