Genealogy Tips: Find Ancestors in Tax Records

It’s time to pay taxes in the United States! Tax RecordsIs it any consolation that our ancestors paid them, too? Here’s a brief history of U.S. federal taxation and tips on where to find tax records for the U.S. and the U.K.

History of Tax Records

According to the National Archives (U.S.), the Civil War prompted the first national income tax, a flat 3% on incomes over $800. (See an image of the 16th Amendment and the first 1040 form here.)

The Supreme Court halted a later attempt by Congress to levy another income tax, saying it was unconstitutional.

In 1913 the 16th Amendment granted that power. Even then, only 1% of the population paid income taxes because most folks met the exemptions and deductions. Tax rates varied from 1% to 6%–wouldn’t we love to see those rates now!

Where to Find Tax Records

Ancestry.com has indexed images of U.S. federal tax assessment lists from the Civil War period (and beyond, for some territories).

Here’s a sample image from Arkansas:

Arkansas tax record 1867

Of course, the U.S. federal income tax is just one type. Taxes have been levied on real estate, personal property and income by local, regional and national governments throughout the world.

Some tax records can be found online at the largest genealogy websites. 

Here are examples of tax records that can be found at Ancestry:

  • tax records from London (1692-1932);
  • the U.S. states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Ohio, Georgia and Texas;
  • and many from Scotland, Ireland, Canada and Russia (there’s more: see a full list and descriptions here).

FamilySearch.org hosts over a million records each of U.S. state tax records from Ohio and Texas.

FindMyPast hosts a wealth of U.K. tax records, from local rate books to Cheshire land taxes and even the Northamptonshire Hearth Tax of 1674.

In addition to genealogy websites, here in the U.S., look for original real estate and personal property taxpayer lists in county courthouses or state archives.

It’s also a good idea to consult genealogical or historical organizations and guides. A Google search for “tax records genealogy Virginia” brings up great results from the Library of Virginia and Binns Genealogy. And here’s a search tip: Use the keyword “genealogy” so historical records will pop up. Without that term, you’re going to get results that talk about paying taxes today.

If you still haven’t found the tax records you are looking for, there are two more excellent resources available for finding out what else might be available within a particular jurisdiction.

The first is the FamilySearch Wiki. From the home page you can drill down using the map, or try a search in the search box. Search for the jurisdiction and the keyword tax. Click through to the page for that jurisdiction. Typically you will find a table of contents that includes links to the section of the page covering various topics. Look for a link to tax, taxes, tax records, or taxation. They will list known sources for tax records in that area. 

tax records at the familysearch wiki

Tax records at the familysearch wiki

The second resource for finding out what else might be available is the free USGenWeb site. Like the FamilySearch Wiki, it’s organized by location / jurisdiction. Drill down to the place and then look for the section listing the known records for that area and look for tax related links. 

find tax records at usgenweb

Find information about tax records at USGenWeb

Why It’s Worth Finding Tax Records

I’ll leave you with this tantalizing list of data gathered in the Calhoun County, Georgia tax list of 1873. It enumerates whites, children, the blind/deaf/dumb, dentists, auctioneers, and those who have ten-pin alleys, pool tables and skating rinks. Then, real estate is assessed in detail. Finally, each person’s amount of money, investments, merchandise, household furniture, and investment in manufacturing is assessed.

As you can see, it can pay you big to invest time in looking for your ancestor’s tax records! Just make sure that if you’re here in the U.S., you’ve got your own taxes out of the way before you go searching for someone else’s.

Recent Ohio Adoption Records Now Open

e639359d72f66679cd7b7cdab94f5ddbRecently Genealogy Gems Premium member Katharine Ott wrote in this with newsworthy gem:

“Recent adoption records are being released in Ohio. Such an exciting time for those adoptees yearning to connect with their bloodlines! Before the bill took effect, they allowed birth mothers to redact their names. Out of 400,000 only around 110 took them up on that.  There’s also a preference form with the birth records where the mother can request not to be contacted. I wonder how often that might not be respected.  It’s such an interesting situation for someone to be in.”

