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Friday, 13 January 2012

Who was Stanmore Groat?

Great Stanmore Old Church, Middlesex 
If you search for Stanmore Groat using the exact search option on Ancestry.com you will find 189 results. If you look closely you will see that all 189 results are in the recently released London, England Electoral Registers 1835-1965. So this magnificently named person was apparently eligible to vote London, but left no other trace of their existence. Very curious.

Sadly, Stanmore Groat never existed (except maybe in the pages of Dickens' novels, it sounds like the kind of name he would make up). Neither did a whole cast of characters including Abbey Twyford, Hendon West, Chelsea Little, Magna Greenford, Dale Slade, Field Ponderend, Chase Hope-Cottage, Common Shortwood  and many more. They are place names that have been mistaken for personal names, which appear surname-first in the registers, and have therefore been reversed for indexing. With a few transcription errors thrown in for good measure you get 'names' like those above; there are nearly 5000 'people' called Stanmore Great, but I like Stanmore Groat better.

Having had my fun with this game, which brightened up a dull Friday afternoon, I will now say that these records are actually very useful and informative. We are accustomed to modern electoral registers which are just lists of names in address order, with minimal extra information. Some older registers, on the other hand, may give details of property, when there was still a property qualification, and even indicate if a voter was a lodger. Some 20th century registers indicate voters who were in the armed services, or who were eligible for jury service.

You will also find women in the registers well before they were able to vote in Parliamentary elections; when the London County Council was established in 1889 all adults were able to vote in its elections, regardless of their gender or the value of the property they occupied. It is worth remembering that many men were not eligible to vote in Parliamentary elections until 1918, although, like the women they will appear in the electoral register if it is a combined one for both local and national elections.

The coverage is not as extensive as you might think, as you will see if you go to the 'Browse this collection' option. Not all London boroughs are covered, and the dropdown menu contains an odd mix of modern boroughs like Tower Hamlets, former boroughs like Willesden and three counties - London, Middlesex and Surrey. Some parts of present-day Greater London were once in Surrey, Kent or Essex as well as Middlesex, and there is little coverage for these areas, in many cases because the records are not held at the London Metropolitan Archives. However there are no registers for the old borough of Wembley, was joined with Willesden to form the modern borough of Brent, but only the Willesden registers are on the site. It is to be hoped that their registers will be added in due course.

John Reid has also looked at these electoral registers and makes some useful comments on his Anglo-Celtic Connections blog. I fully agree with his recommendation of the Gibson Guide Electoral registers since 1832 : and burgess rolls for an excellent introduction to electoral registers and how to make use of them.

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2 comments:

  1. I like how you had time to play around with the registers searching for place names! I've not had time to look properly for my ancestors I had lots from Barnes and Mortlake not sure if this area is included or not. On the other side of the family from St George Hanover Square I'm not sure that the dates will be right the family had a building business but
    lost all their money and ended up in the workhouse! I'll follow your advice and check the "browse this collection"
    kathryn
    BradfordWW1.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  2. A cautionary tale that gave me a giggle, thanks Audrey.

    ReplyDelete