Tax Records in Genealogy

Posted April 15, 2014 by Amanda | No Comment

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

– Benjamin Franklin

While we all dread doing our taxes year after year, there’s at least one good thing about them – when it comes to genealogy, tax records can hold a variety of information about our relatives.

If there’s one record you can rely on for consistency, it’s the annual tax records that are diligently recorded and kept. These records can come in handy, especially when you’re missing census records for your ancestor. In fact, tax records pre-date census records and because they are taken annually, they can help fill in the gaps between censuses.

Although tax records may vary depending on location, they will typically reveal the name and residence of the taxpayer and a description of their property. You may even find other nuggets of information such as a birth date or occupation. These records may even provide you with clues for further research.

1856 Dallas County, Texas (click to zoom)

There are three basic types of taxes: poll tax which is levied on the head of household, personal property tax which was levied on personal property such as cattle or horses, and a real property tax, which is the tax on the land. Records will typically list the personal property of the taxpayer and state the quantity and value of each item. Sometimes this even included individuals. If your ancestor owned land, you’ll likely find the size of the property recorded too. Tax records can be found at the county courthouse or state archives. So if you know where your ancestor lived, check the county records for your ancestor’s tax documentation. Make sure to check the neighbors as well because you never know if they can lead you to other members of the family to further research.

Have you used tax records in your genealogy research? What information have you discovered?

Post written by Amanda

Amanda is the Marketing Communications Manager at Geni. If you need any assistance, she will be happy to help!

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