Is there such a thing as a free electoral roll search?
Just because something could be useful, it doesn’t have to be free. In fact, the reverse is often true. Until relatively recently, it was possible to do a free electoral roll search but then companies and organisations started to put the electoral roll onto CDs and onto internet sites. The rapidly saw the commercial opportunities that were possible and started to charge for this service.
An electoral roll search has become a lot easier and more convenient as several sites now carry an electoral roll search facility. However, you do have to pay for this service, either with a monthly or annual subscription, or by using a pay-per-view system. If you only want to look up a few entries in an electoral roll search, this may be quite a cost effective way to do it but if you want to use the service regularly, you may be better with a subscription.
Where can you do an electoral roll search?
- People search at 192.com One of the longest established providers of an electoral roll search facility is 192.com. This is now virtually a household name. The site carries the available electoral roll data for the UK electoral roll and lots of extra information, such as phone numbers and even maps of where they live. The site has a very helpful tips page and shows how to use the free directory enquiry feature and also the electoral roll search, which is subject to a fee. Currently this is £9.95 plus VAT for 5 credits (so over £2 per view) or £149.95 for 600 credits (or around 30p per view). You also have to pay a further £149.99 to have Extended Archive Membership to view the electoral rolls from 2002-2008, in addition to the 2009 electoral roll. This is particularly ironic as it used to be possible to do a free electoral roll search in some of these early electoral roll records.
- Tracesmart.co.uk also offers a people search Tracesmart has various records, including phone records, birth indexes, marriage indexes and death indexes and all these can be accessed from one search window. The site also provides access to the 2009 electoral roll, which contains over five million records on individuals in the UK. This is one of the most user friendly online electoral roll search. It’s still not a free electoral roll search though! It’s not even that cheap, if all you want to search is the electoral roll. For £3.49 you can get a month’s access to five searches of the online electoral roll 2009, but this also provides search results for the previous electoral roll records from 2003 to 2008. It is extremely valuable to be able to search across several years of electoral roll records (see why in the section on Who is on the online electoral roll 2009?). A 100 credits at Tracemart will cost £14.95 and there are various extras that you can add on.
- Findmypast, the family history site This provides access to the electoral roll information for 10 credits per search but you can buy an all-inclusive package to get unlimited searches in the electoral roll and all the other records on the site for £7.50 per month. If you are doing family history and you want access to more records than just the electoral roll, this is probably the most cost effective option for you. If you are looking for a long lost school friend, it’s probably not worth it though. As well as the electoral roll, this site also has census records, birth, marriages and deaths, as the two main people find sites but it then has so much more. Migration records, military service records, online family trees to connect with others who are researching the same family and other specialist records such as medical registers.
Who is on the online electoral roll 2009?
You may have noticed above that there are only 5 million people on the electoral roll 2009. An electoral roll search will only come up with people who are on the register, but shouldn’t there be more people on it than that? There are 60 million people in the UK, and even allowing for the fact that quite a few of them are under 18, it still doesn’t seem enough.
The fact is that there are two different versions of the electoral roll 2009 and there have been two different versions of every electoral roll since 2002. Since that time, when the electoral roll first started to be commercialised, people have had the option of removing their name from the electoral roll that is used by people search organisations and commercial companies. There are actually two versions of the electoral roll produced every year – the edited and the unedited.
The unedited version of the electoral roll contains data on everyone who is eligible to vote. The edited electoral roll only contains those people who have asked not to be excluded.
So, when you are search electoral roll data, it is important to look across as many years as you can since 2002. There is a chance that the person you are looking for has only remembered to exclude themselves from the full electoral register for some of the years, and you may still find them.
Should it be possible to do a free electoral roll search?
Many people argue that it should, but is anything free these days? The internet connection you use to search is subject to a monthly fee that is often greater than the cost of a monthly subscription to one of the electoral roll sites. The information has to be collated, processed and put into a searchable database, which requires quite a lot of work. These costs have to be met somehow.
However, there are those who argue that the access charges for the electoral roll are quite high. The profit to be made by the popularity of such searches could be used to provide more discounts and offers, perhaps through local libraries, where people without computers tend to use the internet. Subsidising library editions could help people who can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a hobby like genealogy.
One way you can do a free electoral roll search
If you want to search the local electoral roll, the local library does hold paper copies and they will do a manual search for you, or sometimes allow you to do one, completely free. Of course, if you want to search widely, you will have to visit a lot of libraries and spend a lot of money travelling around, which isn’t exactly free...
This article is written by Dr Kathryn Senior, an established science journalist whose favourite hobby of the last few years has been family history.