The British Library has the national collection of printed electoral registers from when they were first produced under the Representation of the People Act 1832 to the present day.
About the collection
Electoral registers are lists of names of people entitled to vote during the lifetime of the register (usually one year). The Library's collection is complete for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1947 onwards, but patchy before World War 2. Registers were not published during the latter years of World War 1 (1916–1917) or World War 2 (1940–1944).
As a consequence of new regulations, two versions of the electoral register have been produced since 2003:
- the full version of the register contains the names of all voters and is used primarily to support the electoral process. Public access to it is strictly controlled and the data can only be used for research purposes.
- the open register, also known as the edited register, is available for sale for commercial use for direct marketing, advertising, etc. It omits the names of electors who have exercised their right to opt out to protect their privacy.
The British Library holds the full version of the register only.
What is available online?
Ancestry has worked in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives to digitise their electoral registers from 1832 to 1965. Full access is available to subscribers only.
Findmypast and the British Library have worked together to digitise historic registers for the period 1832-1932 held in the Library’s collections. Access is available free of charge in the Library’s reading rooms; otherwise full access is available to subscribers only. A webinar on our electoral registers and their use for family history provides further details.
Various commercial tracing services provide access to electronic versions of the edited or open electoral register. A selection is listed in our guide to tracing living people (PDF format). These are priced services and charges vary. The British Library is not responsible for the content of external websites.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
The electoral registers are not shelved in the reading room and are kept in closed book stacks not open to the public. Print copies of registers more than twenty years old are stored at our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire and should be ordered at least 48 hours in advance. More recent registers are in one of the basement stores at St Pancras and should be delivered in 70 minutes. We have microfilmed the set of historic registers we hold for England 1832-1938 (the collection is incomplete). The films are also kept in a St Pancras basement and should be delivered about 70 minutes after you have placed an order. Orders for same day delivery stop at 4:00pm.
Registers can only be delivered to the Social Sciences reading room; they cannot be consulted elsewhere.
For help ordering please consult How to order electoral registers from Explore the British Library or contact the the Social Sciences Reference Team
An electoral register can't be photographed or photocopied until 10 years after its publication. This restriction complies with Representation of the People and Data Protection legislation.
The registers are arranged by polling district within constituency. There is no alphabetical list of voters. The collection is therefore primarily used for historical and genealogical research, rather than for tracing living people.
Electoral Registers and their Uses (PDF file) provides detailed information about how to identify the registers you need, what we hold and where else to try if we do not have what you need.
Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers Since 1832
The electoral registers are not included in our main catalogue, Explore the British Library. Instead you will need to consult Parliamentary Constituencies and their Registers since 1832 (PDF format).
This index lists constituencies alphabetically, gives the Library's register holdings and shelfmark for each, and also offers a historical introduction which provides a wealth of information about the franchise and voter registration as both changed over time. It is continuously updated to reflect constituency boundary revisions.
What is available in other organisations?
Historic electoral registers are often held in public library local history collections and/or borough and county archives. London Metropolitan Archives has the registers for the London County Council area. Others can be traced through Jeremy Gibson's Electoral Registers 1832-1948; and Burgess Rolls: a Directory of Holdings in Great Britain (Bury: Family History Partnership, 2008), a copy of which is kept at the Social Sciences Reading Room Reference Enquiry Desk.
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