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Source material: Poll books

Linked with electoral registers, poll books list the individuals who voted in elections and identify the the candidate for whom they voted. They are available for Halifax from the 1830s until the 1872 Secret Ballot Act. In addition, the Local Studies Collection located in the Central Library, Halifax, West Yorkshire, holds a few a few pre 1832 poll books for Yorkshire.


The details supplied and the layout of poll books vary from election to election. At their most detailed, however, they include:

  • The full names of voters (often in alphabetical order)
  • Their occupation/status.
  • Their place of residence.
  • The number of the candidate for whom they voted.

Use and limitations

As well as supplying the sort of information provided by electoral registers, poll books enable the researcher to:

  • plot the voting patterns (e.g. in occupational and geographical terms)
  • work out the economic structure of the town by looking at the occupations of 'principal inhabitants'.
The main limitations are that:
  • They exclude many individuals because they are not eligible to vote.
  • They sometimes exclude occupations. Nevertheless, poll books, especially when used in conjunction with each other, are enormously useful and supplement manuscript and other printed sources.

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