Anybody know whether Jack London had gray eyes?
The California Voter Registers, 1866-1898, database just released on Ancestry.com takes you back to a time before you presented a picture ID at the voting booth, which may explain some of the unexpected details you may find in these records.
Preventing Voter Fraud
Statewide voter registration in California began in 1866 following the Registry Act, an effort to prevent voter fraud that called for “the registration of the citizens of the State, and for the enrollment in the several election districts of all the legal voters thereof.”
Registers were created on the county level. Only men over the age of 21 were eligible to vote until 1911, when women were granted the franchise, and the state occasionally passed other exclusionary laws: an 1879 amendment denied voting rights to natives of China, for example (it was repealed in 1926). But if your male ancestor of legal age did make it into the registers, you could end up feeling like you’ve just been elected President.
Gray Eyes, Brown Hair
I don’t know if the John London who registered in June 1897 is author John Griffith “Jack” London.
He is the right age, at the right place, with the right occupation, which is a good start. Even better, his registration provides additional details (like eye color, height, and address) that I can use to try to find out for sure.
Different registers and different years asked for different details. Chocolatier Domingo (Domenico) Ghirardelli’s entry doesn’t include a physical description, but his age, nativity, and naturalization details help clinch the deal.
Leland Stanford’s registrations trace his work history from the “R. R. Busine’s” in 1880
to “Farmer” in 1890. Though whether he was thinking of the vast estate where he bred horses or his miles of vineyards isn’t clear.
In the end, you may not find out whether your ancestors voted Democrat or Republican (or even Whig), but you might be surprised by what you can learn searching the California Voter Registers.
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