Friday, 9 October 2015

FindmyPast releases English electoral records - and additional crumbs

FindmyPast ( has just released a series of electoral registers on its site. To say the latest release is less than satisfactory, however, is an understatement.

Here are the headline releases:

Ireland, electoral registers 1885-1886
Discover what your Irish ancestors were up to at the time of the Gaelic revival. Search by name to pinpoint the exact location of your Irish family during this exciting period of Irish history, or by address to learn who was living in your family home.

England and Wales Electoral Registers 1832-1932
Explore the largest single collection released on Findmypast to date with over 5.4 million images and approximately 220 million names. Search the registers to discover when your family gained the right to vote, or uncover the details of the very first working class and women voters. These annual registers also include details of property ownership, filling gaps between the censuses and revealing the history of your family home.

Scotland, Linlithgowshire (West Lothian), electoral registers 1864-1931
Did you have Scottish family living in West Lothian? Explore over 23,000 records spanning 67 years to find out where they lived, what they did and whether they owned property in the area.

Britain, Absent Voters Lists 1918-1921
Did you have relatives who served in the Great War? Search through over 26,000 records to uncover details of the home they left behind and the part they played in one of history’s bloodiest conflicts.

(Further details via

Where to start - where to start...?!

Well, let's start with England and Wales. I have spent the last half an hour with the English records trying to trace family I know owned property in Croydon, my great uncle having lived there until his death in 1928, but getting nowhere fast. The user interface is a complete joke, completely unwieldy, and search returns do not provide the names of those of interest, only the electoral ward or boundary - so you have to painstakingly check each entry to see if you can find the name of relevance. It is by searching the online map that they have provided that I have finally established that the site in fact only appears to have records from Croydon in 1885, before my great uncle moved there. As for Wales - out of the 5.4 million images and 220 million names, there are just 39,000 entries from Wales, seemingly from Glamorgan and Merthyr Tydfil. So, in fact, it's actually an English collection with a few crumbs for a handful of lucky Welsh folk.

Take a look then at the initial press release in 2011 issued for this project (see, FindmyPast announced "The project will involve scanning the UK electoral registers that cover the century that followed the Reform Act of 1832, along with records of baptisms, marriages and burials drawn from the archives of the India Office." The company's commercial director at the time, Elaine Collins, is quoted as saying "‘We’re very excited to be involved with this fascinating project. The electoral rolls are the great missing link for family historians: after censuses and civil registration indexes, they provide the widest coverage of the whole population. To have Irish and Scottish records alongside England and Wales is also a huge advantage. These records will join the 1911 census, Chelsea Pensioner Service Records and many more datasets available online at, which enable people to make fantastic discoveries day after day.’

I'll repeat part of that: "To have Irish and Scottish records alongside England and Wales is also a huge advantage". It turns out that this huge advantage is in fact to have just 67 years worth of records from a few wards in West Lothian for Scotland, and for just 12 counties in Ireland from 1885-1886.

In some ways you might think this is not FindmyPast's fault. The records are those that are held at the British Library in England, and from reading the library's guide it would seem that it only has a complete run of records for Scotland etc from 1947 onwards. The National Libraries in Scotland and Wales have earlier incomplete runs. But the British Library does have earlier holdings, albeit patchy, as can be seen at its guide at

Let's look at Lanarkshire, for example, or at least just a small part of what the British Library has by way of its holdings for the county (for the period leading up to the 1932 cut off being followed for England and Wales):

