A while ago I mentioned the the Absent Voters Lists as being a valuable source when looking for a WW1 soldiers army number, but I thought I would just update this and add to the information I told you about.
So here goes – In the General Election of 1918 all those not at ‘home’, those who were away from their place of residence were classed as Absent Voters. The reasons you were away could be for example, working, visiting family or serving your country in WW1. The information for someone serving his King and Country usually included the following :- The man’s name, service and regiment along with rank and service number and his home address. I say this information is usually included but in Morley his name and HM in a column are the only information you are getting, but it is still worth knowing he served.
It was an Act of Parliament passed on 6th February 1918 that allowed service men to register and obtain their vote ‘at home’. The first lists were published on 15th October 1918 and again on 15th April 1919 and the details were provided by the voters. Men aged 21 and over could supply information about their vote, so for us family historians, a young man under the age of 21 but still serving his country could not vote.
Also, something to be remembered – a soldier’s number was not his for his service. A soldier changed his service number for many reasons including changing regiment. You will find many service records or CWGC information with the words ‘formerly’, very kindly giving a previous service number. If you search for a serviceman by just his number you may find many men who were issued that number. For example a search of the SWDTGW for 2497 comes back with 100 men issued that number. It was not until 1920 that a unique number was issued to service men.
Something else to bare in mind is that during WW1 Officers were not given service numbers but by WW2 numbers were issued and again they were unique.
This wonderful source of information for Wakefield, has been transcribed and can be found here, the information has also been put on to a cd and is useful for those not wishing to use the internet and is available here along with many other useful tools for family historians.
When looking for AVL’s you may like to try your local history library, local archives or pose a question on a local messageboard – it may save you time. Please note:- there is a chance they may not have survived in your area, so be prepared to use other sources to find the service number of your man i.e newspapers. Years ago a service number was a must for you to take your research further, now with the internet and some very useful websites a service record, if it has survived can be found by inputting varying degrees of information i.e. name and town if that is all you know, but don’t forget to allow for transcription errors and a search could get longer if a name and town, in all the spelling variations, brings up nothing – you may have to resort to just a town, a little long winded but does eventually pick up all the wonderful spelling variations that transcribers try to put in our way.
Many family historians are a dogged bunch and are not easily put off by a name or town spelt in a way that bares no resemblance to what it actually should be. I think sometimes it is just ‘lets pick a few letters, jumble them up and that will do’.
A selection of Absent Voters Lists online
Wakefield click here - search by constituency
Leeds click here - search by surname
Accrington click here – search by name or constituency
Grimsby & Cleethorpes click here – search by name
Woodchurch click here – complete list