Electoral Rolls

On our web site there are images of the Birmingham Electoral registers as well as a searchable index for the registers we have scanned.  As usual, the index has been created by computer software from the images of the registers, and although it has been manually "scrubbed" there are so many entries (currently about #no# million) that it is not possible to be sure the index is 100% accurate.>

Please note although there is no charge for viewing a set of results, you will need to be logged on and will need to have a valid page view credits voucher, or a subscription.

The search window allows you to enter various search words.  The search will attempt to match the words you enter and return the results from the index.  For example, if you enter:-

Please note that the search has now been set up to allow a "keyword" search in the "Address/Other" box. This is useful if, say, you want to find all the people who belonged to the same Regiment in the 1918 Absent Voters list (see below).

As the index is not 100% accurate, if at first you do not find a match, try entering only part of the name or address and using "*" as a wildcard.  For example, entering "Will*" for a name will find all entries for "Will" as well as those for "William".

Once you have a set of results, you can sort those results by any field in the table presented by clicking on the heading, which will be underlined.  Please note that results are presented 10 to a page, and that to access subsequent pages you should click on one of the page numbers that appear at the bottom of each page of results.

Frequently asked questions

What do the abbreviations mean under the qualification column in the post 1920 Electoral Rolls?

The abbreviations indicate the criteria by which the voter has qualified to vote.  For example, "R" indicates a Residency qualification, "O" an Occupation qualification and "NM" a "Naval or Military" qualification.  The abbreviations have changed a little over time as the legislation has varied (for example, in 1928, women were given the right to vote).  A definition of the meaning of the abbreviations appears on the first page of each polling district.

For the 1945 Electoral Roll the abbreviations used in the index are ones which we have inserted, and relate to the different registers in each ward in which the voters were recorded.  They are:-

I am not at the moment entirely clear on the qualification to vote in each of these sections.  BP & CI are quite clear - a qualifying business premises, and a qualifying period of residence at an address.  SE is, I understand (but have not yet confirmed), the World War 2 equivalent of the Absent Voters list for World War 1, although it only contains the home address of the service person.  RR is, I assume, someone who pays rates to Birmingham Council but is not resident in the area, and who therefore qualifies to vote.

These separate registers continued until 1948, when the qualification to vote became solely based on residence.

Why are there two sets of abbreviations in the qualification column in the 1920 - 1939 Electoral Rolls?

The Electoral Register records those entitled to vote in parliamentary elections as well as in local elections. However, in the period from 1918 until at least 1939 different criteria were used in Parliamentary Elections to determine the entitlement to vote in comparison to Local Elections. On the Electoral Roll, the first set of abbreviations provide the qualification for Parliamentary Elections, and the second set for local Elections. Where there is a line or hyphen the voter may not vote. It is quite possible that a voter may be entitled to vote in Parliamentary Elections, but not in Local Elections - or vice-versa.

What's in an electoral roll?

Electoral rolls list those people who are entitled to vote. That may seem obvious, but the qualification to vote has changed over time:-

  1832    Included householders (owner or tenant) in a property worth
 at least £10 p.a. (if rented) 
  about 1 man in 7  
  1867    Extended franchise to lodgers paying £10 p.a. in rent    about 1 man in 3  
  1918    All male residents over 21    about 2 men in 3  
  1928    Every resident or owner over 21, women over 30   about 5 people in 6  
  1948    Every resident over 21   All adults  

Although these were the principal qualifications there were others. Again, these varied over time but included a business qualification, an occupation, or qualification through a spouse's qualification. It was not until 1948 that universal suffrage was introduced for people over the age of 21, which was reduced to 18 in 1970.

What is the value of electoral rolls?

Electoral Rolls are useful in locating where a household is living at any point in time. For the period since the date of the latest census available for public viewing (1911) they are probably the most complete list of the population available, although obviously they omit people not entitled to vote (e.g. children).

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.

For Birmingham, there were Absent Voters Lists right up to 1939. although after 1921 the number of people on these lists is reduced to between 2,500 and 6,500.