Election Records...

Discover your ancestors

Registers of freeholders and voters list the names and addresses of individuals entitled to vote at parliamentary elections, and poll books (often in printed form before the introduction of the Ballot Act of 1872) list the names of voters and the candidates they voted for.

Occasionally registers include observations such as ‘gone to America’ or ‘married a papist’. Arrangement of these registers is, as usual, by county, barony and parish. It is important to appreciate some of the limitations of this source.

Until the introduction of reforming legislation in 1832, 1867 and 1884, the franchise at parliamentary elections was restricted and, particularly in Ireland, Catholics were excluded altogether until 1793. Until then Protestants with freeholds worth forty shillings or more a year were entitled to vote, and from 1793 to 1829, Roman Catholic freeholders enjoyed the same privilege.

After the Catholic tenant farmers in Co. Clare had defied their landlords and elected Daniel O’Connell at a by-election, the Government was forced to introduce an act for Catholic Emancipation, but they accompanied this with a punitive measure raising the franchise qualifications for everyone from forty shillings to ten pounds. At a stroke, the electorate was reduced from around 100,000 to about 16,000.Co. Down has the largest collection of registers and poll books in Ulster.

Date Description PRONI Ref
1746-1789 Election ‘Cheque Book’ for freeholders with surnames A-G, arranged alphabetically including observations D/654/A3/1A
c.1789 Election ‘Cheque Book’ listing freeholders by townland D/654/A3/1B
1780-85 &
Freeholders registers DOW/5/3/1-2
1813-21 &
Freeholders registers D/654/A3/1M1
1822 Freeholders registers T/2771/8A
1852 Poll Book, Co. Down D/671/0/2/5
1857 Poll Book, Co. Down D/671/0/2/7
c.1856 List of 50 shilling freeholders and ‘those likely to be’ in each barony D/2223/21/3
1868 List of electors who voted in Newry election T/2336
1897-1909 Parliamentary electoral registration revision lists, county divisions DOW/5/2/B/1-13