When consulted in our searchroom, many of the Electoral Registers for Berkshire are contained within smart, green volumes. They are not always this way however, and there is quite a process to go through before they are ready to be viewed. In this blog, we will explain how the Electoral Registers go from piles of papers in boxes to neat and tidy rows of volumes.
When the Electoral Registers first come to us from Berkshire’s six unitary authorities, they are usually as a printed pile of loose sheets, although sometimes we have received digital versions instead. The digital versions are then printed out so the whole year is uniform in its format. The registers come to us at different times as well. Most arrive at the start of the year, with supplemental alterations arriving monthly after that, but some come altogether at the end of the year. When we have received them, they are stored in boxes within our strongrooms until we are able to begin the process of preparing them for binding and public viewing.
Before they can be bound, each register needs to be carefully checked. Firstly, the main registers are checked to ensure that no pages are missing, and the polling districts are in order. To make the final volume easier to search, the polling districts are organised alphabetically. Some registers also have a street index which makes finding the correct polling district for a specific road much easier. These also need checking to make sure they are complete, and no pages are missing. Some registers have one street index to cover the whole register, whilst others have individual indexes for each polling district.
The final piece of checking is making sure that the pages of alterations are complete and in the correct order. Like the main register, these are ordered alphabetically by polling district, but first they need arranging in date order. The first alterations to the register could occur in January and we may continue getting new alterations until November, although not every polling district will have alterations every month. Putting them in date order avoids any risk of getting mixed up between alterations of the same polling district from different months. Throughout the checking process, we also remove any fasteners that are attached to the pages. These could be staples, paper clips or treasury tags. This prevents the risk of the metal rusting which can degrade and weaken the paper.
When a register has been fully checked, it is separated into smaller bundles, each less than 2.5 inches thick. Each individual bundle is then tied with unbleached archive tape so that all the pages stay together. These bundles are what will be bound into volumes. A catalogue reference is assigned to each bundle and a front page is printed which details what is in that volume, such as whether it has a street index, alterations and which polling districts it covers.
The bundles are then ready to become volumes! A binding specification is attached to each bundle with details regarding the colour of the cover and any lettering to be included on the spine. They are then sent off to the bindery where they will be given their green jackets.
Once we receive the shiny new volumes back, there are just a few more steps before they are ready for viewing in the searchroom. The catalogue and handlist need updating and then space is found for the volumes on the strongroom shelves. The Electoral Registers are then ready to be consulted by the public.
2020 was the last year that we received physical copies of the Electoral Registers, as from 2021 we have received them entirely digitally. This brings with it new processes and challenges for us to tackle.
Whether you’re using them for researching past residents of your house or confirming your own address, we hope that you now have a better idea of how the Electoral Registers become the versions that you can consult in the searchroom.