Being on a break from researching the past few weeks, when I finally looked to see what the theme for week 44 for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was I shouldn’t have been surprised it was voting (as it was election week).
And I’ll confess, I’ve never looked into finding my ancestor’s voting records, so this week’s post gave me the opportunity to do just that.
Rather than make life difficult I did what came naturally, I Googled it and the first link I clicked on was the FamilySearch Wiki and “United States Voting Records“.
I had an idea in mind which was to see if my great-great-grandmother, Mazie Warner, ever voted as she would have been a 40-year-old woman when women were given the right to vote in the state of Ohio in 1917.
However, it didn’t take me long to realize that FamilySearch did not have the voting records of Summit County. Or Pennsylvania. Or Massachusetts (all the main states where I know I have ancestors, as I quickly broadened my search when I wasn’t finding the records for Summit County).
Summit County Board of Elections
My next step was doing a search on Google for Summit County, Ohio voting records. This led me to the Summit County Board of Elections website and I began reading what their policy was on public records and voting as it appeared I could contact them for information (so much for this becoming a blog post I could do on the fly). My first question was how far back their records go, if they did not have the voting records of 100 years ago (I’m still focused on Mazie for this exercise) then they would not be able to help me.
After reading through their 14-page document I discovered it does not include how far back one can go to research the voting records. So I opted to inquire to them about what years they have. Luckily I didn’t have to wait long, I emailed them in the morning and by 5pm I had an answer – their records only go back to 2011.
So, I found myself starting over.
Family Tree Magazine
I tried to find other ways to find voter records in genealogical research. The first article I read was from Family Tree Magazine with “How to Trace Your Ancestors in Voter Records” by Diane Haddad where it explained that voter records were good resources to follow where your ancestor lived, the key was finding county lists of registered voters or discovering who paid poll taxes.
I lucked out as the author specifically highlighted Ohio, which listed years that I wasn’t needing right now, 1803-1911, but detailed that “Ohio counted men age 21 and older in various counties to determine voting districts” and can be located on Family History Library microfilm and in local genealogical society collections.
The Ancestor Hunt
The next website I checked out was new to me entitled The Ancestor Hunt, their article explained why it’s important to find your people in voter records: helps with the gaps between censuses, naturalization, middle names, you can find a spouse, nativity, physical characteristics, political party/affiliation, and migration (I just re-stated their headlines).
They also have a link for each state for free online voter records. So naturally I selected Ohio, not every county had their records online, and once again Summit County was missing.
Next came a link that led to an entire section of Ohio history research using Ancestry.com. But again, these records led to city directories, and oddly enough, files related to Florida (yes, that’s me you hear scratching my head).
Family History Daily
Next up was the Family History Daily website who had a blog entry “Voting Created Some Fascinating Genealogy Records! Here’s Where to Find Them“. This article title has me elated. It provided a nice synopsis of voting registers and how they are found alphabetically. It also noted that these records are often available after the mid-1800s, with better luck to be had in the 1900’s and these records are very limited, or not included due to many groups of people being excluded from voting.
But the most important tidbit this article offered was that these records cannot be found online for free. (This explains why I have never stumbled upon these records).
Thank you Family History Daily.
So now where can I search in Summit County to find my ancestors voting records (I am more or less curious to see which of my relatives took their civil duty seriously? I do my best to be a good citizen and get out and vote each year.
Where Are the Summit County Voter Registers?
Since I have not found anything online and have not had any luck at the Summit County Board of Elections, my next place to look is the Summit County Historical Society. Many of their documents are located at the Akron-Summit County Library in the Special Collections Division. So I will see if I can find anything there first.
By looking through the local history section of the Special Collections page, I found an Archival Collection page that has the collections of the Summit County Historical Society.
My first search I I used the keyword “vote” which gave me 46 results, most being articles on specific levies and whether they passed or failed and by how much.
One headline that made me smile was “Akron Public Library Booms During Depression: More Persons Registered for Books Than Are Eligible to Vote Here”.
Other headlines were for businesses and board votes and mergers between companies. But nothing for voter registrations.
An even bigger sigh.
I continued to look through records that were listed in pdf form that stated what files the library had on microfilm to see if voter registrations were there. Despite them having birth, estate, and other records, there were no voting records amongst the files.
I then turned to the Summit County, Ohio website to see if any files were there. If so I was looking in the wrong place. What gave me the idea was that the naturalization records are there with the Clerk of Courts section. I get that the voter registrations aren’t online, but I had hoped that one of these places would have it mentioned if they have these records within their facilities.
I will have to pick this up at another time. I may find the voter registrations by next November when this is the topic once again. I will continue to research this topic as I am very curious if any of my female relatives voted in the 1920 elections when they earned the right to vote with the 19th Amendment.