Voter registration records are available online and offline from all over the world and are what I consider a hidden gem of information that can assist you in advancing your family history and genealogy research.
Here are several reasons why voter records are such a wonderful tool for researching (and finding) ancestors:
- They fill in the gaps between censuses – in the ten years between censuses – people move, they die, they get married, etc. The advantage of voter registration records is that they can tell you their address, their occupation, etc. And like city directories, they are published yearly or every couple of years.
- Naturalization information – in some records from the 1800s, the date, and place of naturalization is included, which can provide leads for obtaining their detailed naturalization records.
- Middle names – often a complete name is included in voter registration records – in fact, the only place that I ever found my great grandfather’s middle name was in several of these records. Prior to finding them, I only knew his middle name as an initial.
- You can find a spouse – after 1920 for all of America, women could vote – so at that time their names began to show up in Voter Registration records. Some states had passed women’s suffrage laws prior to 1920, but just a few. To be complete – women in some states in the late 1700s had voting rights until they were all taken away by 1807. The given name of a woman is sometimes included in the voter registration record.. If a man and a woman with the same last name lived at the same address on the registration list, one could surmise that they were married to each other or they could be siblings or have a parent-child relationship. But there is a good possibility that they may be married to each other, providing more clues.
- Nativity – again in the 1800s, the place of birth is entered, which is especially helpful for finding naturalized immigrants.
- Physical Characteristics – in a few states, the voter registration form includes the applicant’s age, height, complexion, eye and hair color, as well as any distinguishing marks or scars.
- Political party or affiliation – usually abbreviated as Dem or Rep, but you will find other party names as well in addition to “None”. Remember that Democrats and Republicans from years ago did not necessarily align with the same principles as the parties do today.
- Migration – a few voter registration forms include a question regarding how long the voter lived in the state, the county, and the precinct. This can be useful to determine when they moved, which can help determine their whereabouts for additional research.
Most of the voter registration records are still in paper form or have been microfilmed. There is quite a bit online though, and I am capturing those links and they are below. The paid subscription sites such as Ancestry, Fold3, My Heritage, and FindMyPast have voter registration collections also.
Below are links to voter records available online. Unfortunately, some just list the voter’s name. Although that is sparse information it can help you find a person’s residence at a certain point in time, again helpful to find where ancestors resided between the census years.
Note 1: There may appear to be duplicate titles in the links. This is because there are scanned images of an original typed list or scanned images of original applications, and also a transcribed copy of a voter registration list.
Note 2: Many of the links listed below take you to a FamilySearch Collection of digital images. Near the bottom of the page under Film/Digital Notes is the name of each sub-collection. If there is a camera icon at the right of the name (in the Format column) then the collections’ images are browsable. If there is a camera with a key icon, it is only available at a Family History Center or affiliated library. If there is a film reel icon, then it is only available in microfilm format, not digital.
(Updated September 2021; recently added links are in BOLD)
- Barrington, Town Records, 1718-1886
- Coventry Town Meeting minutes 1806-1882
- Providence Tax Lists of the town of Providence,1686-1689; together with a List of names of all Males sixteen years of age and upwards residing in the town in August 1688 and liable for a Poll Tax
- Rhode Island Colonial Records comprising a list of the Freemen admitted from May 1747 to May 1754
- Scituate General Voting List 1898
- Scituate Lists of freeholders in Scituate, 1843-1847,1863-1878
For links to other states go to the Voter Records page.
Good Luck and Happy Hunting!
For other Free Rhode Island Links, click on the category of interest:
Probate and Wills