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Using U.S. Voter Registration Information to Track 20th-century Ancestors

Have you ever used voter registration cards to track a grandparent? It is a good and underused source for 20th-century research. Available records vary from state to state and even between different regions within states.

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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Kristin Brandt
Word Count: 282 (approx.)
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Have you ever used voter registration cards to track a grandparent? It is a good and underused source for 20th-century research. Available records vary from state to state and even between different regions within states. Current voter registration information can be viewed by the public and is generally kept at city or county offices. Current records give a name, date of birth, and sometimes social security number and party affiliation. Past records are kept at the discretion of local offices, and many archived voter records contain additional genealogical information such as marital status, physical description, citizenship information and whether a homeowner or renter. Voter registration can aid in tracing immigrants as well as provide some kind of census substitute.

Some counties in Arizona have great records, but some jurisdictions have decided to junk their records when the voter dies or moves. Some states keep their information for a certain number of years before destroying it. Genealogists have persuaded many states to keep these valuable records. Some states that have protected the voter cards have produced statewide indexes, which are kept at the secretary of state's office. Some of these offices won't give information over the phone.

Voter registration cards can provide valuable immigration information. The date and court of naturalization were reported on early records. However, remember that not everyone registered to vote, and some surviving records only include those people who actually voted. With those weaknesses in mind, voter registration cards may be the key to your research problems. Remember that available documents vary greatly and the only way to know if it could aid you in your search is to contact the city and county offices of the place your ancestor resided.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2003.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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