Wow, that’s huge news about Ohio adoption records! Thanks for the news, Katharine. She sent us this link to a local news story that covers the story. The Ohio Department of Health posted this webpage about ordering adoption records.

Want to learn more about accessing adoption records in any state? Check out the U.S. Adoption Research page at the FamilySearch wiki for a terrific overview and helpful links.

Also, try running a Google search for the name of the state and the keywords adoption and genealogy. You’ll find lots of great resources, like this page on adoption records at the Pennsylvania state library or this online resource from the State Historical Society of Missouri.

The right Google search can shorten your search for the records you want! This tip brought to you by the newly-published, fully-revised and updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke.

Look Who Just Joined the Genealogy Gems Community!

MyHeritage logo MyHeritage.comMyHeritage has signed on to sponsor The Genealogy Gems Podcast! Their support helps us to continue to bring you free multimedia content to inspire and inform your genealogy journey.

Our editorial team has spent several months getting to know MyHeritage.com. We think you’ll love their…

International membership. MyHeritage serves over 70 million members worldwide in 40 languages. Did your English-speaking ancestors originate in the British Isles? Are you discovering Sephardic roots in Spain? MyHeritage members may be your cousins—or know something about them. Check out their world membership map here.

24/7 record searching technology. MyHeritage uses a unique and powerful search system called Record Matches to constantly cull 5 billion historical records for your family. It’s the only family history interface out there using semantic analysis to search  newspaper articles, books, and other free-text documents. It is also the first to translate names between languages. I personally like that matches from MyHeritage’s historical newspaper collections show up toward the top. It’s a great way to find obituaries!

Millions of trees. MyHeritage can search over 1.5 billion records in their own 27 million trees and recently-acquired Geni.com’s unified tree. From a single screen, members can search all those trees plus WikiTree and other trees. But you don’t even have to search. MyHeritage’s unique Smart Matching technology intelligently matches each family tree to hundreds of millions of profiles in other family trees. Members are alerted when new matches appear on the site.

Offline software companion. Family Tree Builder 7.0 is free software that allows you to keep a master copy of your family tree offline.  Read my blog post on that topic here.

Great app. The MyHeritage app for iPhone, iPad and Android 2.2 helps you research, record and share your family history on the go. You can browse records, photo-share, and show off your tree in its beautiful display.

Genealogy Gems will continue to bring you news and gems on a wide range of genealogy topics and companies, not just MyHeritage. But we do encourage you to get to know MyHeritage.com. We choose our advertisers carefully and are very proud to partner with them!

Front Page News! New York Tribune Archive on Flickr

Women of President Taft’s New Official Family at Washington, New York Tribune, March 7, 1909. Cover, illustrated supplement. Library of Congress image, posted at Flickr. Click to visit webpage.

The Library of Congress has a Flickr album that’s front page news–literally! It’s a New York Tribune archive with newspaper covers dating back more than a century.

“This set of cover pages from the New York Tribune illustrated supplements begins with the year 1909,” explains the album. “The pages are derived from the Chronicling America newspaper resource at the Library of Congress. To read the small text letters, just click the persistent URL to reach a zoomable version of the page.”

“Daily newspapers began to feature pictorial sections in the late 1800s when they competed for readers by offering more investigative exposés, illustrations, and cartoons. In the 1890s, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer tapped into new photoengraving techniques to publish halftone photographs, and other newspapers soon adopted the practice. The heavily illustrated supplement sections became the most widely read sections of the papers and provided a great opportunity to attract new customers. The daily life, art, entertainment, politics, and world events displayed in their pages captured the imagination of a curious public.”

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

Available at http://genealogygems.com

We don’t often find our ancestors splashed across front-page news. But we can read over their shoulders, as it were, to see what was going on in their world and what others around them thought about these events. Newspaper articles and ads reveal fashions and fads, prices on everyday items, attitudes about social issues and more. Read all about using old newspapers for family history in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke.

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