The following response has been sent in response to the the Ministry of Justice Proposal for reform of the published electoral register for England and Wales.
Ministry of Justice
Elections and Democracy Division
Floor 5, 5.18
102 Petty France
London, SW1H 9AJ
Dear Ms O’Connell
Edited Electoral Register Consultation (ref: CP 46/90)
This response is made on behalf of the Trustees and members of the Society of Genealogists, the leading national learned society concerned with family history and genealogy and their associated social science disciplines. It is the largest society of its kind in the UK, with nearly 12,000 members.
The Society campaigns for the integrity and preservation of records relevant to current and future research and optimum access to such records. Members of the Society are all researching family history, mostly as amateur hobbyists, though a significant number are professional researchers. Hence the Society’s main, but by no means exclusive, concern is for access to records and genealogical information on behalf of genealogists who are researching their family history and individual ancestors and relatives. It is not insignificant that within the Society’s archives can found be the correspondence with the Home Office reflecting the Society’s success in making the 1841 and 1851 censuses available for public inspection in 1912. Since its foundation in the previous year, the Society has continued to lobby on behalf of the genealogical community and takes an active role in rescuing documents that are of interest to family historians but which have been discarded by other larger and often public archives. It seeks to influence record holders so that the particular needs of family historians are recognised.
Vision for organisation
The Society of Genealogists seeks to promote a genealogical community in which everyone has convenient, affordable access to records, finding aids, knowledge and skills necessary to conduct authoritative research in family history.
Comments on the consultation
Genealogy is an ever increasing activity. Millions subscribe to online databases of genealogical information and post their own family information online. A huge number wish to find living relatives, inspired by popular television programmes such as Heir Hunters of Who Do You Think You Are?
Also, often when searching for these relatives, a name is all genealogists have. This is what makes the current edited Electoral Roll even more valuable because it allows a search to be made without knowing a location, unlike directory enquiries. Plus one can search by the full name of any adult living in a household, again unlike directory enquiries. There will be no substitute database if the edited Electoral Roll is taken away.
As the edited Electoral Register is so important to tracing living relatives and the preservation of documents is so essential to genealogists, we do not support any moves that would stop the collation of the edited Electoral Roll and remove this useful service from our users. Therefore, we are strongly in favour of retaining the edited Electoral Register in its current form.
Family historians are well aware of the balance to be struck between the desire to know about one’s family and respect for a person’s privacy. Hence most family historians comply with the advice given by The Society of Genealogists that they do not publish personal information about living individuals without permission.
The current edited electoral register is integral to for search for family members and is not abused by genealogists. Hence we feel that the register should be retained in its current form in line with option 6 of the consultation – that there should be improved guidance for the public about the Edited Register so those who wish can be made aware that they may opt out as required and give an opportunity for that information to be removed or corrected.
Genealogist, The Society of Genealogists