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Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Finding Electoral Registers

Last but not least, let’s talk about where to find an electoral register. The source for these records on a national basis is the British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, www.bl.uk which has a partnership with www.findmypast.co.uk. The website has begun its digitization in 1832 and is moving forwards.

Beginning with 1947, the British Library has a complete set of registers for the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).  A complete list of their holdings is in a publication titled, Parliamentary Constituencies and Their Registers Since 1832, which also includes earlier burgess rolls and poll books. Once in hard copy, it can now be downloaded at www.bl.uk/reshelp/finhelprestype/offpubs/electreg/parliamentary/constituenncies.html.
Because of concerns about identity theft and commercial use of the lists, restrictions apply to the electoral registers from the past ten years.

Having voting information after 1832 is not always helpful to American genealogists because it is just too late. Locations of earlier records can be found in the following pamphlets:
Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers Gibson. Poll Books c. 1696-1872, a directory of holdings in Great Britain. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1994.

Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers since 1832and burgess rolls. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990.
Check on purchasing copies at www.ffhs.org.uk. Even the British Library states that if the early roll you need is not listed in one of the above, “it may well be that no copies of the register sought survive.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Voter Disqualifications

In my last post, I mentioned very generally who would be included in the election records because they were qualified to vote by age and land ownership or tenancy, above a certain assessed value or rental amount. In the Gibson and Rogers booklet cited below, there is a nice list of who was disqualified and that may be a better beginning point. You simply will not find your ancestors if they fall into any of the categories listed.

The occupations that disqualified a potential voter will surprise North Americans.
                    -          Before 1887, active policemen, while serving and six months after leaving the force.

-          Before 1918, election agents and other paid election workers; postmasters; those receiving welfare, their spouses or children; collectors of government revenues.
Less surprising to North Americans are these types of non-voters. People who were and are not allowed to vote in the UK and who also might not be allowed to vote in some U.S. states includes:

 aliens
              people with mental disorders

anyone serving a prison sentence (UK laws prohibit anyone convicted of election bribery from voting for five years after the crime.)
A purely British reason for disqualification was being a conscientious objector between 1918 and 1923. Another is being a peer. On the other hand, peeresses were allowed to vote by the reform bill of 1918 but the right was taken away again in 1963.

Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990. www.ffhs.org.uk

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: UK Voting Records – An Introduction

This post is the first in a series about voters’ records in the UK. Because they list addresses, the members of a family of voting age, and land ownership and leasing details, genealogists can use them as an alternative to the census and to further their understanding of land records.

The United Kingdom has kept voting records, called Poll Books, Burgess Books or Rolls, and Electoral Registers, depending on the time period. Poll books are generally early records of those who voted and how they voted in parliamentary elections. Secret ballots did not begin until 1872.
Burgess books or rolls listed the freemen of a borough who were often entitled to vote for members of parliament and for members of the borough corporation. Note: A borough is a self-governing place with a corporation and privileges granted by a royal charter. This term has wider uses today; see www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borough.

Since 1832, electoral registers of people eligible to vote in parliamentary elections have been compiled annually, with the exception of the war years: 1916-1917, 1940-1944. They were compiled twice a year from 1919 to 1926 and again from 1945 to 1949. Registers for voters in local elections were kept was well, such as those for county council kept since 1889.
Voting was not secret?! Before telling you how to find these registers and books, it may help to discuss the differences in voting between the UK and North America because they can be distracting when working with this data.

            Voting Age
Until 1971, men could vote when they reached age 21. Since then, the voting age is reduced to 18 years. The exceptions were soldiers and sailors age 19 and 20 after World War I. Women over age 30 got the vote in 1918. That age was reduced to 21 in 1928 and 18 in 1971.

            Qualifications
Who was qualified to vote varied between the counties and the boroughs in the UK, and the various boroughs had customs that widely varied with each other. To be simplistic, citizens could vote if they were of legal age, and owned or rented property, based on the value of the real estate or the amount of rent paid. The necessary values were changed over time.

            Plural Voting
You might find an ancestor on more than one voting list and wonder how that can be. In 1948, ‘One man, One vote’ became the law of the land. Before that year, there were three geographic categories; residence, business and university. You could vote in all three before 1918 and between 1918 and 1948, in two of the three.

_____________. UK Electoral Registers and Their Uses. London: British Library, Social Sciences Collection Guides, Official Publications. www.bl.uk/socialsciences
Gibson, Jeremy and Colin Rogers. Electoral Registers. Birmingham, UK: Federation of Family History Societies, 1990.

Herber, Mark. Ancestral Trails. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2006.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Gretna Green Elopement

In the second season of Downton Abbey, Lady Sybil Crawley and the chauffeur, Tom Branson, headed for Gretna Green, Scotland, with plans to elope. Since Lord Grantham’s estate is in Yorkshire, if any of us North American’s were listening carefully, it probably seemed they were just heading for the nearest border where marriage laws were different.

