There was a General Election in Britain in 1918. Details of men in the armed forces who were away from home were named on Absent Voters Lists (see details below and in the article The registration of military voters). These often recorded the man’s regiment, number and rank at the time, as well as his home address. Crucially, in many cases they also give his unit. The lists are not held centrally and are not 100% in existence. They are held at a variety of County Records Offices or local history sections of main libraries of the area where the man lived in 1918. Some have been digitised and made available via the Findmypast service;’ some are held at the British Library. If all you know is the soldier’s name but are reasonably certain you know where he lived, this is not a bad place to search.
Lists known to be freely available online
- Alnwick and Amble
- Barnsley 1918 (transcription)
- Burton Latimer
- Cheltenham (1920-1 list)
- County Armagh
- County Carlow (Ireland, 1920-1 list)
- County Londonderry
- Dundee 1919
- Grimsby and Cleethorpes
- Kidderminster 1919 (PDF format)
- Preston (Lancs) 1919 (transcript)
- Salford and Hulme
- Walthamstow (searchable transcript)
- Woodchurch (Kent)
Lists known to be available for purchase or pay-per-view including those at Findmypast
- Birmingham (pay-per-view: also now at Ancestry)
- St Helens
- List of Absent Voters Lists in districts included in digitised documents at Findmypast
Information about other existing lists
- Chesterfield, Ilkeston and Derbyshire West
- County Durham
- Glamorgan including Cardiff
- Hexham, Berwick Upon Tweed and Wansbeck
- Tyne and Wear
Other lists known to be available in libraries/archives
- Aberdare 1918 list is held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
- Barnsley 1918 and 1919 are held in Barnsley Archives
- Birkenhead East is held at Birkenhead Library
- Brixton in London is available from Lambeth Archives. I am told that they charge £5 to photocopy the relevant person’s entry but will confirm if the person is on the lists free of charge
- Carnarvon county list 1918 is held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
- Darlington. Durham County Record Office advises that this list is at Darlington Town Hall
- Flintshire lists are held at Flintshire Record Office in Hawarden
- Fulham 1920 is held at the London Metropolitan Archives
- Gateshead. Durham County Record Office advises that this list is at Gateshead library
- Hartlepool. Durham County Record Office advises that this list is at Hartlepool library
- Hastings 1918 is at the East Sussex Record Office
- Kennington in London: same as Brixton, above
- Leicester lists are available at the county record centre at Wigston Magna (sadly they do not give regimental details)
- Lewisham 1918 is held at the London Metropolitan Archives
- Manchester is held at the Central Library in Manchester
- Merionethshire 1918 list is held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
- Merthyr Tdyfil 1918 list is held at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
- Monmouthshire (Abertillery, Bedwellty, Ebbw Vale, Monmouth and Pontypool divisions) lists are held by Gwent Archives in Ebbw Vale
- Newcastle on Tyne. Durham County Record Office advises that this list is at Newcastle Central Library
- Norwich is held at the Central Library in Norwich
- Reading (spring 1923 list) is available on microfiche at Berkshire Record Office
- Sheffield lists (but only a sample of five pages of 1918) are held at the city’s Local Studies Library
- Somerset lists for 1918 and 1919 are available at the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton
- Southwark 1919 is held at the London Metropolitan Archives
- Wandsworth 1918-1920 is held at the London Metropolitan Archives
- Kennington and Brixton in London are available from Lambeth Archives. I am told that they charge £5 to photocopy the relevant person’s entry but will confirm if the person is on the lists free of charge
- City of York 1918 and 1919 lists are held in York Central Library
If you know of any more AVLs or are compiling an online version of a list, please contact me and I will add yours to this index.
Known to be missing
Gloucester Archives has confirmed that lists for Gloucester are missing.
Manchester Central Library has confirmed that lists for Chorlton-on-Medlock are missing.
Stoke-on-Trent Archives Service has confirmed that the lists for the ‘Potteries’ are missing (some local boundaries were changed in 1922 and this may need some further investigation as to exactly what is missing).
Durham County Record Office advises that the lists for South Shields, Stockton on Tees and Sunderland are “probably missing”.
How the lists were compiled
The voters details for the 1918 election were initially supplied by the next of kin of the household of the soldier to local voter registration officers. Once this process was completed, the names of those in the army were sent to the Adjutant General’s Department of the War Office, who then arranged to send voting cards to soldiers who were in the United Kingdom and ballot papers to men in France, Flanders and Italy. Men serving in more distant theatres of war were allowed to vote through use of a proxy voting form.
The hurried and rather haphazard nature of collecting the original information at home meant that some men were missed out altogether and the details given for others often inaccurate. Nonetheless if a researcher is faced with looking for a man with a common name but without knowledge of any military details, the Absent Voters List can be a valuable resource.