Stella Colwell (Author and Family Historian) gives expert video advice on: What can I do if I'm stuck?; What is the register of voters?; How can it help me? and more...
What can I do if I'm stuck?
If you have been researching just one particular family line, which is normally your father's because the surname is fixed, it might well be a good idea to leave that one alone for a while. You can then, perhaps, try and do your mother's family tree. It would be her father's family, because the surname will remain the same. The further back you go in time, obviously double the number of families you are going to belong to. You have lots of opportunities there to explore different families as well as your own immediate one on your father's side.
What is the register of voters?
The register of voters is a list of all of those people who are resident in a particular address at a particular date. The electoral register is valid for a full year, and then a new one is compiled. The earliest registers of voters in this country started in the late 17th century. Those relate to people who were qualified by the property of ownership that they had if they were, fortunately, fee-holders. It's really only up in the 1830's that the franchise was widened to include more people. It's really at the end of the 19th century when effectively nearly every adult male over the age of 21 was qualified to vote. And, from 1928, every female over the age of 21, as well.
How can it help me?
If you can find somebody in the census returns, the annual electoral registers which start in 1834, as opposed to the poll books which preceded them, will fix people in time and place. So they can help you to identify exactly where somebody was in a census return, 'because it may well be that the indexes that have become part of the censuses, are the way that people's names were written, whereas not how you would recognize them today.
What is the directory of names?
The directories of names of local private residents, trades people, and professional people, start to be compiled from the late 17th Century. They were really designed as a form of early yellow pages, to help people meet their markets, and to enable people to find out exactly where certain individuals lived that they needed to get in touch with.
What other directories are there?
There are professional and trade directories and which were produced at varying dates and at regular intervals, for example, of the clergy, of medical men, of dentists, architects, even of builders and of bankers. So it's worthwhile having a look to see if there's an association or a society for a particular trade or profession. The date of foundation and whether it actually produces directories of names of the members and the fellows, perhaps.