OGS Workshop 23 January 2013

Tax records can tell 

  • where our ancestors lived.
  • when they lived there. (when they moved or death implied)
  • occupations.
  • relationships.
  • age and marriage.
  • socio-economic level.


Designations on lists may give identifying information to distinguish men of the same name.  These might be occupations or "son of X," or perhaps just "1st" or "jr" and "sr."

Occupations may be noted where they are taxed.

Usually listed alphabetically by township or military district which gives better indication of "neighbors" who may be related.

Pennsylvania place men on "Freeman" list until they marry. You can estimate marriage year. 

Estimate age by knowing legal age of taxation with appearance on the rolls. 


Main problem with using tax records is availability: what still exists and where are they?


Learn about the availability through general research guides to the state of interest. These might be the chapters in The Red Book or The Handy Book, or individual state guides such as the National Genealogical Society Research in the State Series (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/research_in_the_states) or the "FamilySearch Research Wiki" (https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Main_Page).




Published tax lists:

  • Search library catalogs -- especially in the desired locale. Local libraries may have unique items not generally available elsewhere.
  • Search WorldCat to know what has been published.
  • Midwest Genealogy Center has some duplicate copies which may be "circulating" and therefore available through inter-library loan.  St. Louis County Library may have copies in the National Genealogical Society book loan collection which also would be available.


Know that not all tax lists have been abstracted. Just because it hasn't been published in book form does not mean it doesn't exist.  Quite often tax lists have been abstracted because a demand exists. As people moved westward leaving only information about the state in which they were born coupled with the sometimes absence of early censuses, published tax lists are a great aid in locating specific locations of origin. 


Kentucky has lost all censuses for 1790 and 1800

Tennessee has lost all censuses for 1790, 1800 and almost all for 1810. All eastern Tennessee censuses lost for 1820.

Some North Carolina censuses lost for 1790, 1810, and 1820.

Ohio censuses lost for all counties except Washington in 1800 and 1810.


Tax lists have an advantage over censuses in that all males of taxable age will be included; whereas, only heads of households are listed on the census. 


Originals or microfilms may be in their original locations (tax assessors' offices) or in libraries or archives.  Quite often even though some tax lists may have been microfilmed, it is not likely that ALL the tax lists for a given locale have been microfilmed. Some locations have destroyed early tax records, e.g., Christian County. Virginia and Tennessee tax lists have been extensively microfilmed. Tennessee tax lists are not available through inter-library loan. 


Throughout US history, taxes have been collected at a town level, county level, state level, and federal level. Town taxes usually are usually found in New England. County and state taxes may have been assessed and collected on the same lists. States would offer incentives for taxes to be collected by the county in order to avoid creating extra infrastructure. State tax lists were sent to the state which means that tax lists for burned counties may be extant. 




FamilySearch.org >> Catalog

Enter place name in the following format:  North Carolina, Rowan

Click "Search." 

Click on the expandable category heading of "Taxation" to view a list of available records. Click on each of the titles to get specific microfilm information to order. Microfilm can be ordered for $7.50 per roll and be sent to The Library Center or The Library Station. 


Kentucky Department for Library and Archives


Enter county name, and select "State Archives Collections."


Missouri State Archives



New York State Archives

New York generally does not have extant tax records except 1799-1804 when counties were required to submit to the state comptroller a copy of the county tax rolls. 


These are available through inter-library loan. 


North Carolina State Archives

Guide to County Records in the North Carolina State Archives published 2009

Holdings of the North Carolina Archives are arranged by county with manuscript collections given first, followed by records on microfilm.  You an also use the MARS catalog: http://www.archives.ncdcr.gov/mars/default.htm


Tennessee County records on microfilm at Tennessee State Archives and Library:


Click on county name and scroll in pdf to find the tax records.


Library of Virginia


The Land Tax Records, 1782-1900, are not listed with the county records. They are found here: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/landTax.asp

Library of Virginia does inter-library loan their records on microfilm.  The price is $1.00, and so is preferable to obtaining them through the Family History Library.



1798 Direct Tax, also known as the "glass tax."

Includes dimensions and construction  materials of buildings and the number of windows and "lights" (panes). NARA microfilmed the tax rolls for Pennsylvania, and they can be found on Ancestry.com. From the drop-down menu below "Search," click on "Card Catalog."  Enter "Direct Tax" in the box for the title. Other states records do exist. See The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records by Carol Cooke Darrow and Susan Winchester, p. 98.


U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists

On Ancestry.com. From "Card Catalog," enter "Tax" to see all tax lists available. IRS tax lists are the top hit. 




FamilySearch has tax records for Ohio and Texas. Go to http://familysearch.org. Click on "United States" in the bottom section labeled "Browse by Location."  Enter "tax" in the box that contains the words "collection name," and hit "enter."  New records are being added everyday. Tax records for Ohio are 17% complete. 


Ancestry.com - Go to "Card Catalog" and enter "tax" in "title" field to see all the tax lists available. Add a location name to narrow results.  "Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801" which were assessed by county are available.