LANARKSHIRE PC, BOTHWELL Div. 1918-Spr. 1919, 1920- 39, 1947-48 BL.S.L.9 (1920-39 bd with the other Lanarkshire divs.); BL.S.L.1
LANARKSHIRE PC, COATBRIDGE Div. 1920-39 (1920-39 bd with the other Lanarkshire divs); BL.S.L.2 (remainder)
LANARKSHIRE PC, GOVAN Div. 1885/86- 1914 BL.S.L.9 Bd with the other Lanarkshire divs.; see also Glasgow PB, Govan Div./Glasgow Govan BC
LANARKSHIRE PC, HAMILTON Div. 1918 (incomplete), Aut. 1919- 39 BL.S.L.9 (1920-39 bd with the other Lanarkshire divs); BL.S.L.3 (remainder) 1918 reg. includes only ldwd districts; Aut. 1919 reg. includes Rutherglen Div.; see also Hamilton CC/BC, Hamilton North and Bellshill BC and Hamilton South BC, for Hamilton Burgh see Falkirk D of Bs
LANARKSHIRE PC, LANARK Div. 1920-39 BL.S.L.9 (1920-39 bd with the other Lanarkshire divs.); BL.S.L.4 (remainder)

And there are plenty more. Here's some for Ayr, for example:

AYR D of Bs 1862-1914, 1918-36, 1938 (incomplete), 1937, 1939, 1945, 1947- 48;  BL.S.A.14 (complete 1937, 1939, 1945, 1947-48); BL.S.A.15 (pt Ayr Burgh 1862-67, 1876-86, 1888- 1914, 1918-38); BL.S.A.11 (pt Campbelltown Burgh 1863); BL.S.A.10/2 (pt Inverary Burgh 1867-88) Contributing Burghs: Ardrossan (1918-48), Ayr, Campbelltown (to 1918). Inverary (to 1918), Irvine, Oban (to 1918), Prestwick (1918- 48), Saltcoats (1918-48) and Troon (1918-48)

Again, other areas are also well represented, not least of which Edinburgh, the capital city.

Then for good measure, FindmyPast describes its final collection as Britain, Absent Voters Lists 1918-1921. By Britain, what it means is England - and just a handful of records for Wales and Scotland. In fact, just 13 pages of results from Treharris in Merthyr Tydfil, to be precise, and 10 pages of results from West Lothian. Some of us just don't accept that calling a collection 'British' these days is an accurate representation of what a collection in fact is - you would think that a company headquartered in Dundee, a city which last year voted for Scottish independence, might have some kind of clue as to that!!! There is only so much spin that some customers might be willing to accept.

It is seemingly becoming clear that FindmyPast really doesn't give a monkey's about its Scottish subscribers. If there are Scottish records at the British Library, why are they not included? If there is a legitimate reason, why are you not telling us? Are they the copyright of NLS or some other institution, for example? But to simply just gloss over it as if no-one will notice is really not doing your Scottish subscribers any service whatsoever.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit My Pinterest account is at


  1. We are a commodity Chris. We are not treated as researchers.

  2. Not just Scotland Chris! I tried to find folk in Lancashire on the AVL. No results. Tried "Smith" in Lancs and only 1 page returned as a result! Methinks they have rushed to put something online without QC yet again.......

  3. Chris

    I also think they need to be clearer about the coverage of the records they have put up for England too. One part of my family came from the Stratford area, I found them (interestingly included in the list for December 1918, they had died from flu in November 1918) in the registers kept in the Newham Local History Library (this was a few years ago), the relevant registers were evidently not in the British Library collection judging from my search of the new database. Perhaps a little campaigning could help put pressure on the owners of 'Find my past' to look at filling in the gaps in coverage, perhaps via agreements with the copyright holders for the missing volumes (Ancestry of course has the registers from the LMA). A first step towards this would be to list exactly what has been published in this database in an easily accessible (other than the drop down list) page on the site.

  4. Just found the PDF guide from the British Library, a version of which I have seen before, but still not the same as an easily accessible simple list on the web page itself. Plus they still need to fill the gaps in coverage over time, so this initial release should be a work in progress rather than an end.

  5. And, if you select "United Kingdom" on the A-to-Z search screen, and then enter "Scotland", it lists existing censuses, BMDs, but not the West Lothian Electoral Roll. To find this, you have to select "World" ... which is odd!

  6. Our experiences of the England & Wales register appears to be the same Chris: I really hope that it's a stop-gap measure.