Taxes have been imposed by governments for many reasons and on many things. The records are diverse and you’ll find varying degrees of detail included. Taxes on land may include details on property owned, whereas a poll tax may only include a name, date, and location. In addition, while the items being taxed may be similar, the content of tax records may also vary from place to place.
The largest collection of tax records in this category is the U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Records which can contain details like occupation, luxury items or income being taxed, as well as the name and the residence of each person taxed.
In addition to placing your ancestor in a particular location at a specific point in time, tax records can give you a glimpse into your ancestor’s finances and allow you to see "luxury" items that he or she owned.
- Like directories, tax records can be useful in placing your ancestor in a particular place at a specific point in time.
- It’s important to know the nature of the tax and who should or should not be on it before you draw any conclusions about your ancestor’s appearance or disappearance in the records. Disappearance from tax records may indicate your ancestor moving out of the area, or it could mean that he was no longer required to pay that tax. For example, the ages of males required to pay a poll tax may have changed over the years and after reaching a certain age, perhaps your ancestor was no longer required to pay. Check collection descriptions and descriptive information in publications for more information on the tax records you are using.
- Check the tax roll for everyone who shares the surname you’re looking for, since it may suggest family members living in the same area. If you’re not sure whether other people you find are related to your family, research their names for a possible connection.