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The Compleat Genealogical Database: Elections

Every county history contains pages of politics. Too often we skip right over them, not realizing how useful that information can be. Whether you are intrigued by politics are not, elections do leave behind genealogical tidbits, so you may want to take time and pay attention to politics along the way.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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There are all kinds of elections. The most common is a political election, but there are also labor elections, social organization elections, and even church elections.

Among other things, a political contest almost always has at least two contenders. If your ancestor ran for office, the winner is not necessarily the most important thing to a genealogist. Elections placed anyone who ran for office for squarely at a specific place in time, in between the census enumerations. In fact, your ancestor lived in the geographic location they represented for the duration of their office. A position that was up for election every four years means that, sparing any other circumstances, your ancestor was a resident during all of those years as opposed to just on census day.

The press always covers politics. You're sure to find news about your ancestor whether they ran for president or dogcatcher. Press coverage may include information about the family, the contender's education and life experience, along with where they stand on the issues. Even if you aren't interested in the issues, you'll find plenty of family information among the press.

Other Ways to Serve

Not every office is earned by votes. Some positions are appointed. There is less press coverage of appointed positions, but the duration of appointment establishes that your ancestor was a resident for a given period of time.

Voting Records

Voters count. Voters vote according to voting requirements. If you can't find your relative any other way, look for their name on the list of registered voters. Of course, elections happen in between census enumerations, so voting records add another nine years of residential information for every census year!

Voting records for churches and organizations are found among the church or organization archives. General political election records are stored at the county level.


In almost every genealogical database, you'll need to create a new field for politics or elections. While this is really useful information, almost no database is preconfigured for storing such information.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.

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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