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The word suffrage derives from the Latin "suffragium," meaning "voting tablet" or "right to vote," especially in a political election. The most common use of the word in modern times is related to the voting rights campaigns for women and African-Americans. Advocates of voting rights were called suffragists; women advocates were often called suffragettes. Suffrage or the right to vote varies from country to country, and various conditions may exist.

In genealogy, where ancestors lived and at what time period can tell you something about their voting rights. Also, the right to vote may determine whose name appears in certain historical documents such as voting registers and poll tax lists. The right to vote brings with certain rights and privileges beyond casting a ballot, more or less granting full citizenship, greater independence, and often increased legal rights. Historically, it is the lack of legal rights that make it difficult when researching women and minorities.

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