Friday, June 28, 2019

A Bonus from the NYC Voter Registration List

1924 NYC Voter Registration List - Bela & Bertha Roth
Three weeks ago, I sent $15, a letter, and a SASE to request the 1924 Voter Registration List for Bela "Bernard" Roth (1860-1941). Bela's first wife was my great-grandma's sister, Zoli "Sali" Kunstler (d. 1895). She died in NagyBereg, Hungary, leaving Bela with three young children under the age of four.

Bela Rebuilds His Life

Bela soon remarried to a much-younger woman--Batia "Bertha" Weiss (1885-1967). Bela and Batia had three children together in Hungary. They initially arrived in New York City in 1907, returned to Hungary, and then came back to New York City permanently in 1914, bringing the entire family with them.

Bela and Zoli's only daughter, Margaret, was photographed at the "cousins table" at my parents' wedding in 1946. Bela was known affectionately in my grandma Minnie's Farkas family as Bela Bacsi--meaning "Uncle Bela." He was, in fact, my grandma Minnie's uncle because he had originally been married to Zoli, Minnie's aunt.

When I found Bela's name on the 1924 NYC Voter Registration List, first published online by the fabulous folks at Reclaim the Records, I decided to send for all the details. And I'm glad I did!

Requesting Big Apple Voter Registration

The process is simple and straightforward as long as all the required details are at hand. Read more on the Reclaim the Records site, here.

Be aware that this request process is especially smooth if the person was registered to vote in Manhattan, Staten Island, or Queens. However, if the person registered to vote in the Bronx or Brooklyn, the process is more complicated. Luckily for me, Bela and his second wife lived in Manhattan.

To prepare a request, I had to find Bela in the registration list, jot down the borough and also the Assembly District, Election District, and street address. This meant scrolling around in the list, but it only took a few minutes.

I typed a snail-mail letter to the NYC Municipal Archives at 31 Chambers Street, Rm 103, NYC, 10007. I included all the above info plus of course Bela's name, exactly as he appeared in the registration. Then I mailed the letter, with my check for $15 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the reply.

Two for the Price of One (Signatures Too)

Today my SASE landed in my mailbox. Happily for me, it included a bonus: Bertha was registered to vote on the line just beneath her husband Bela, living at the same address at that year. So I received two voter registration records for the price of one!

Here's what was on the ledger page:

  • Date of registration (for Bela and Bertha, it was Oct 8)
  • Party of affiliation (Democrat for both Bela and Bertha)
  • Age of voter (Bela was 60, Bertha was 40)
  • Marital status (married)
  • Number of years in state and in US (11 years for both)
  • Number of years in this Election District (11 years for both)
  • Country of nativity (Hungary for both)
  • Naturalization if not native born (Aug 9, 1921 for Bela -- "HP" meaning "husband's papers" for Bertha) and court where naturalized ("Sup, NY")
  • Business connection of voter ("Hisckowitz" for Bela, "Housewife" for Bertha--I'm going to look this company up in the NYC City Directory at the stated address of 350 E. 67th St)
  • Two signatures! See excerpt above.
If I hadn't already known Bela's naturalization date and place, this would have been a very exciting find. As it is, the only really new info is business connection and business address. The age difference shown here differs from what I've seen on other records, but I'm not bothered by that at all.

This was admittedly an experiment and I'm pleased with the results. Not every ancestor is worthy of the $15 investment, but I was curious about Bela and got Bertha as a bonus!


  1. Finding those voter lists is so very hit and miss. I contacted the counties in NJ and Maine where my family was living. Maine didn't have any idea where they were or if they even existed. The NJ county clerk said NJ law doesn't require that they be kept long term and she had but one from the 1930s that she saved as a historical curiosity when the office moved recently. You are very lucky!