BMD and census records free on Findmypast to mark 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote

By Rosemary Collins, 1 February 2018 - 1:19pm

Findmypast is making the records free for a week to celebrate the release of its new suffragette collection


Police arresting a suffragette, c1912. Credit: Bettmann

Thousands of British and Irish census, birth, marriage and death records are available for free on Findmypast for the next week (1-8 February) to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

In addition, more than 3,000 Metropolitan Police and Home Office records revealing the authorities’ surveillance of the suffragette movement are available on the website in a new collection.

The census and BMD records will be free until 8 February, while the suffragette collection will be free until 8 March – International Women’s Day.

To view them, users will have to register for a Findmypast account but will not be charged.

The suffragette collection, consisting of digitised files from The National Archives (TNA), includes a police watch list of 1,300 known suffragettes, as well as highly detailed material about a small number of individuals involved in illegal protests including arson, smashing windows and vandalising paintings.

There are also details of court cases and the suffragettes’ prison sentences, during which many were force-fed, as well as visual material including photographs and fingerprints.

The records are cross-referenced with Findmypast’s existing census and court records and articles from the newspapers The Suffragette and Britannia.

One dataset, an index of suffragettes arrested between 1906 and 1914, has already been released on Ancestry, but many of the other records are being made available to the public for the first time.

Victoria Iglikowski, principal records specialist for diverse histories at TNA, said the records revealed “a highly organised, national movement from the smallest villages to the biggest cities, crossing class lines, in the first step towards voting equality”.

In the early part of the 20th century, the movement for women’s rights in Britain was divided between the peaceful suffragists and the suffragettes, who were led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters via the Women’s Social and Political Union.

They took part in many acts of illegal direct action in their campaign for women to be able to vote.

The Representation of the People Act, which passed into law on 6 February 1918, granted suffrage to women over 30 who met certain qualifications, as well as allowing all men over 21 to vote for the first time.

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