Your Guide to Using Tax Lists for Genealogical Research

Tax lists can provide information as to your ancestor's residence and value of his (very rarely, her) property.

Tax lists are sometimes used as substitutes for missing census records. By using census records, tax lists and land records together, you can often pinpoint an ancestors location over a period of time.

Because some tax assessments are based on the value of personal and real property, tax records are a good way to determine the wealth of your ancestor and even get a "look" at some of his belongings.



Online articles about how to find and use tax lists

Types of tax lists and Defintions of terms found in tax lists

  • Direct Tax: collected directly from the individual by the government; also called assessment lists
  • Poll Tax: tax on each taxable individual (may be called a tithable list). May also be called a capitulation tax or a head tax; often tied to voting privileges in early America. They are especially helpful in finding ancestors who owned neither real nor personal property.
  • Property tax: Personal and Real tax
    • Personal Property; taxable property other than land. Often livestock; sometimes also household goods such as jewelry or musical instruments and vehicles owned.
    • Real Property, or land tax: based on acreage, perhaps also on the quality of the land.
      • When the rate is based on the quality of land, you may see acreage broken down into (for example) 1st Quality 2nd Quality 3rd Qualit
  • Quit Rent: a term carried over from the feudal system; in colongial America it is an annual a tax on , usually tied to the issuance of a patent. While there are some Quit Rent rolls, in general the sytem was not widely practiced.
  • Rate: The value used for assessment. Taxes in early America were calculated in pounds, shillings and pence. The tax list is sometimes called a rate list.
  • Tithables: Individuals who are subject to a tax in a household, often white males of taxable age, indentured servants and slaves.
  • School and Church or Ecclesiastical Taxes: an assessment to support the schools or church; sometimes school taxes list either the number or names of the children in a household.

Locating Tax Lists

The family History Library has filmed many tax lists. To see if they have been filmed for the area you are researching, do a place search in the Family History Library catalog. Look for the sub heading -- taxation to find if they have been filmed.

Many tax lists have been published, especially those that cover years for which no census survived. For an example, go to the Genealogical Publishing Co. website and search the key words tax lists. You may then be able to find a copy in a nearby library.

Tax lists have also been published in periodicals. The best way to find these is to use PERSI.

Google the phrase "tax lists" and a place name, e.g. "tax lists" Bedford ... see what you find. Some tax lists are available on the internet.

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his page last updated January 7, 2013