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Illiterate Voters in Irish Boroughs in 1837

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In the 2002 edition of Familia: Ulster Genealogical Review there is an article entitled ‘British Parliamentary Papers and the local historian and genealogist’ the aim of which is to highlight the range of information contained in the papers and its value for local and family history research. One of the most valuable of those papers is the First report from the select committee on fictitious votes, Ireland of 1837.

The order appointing this committee was issued on 6 February 1837. The committee’s remit was to 'inquire how far the intentions of the Reform Bill are defeated by creating and registering fictitious and improper votes in Ireland' and its chairman was Lord G. C. H. Somerset.

One of the first orders issued by the committee was for a ‘return of the several persons registered in the several boroughs in Ireland who have subscribed their affidavits for registry as marksmen’. A marksman was an illiterate voter. The returns for each borough were prepared over the course of the next month and were presented to the committee on 16 March 1837.

These returns are printed in Appendix A of the report under item no. 3. Produced here are the returns of the boroughs for which personal names are given. A total of 1,367 names are listed altogether, although a number of these are duplicates. The towns including personal names are Armagh, Athlone, Bandon, Belfast, Cashel, Clonmel, Coleraine, Downpatrick, Drogheda, Dundalk, Ennis, Enniskillen, Kinsale, Lisburn, Newry, Portarlington, Sligo, Tralee, Wexford and Youghal.

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Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280