Researching your ancestors from Great Britain and Ireland

A guide to researching your ancestors in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, using resources at State Library Victoria.


Poll books were first introduced in 1694 and usually contained the names of electors, their residence, their entitlement to vote (mainly freemen and freeholders) and the names of the candidates they voted for. The books were publicly available, a practice which continued until 1872 when a secret ballot was introduced.

Electoral registers were introduced following the 1832 Reform Act, but only a limited number of men had the right to vote. By 1918 all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 were entitled to vote. Not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 was passed, did all men and women obtain the right to vote.

Where to find records

The British Library holds the national collection of electoral registers from 1832 to the present day, however the collection is only complete from 1947 onwards.

The content, arrangement and availability of the registers varies greatly so for detailed information please consult the following guides to the British Library's holdings. (Please note: the following website may not be available for some time, due to major technical outage at the British Library)

In 2015 the British Library and FindMyPast digitised the existing England and Wales Electoral Registers from 1832-1932 and made them available on the FindMyPast database. See below for further information.

Surviving historical registers from 1832 onwards are also held in county archive offices. Use the GOV.UK site to find a local council. Large collections of poll books are also held in the British Library, the Guildhall Library, the Society of Genealogists and the Bodleian Library.

Access from home

Access in the Library

Further information

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[Very crowded beach, possibly Blackpool, England], H86.108/151