Indeed that was the case, but people came from further away to marry in this first town inside Scotland on the main road from London to Edinburgh. In fact, the phrase “Gretna Green Elopement” came to mean any marriage ceremony performed without complete parental approval away from the local parish church. The village today advertises itself to couples wanting a destination wedding, similar to Las Vegas without the neon.
For genealogists with English families, it might pay to look at the Scottish records if you are having trouble finding a marriage in the south.

In 1754, the Hardwicke Marriage Act declared that brides and grooms under age 21 needed parental approval and all weddings needed to be performed in a Church of England. However, the laws of Scotland differed and much younger teens could marry without permission. About fifteen years later, Gretna Green had become the border town most known for these ceremonies.
Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests" because the blacksmith’s shop was at the main crossroads in town, and the smithie performed so many marriages over his anvil. (wikipedia, Gretna Green)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish Games and Festivals

Last weekend, I went to my local highland games. I am still humming the tune played by all of the pipe bands in the competition. While I didn’t spend a lot of time doing genealogy, I could have.

These games featured a tent with genealogists from the Mormon Church who were doing individual counseling. They did two workshops during the day, one “Basics of Genealogy” and the other “Genealogy and Your Scottish Records.” Not all games will have this element, but if you are headed to one, check the schedule on their website before you leave home. Only pack your genealogy notes and questions, if you can consult with a genealogist.
On the other hand, every Scottish festival has clan tents or booths. These are almost always together and separate from the vendors and food purveyors. Most of the booths have some info for family researchers, if only a map* and list of septs (branch families). I saw some pedigree charts Saturday so some genealogy was taking place. I did observe that visitors had to talk to the clans people and not wait for them to begin the conversation.

As my program said, in that combination of English and Scottish perhaps spoken or written only in North America:
“Search for a bit o’ yer ancestry ‘neath ane o’ the mony clan tents.”

For information about the larger highland games that might be near you, consult the website of the Association of Scottish Games and Festivals: www.asgf.org. Next year’s Glasgow Lands Scottish Festival will be in Look Park, Northampton, Massachusetts Saturday, 18 July 2015, www.glasgowlands.org.
* To find where your surname is most prevalent in Scotland, consult the Great Britain surname project, University College, London, at www.gbnames.publicprofiler.org

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Easter Books


The happy holiday of Easter in Britain was the traditional date for paying the required ‘dues’ or tithes to the parish coffers. This was convenient because Easter nearly coincided with the beginning of the calendar year until 1752. Before that date, the first day of the year was Mar 25, Lady Day, celebrating the conception of Jesus (nine months before Christmas). In most parishes, each person was accessed two pence from the lord of the manor to his humblest servant. Another tithe based on ability to pay was collected at the same time. The practice was stopped by national legislation in 1836.
Records were kept in Easter books or rolls. There is quite a bit of variation among the parishes about what was collected and what was recoded. Some books have alphabetical lists of what was owed while others list the amounts paid in the order in which the money was received.

In 1989, Sue Wright wrote two articles about the Easter Books that are now downloadable as PDFs at www.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/authoridx.htm. The first article describes the records and the second one lists the books that exist and where they were archived. Now the first place to look is the holdings of the local County Records Office (CRO).

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wisdom Wednesday: Scottish/English Borderlands to Rural America

From 1717 to 1775, 275,000 people came from the border counties in England and Scotland to settle the northern and western areas of the American colonies. Some acted as a buffer between the Native Americans and the settlers on the seacoast. The skills and mindset from over 700 years of violence on the English/Scottish border served them well.

During the reign of KIng James I of England (James VI of Scotland) from 1603-1625, the first king of all of Great Britain gave people in the border area peerages and land in Northern Ireland to try to calm the troubles. Thus the Scots/Irish were created. They are not welcomed by the Irish, and as we know, there are still problems today.
One way to avoid the troubles was to emigrate. One hundred fifty thousand people came from ports in Northern Ireland in the sixty years before the American Revolution. The seaports were Belfast, Londonderry, Newry, Larne and Portrush. Another 75,000 came from ports in Scotland including Wigtown and Kirkcudbright. The northern English ports where another 50,000 immigrants departed were Liverpool, Maryport, Morecambe and Whitehaven. These immigrants had two things in common. First, they all lived on or near the Irish Sea, the body of water between Great Britain and Ireland, or they were former residents of that area or the borderlands

A study of the surnames in the 1790 U.S. Census showed that these immigrants went to all the colonies except the small coastal places - Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. The largest concentration was in southwestern Pennsylvania, and western Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Later their descendants would settle in large number in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Source: Dollarhide, William. British Origins of American Colonists, 1629-1775. Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest Genealogical Services, division of AGLL, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-877677-69-8