Using Tax Records
by Lisa South, Certified Genealogist
The following article was written for the September 1, 2005 OneGreatFamily newsletter. Since Lisa is no longer writing for us, we are featuring some of our favorite articles written by her.
Even though most of us complain about taxes, as genealogists we are certainly glad our ancestors had to pay them! Many early tax records have been used to replace lost census records and are a valuable tool for locating where our ancestor lived. Information contained in real property tax records normally included the amount of land, its location, the person in whose name it was originally entered (which sometimes gives clues to relationships) and it's value.
There are many types of tax records but most of these can be divided into three groups:
1. Real property
2. Personal property (usually livestock and, it hurts me to say it, slaves)
3. A combination of both of the above
Both personal and real property tax lists should be checked because the personal property lists can pick up people who did not own land. People who did not own much, however, may not be found in either of these records.
Tax records are usually available at the county courthouse. Many of them are on microfilm and are available through inter-library loan at Family History Centers of the LDS Church.
Tax records do not answer a lot of genealogical questions but help to lead the researcher into other records such as deeds, probate, marriage etc. When we find all these available records, we can usually learn quite a bit about an individual.
Even if our ancestors couldn't pass down the money they paid as taxes, at least we can benefit richly from finding out more about them and their lives.