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These documents list parish residents who have claimed the right to vote.
What Are Overseers’ Returns?
Registration for voters in England has been required since the Reform Act of 1832. This database contains overseers’ returns of electors, listing people who have claimed the right to vote in a parish. The London Metropolitan Archives provides the following description of overseers’ returns: “The Reform Act of 1832 directed parish overseers to prepare the electoral registers which were compiled from returns. These returns can be considered the ‘raw material’ from which electoral registers were produced…The returns are arranged in annual bundles by polling district. The names of electors are listed alphabetically within each parish giving the place of residence and the address by which the elector has gained his vote. Overseers’ returns are particularly useful for dates for which there are no surviving electoral registers.”
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.
What You Can Find in the Records
These documents will typically provide
- residence year.
They may also list the elector’s qualification and a description of qualifying property.