Saturday, February 27, 2010

Australian Federal Electoral Rolls - part 2

I recently described the Australian Electoral Rolls. I have used on them on microfilm, but for the last few years many of the rolls have been available - searchable and with images - on Ancestry.com.

The greater ease of access to the rolls has expanded the types of things I use them for.  While there are all the usual caveats about people who forgot to enrol, or update their enrollment etc they can be very useful for providing extra, unknown information, and narrowing down unknown dates.
  • Birth date - people were supposed to enrol at 21, so find the earliest date they appear and subtract 21 years to get an indication of their birth date.
  • Death date - when someone disappears from the roll it could indicate their death, especially if other family members remain.
  • Marriage date and spouse - when a young man disappears from his parents house and appears at a new address, with a female of the same surname, there's a good chance he married her.
  • Address - obviously.  
  • Change of address - if the address changes, the person most probably moved to the new address before the date given. I attempted to use the electoral rolls to follow my ancestor Elizabeth French (nee Tregonning) around the country in the early 20th century but unfortunately her enrollment seems to be patchy once she started moving.
  • Occupation - the electoral rolls include the person's occupation.
  • Career progression - you can sometimes see how an individual progresses (or otherwise) in their career by the changes in the way their occupation was described, eg from clerk to accountant.
I recently used the rolls to sort out a collection of birth index entries that I suspected, but wasn't sure, were all children of the same family. I ducked into Ancestry and quickly found the children on the roll about 21 years after the birth index dates, all living at the same address. Since one of my concerns was that birth index locations jumped back and forth between two places, this gave me some confidence in the theory that they were all from the same family. Thinking to look at the electoral rolls was an "aha!" moment for me, and I felt very pleased with myself when it paid off!

Another thing that I have used the rolls for on microfilm, but I am reluctant to so in the digital version, is to flick through the pages of the polling place, looking for anyone else at the same address. Who else was living in my relatives houses, and how did they come to be there? Given the amount of time each page takes for me to download, and that the "Ls" alone in the last batch I looked at covered 10 pages, I think I'll be heading to the library if I get too curious about that.

Have you used the rolls? Can you think of other puzzles they might help solve now that they are more readily available?

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