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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Is the absent voters list the same as the 1918 register?


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Help please! 

I have been trying to search for my grandfather on the Absent voters list. I contacted my local archive and local council. I went yesterday to the local council offices that hold the 1918 register which is a printed document and which showed my grandfather along with all other voters of that parish. It gave the initial a) alongside his name to show that he was an absent voter but there were no soldier details. Is the absent voters list a separate document and would it be held by the local council to that area? So for instance would the office that have the 1918 register be the office that would hold the absent voters list ? Would there be a separate absent voters list for each parish or what area would it cover? I have to say the Council Office  staff were very helpful but didn’t know about an absent voters list. 


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The Absent Voters List would be a separate document, just listing those men and women who were absent from home at the time the register was compiled. Unfortunately these AVLs have only survived in a small number of constituencies.

The few that survive are held by a variety of organisations- local county library or archive services, the National Library, or if in Wales, the National Library of Wales.

There is a list on 'The Long Long Trail' of those known to exist:


Which area are you researching?

Edited by Dai Bach y Sowldiwr
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  • 2 weeks later...


I'm looking for Brothertoft and Holland Fen in Lincolnshire; the Council Offices said that they were not required to keep the documents at that time so I'm expecting that I won't find them. They suggested I try the British Library because all information was sent there, so that is my next enquiry.

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  The Absent Voters List is a part of the 1918 register. Electoral registers were used for different purposes- the most obvious being that the franchise in local elections was different to the franchise in national elections. There were also different types of votes dependant on what property was held. Thus, a register is arranged in sections and the AV listing was tagged on the end for the 1918 election.


   As to holdings for Lincoln. Well, 1) Your local studies in Lincoln is the first port of call. Then,Lincolnshire county archives. It comes as a suprise to many that county archives  invariably hold large collections of printed materials but often do not have an off-site accessible catalogue of them.


   A third place to ask is at your local Electoral Registration Office-the body responsible for maintaining the electoral register each. They often have runs of registers not held by your "local" Local Studies. 


   Most (I am not sure "all" is ever applicable to anything FMP do)  electoral registers should be on Find My Past. The digitisation is based on the British Library holdings, which are extensive but very,very patchy. Electoral registers are NOT on the British Library main catalogue-they are on a separate listing. I enclose the BL help note about them.  Good luck:wub:



UK electoral registers

Ballot paper in box

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

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.

The electoral registers can be consulted under supervision in the Social Sciences Reading room only. For help with ordering please consult How to order electoral registers from Explore the British Library.

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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Hi, following on from Mikes post, definitely try the county archives......


In my town our absent voters lists are held at the county archive, that being for Derbyshire.   In fact they are also online from the archives website now which is a big bonus! 


I had been told to try the local studies library but our town local studies library didn’t hold the absent voters lists, but may be worth a try in your area.


I was pleased I’d found them because it’s gave me great grandfathers Regiment and number which we didn’t know before.  


Good luck. 

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The FIBIS Fibiwiki page British Army, section 'Absent Voters Lists(UK): 1918- c 1923, a few later"


has links to the  coverage of the FMP database, a link to information about the British Library coverage, details of an Ancestry database. Also some online Electoral registers may contain AVLs, even though the AVLs are nor specifically mentioned.




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