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Why Research Tax Records?

  • Census Substitute
  • Lead to other Records
  • Family Migration Pattern

  • Net Worth
  • Estimate Birthdate
  • Estimate Death Date

  • Identify possible family members and neighbors
  • Distinguish between two men of the same name

Tax Process


Property owners are required to pay their property taxes on time. If an owner fails to pay on time, the unpaid portion will be considered delinquent and incur a 10% penalty charge and, in the case of second installment, a one-time administrative fee. 


These are people who have received penalties either for; deliberate errors in their tax returns, deliberately failing to comply with their tax obligations.

Finding Tax Records

Colonial Tax Lists, Virginia personal property tax lists, Census, and Court Records for Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesse and Virginia   Includes a list of taxable free persons of color in Virginia from 1782 to about 1820. Latest Updates: Fairfax County, Norfolk City and Orange County personal property tax lists

  • Locate Tax Records
  • Tax Law -  Search terms - tax, tithes, levy, capitation
  • Search US Census and Land Records
  • Develop a Timeline
  • Know the County and State Boundaries

Tax Records Organization

  • By county then year
    • Tax Districts then alphabetized by name 
    • Alphabetized by first letter of surname
  • Land Tax records organized by Legal Description
  • Different types of taxes may be combined on one form
  • Identify column headings
  • Slaves
    • Listed as Personal Property
    • Post-Civil War
      • Sometimes listed under their employer
      • Freed slaves added to tax rolls as a head of family

Slaves were considered taxable property in some states. Therefore, slaves may be mentioned in county tax records.

Free African Americans of taxable age (usually between ages 16 and 50) should appear on county tax lists by name. If they owned property they should also appear on county property tax lists.

Type of Taxes

  • Poll Taxes
  • Land Tax
  • Personal Property
  • Inheritance
  • Income Tax
  • Direct Tax of 1798
  • Confederate
  • Special Taxes
  • Liquor
  • Sales
  • Business Licenses
  • Military Poll Tax
  • Road Tax
  • Church Tax
  • Faculty Tax
  • School
  • Federal Head Tax on Aliens
  • Old Age Assistance Tax

Poll Tax

        Taxable (Tithable) Individual

      • In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Virginia, the term “tithable” referred to a person who paid (or for whom someone else paid) one of the taxes imposed by the General Assembly for the support of civil government in the colony.
      • Depend on the State or Territory - check the law
      • Typically
        • Free White males between 21 and 50 years of age
        • Free Black males at least 16 year of age
        • Slaves

     Flat tax on taxable individuals

        • Head Tax
        • Caption Tax
        • Bachelor Tax
        • Tithable

Land Tax

  • Tax levied on land based on the number of acreage and quality of the land
  • Delinquent Land Sales
    • Lein
      • Defaulter repays the lien - receives a clear title to the land
      • Does not repay the lien -  title goes to the person who bought the lien 

Personal Property Tax

Tax levied on taxable items identified by law .


  • Jewelry
  • Carriages
  • Horses
  • Mules
  • Sheep
  • Furniture
  • Billard Tables
  • Money

Direct Tax of 1798

  • Raise money for war with France
  • Tax on the land, buildings, and slaves
  • Form A - Description of Structures
    • Occupant Name
    • Number of Stories
    • Land Quantity
    • Owner Name
    • Number of Windows
    • Dimensions
    • Outhouses
    • Materials
    • 2 assessments of the building
  • Form B - Description of the Land
  • Form C - Listed Slaves
    • Superintendents or owners of the slaves
    • Number of taxable slaves

What was the window tax 1798?

On 14 July 1798, Congress passed legislation to raise $2 million by telling each of the 16 states at the time to come up with a share based on population. [1] Among the items directed to be assessed were houses valued at more than $100 – this is where the windows came in.

IRS Tax Assessments (1862-1872) - Civil War Taxes

  • Revenue Act of 1862
    • 3% tax on income between $600-$10,000
    • 5% tax on income above $10,000
  • Revenue Act of 1864
    • 3% tax on income between $600-$5,000
    • 10% tax on income above $5,000
  • States and Territories that were not part of the rebellion
  • 868-1881 U.S. Supreme Court reversed it decision - taxes were unconstitutional
  • Information you can find
    • Deceased name
    • Beneficiaries Name
    • Relationship to the deceased
    • Date will entered probate
    • Cash Values of inheritance
    • Amount of tax due
    • Name of executor or administrator

  • Repealed in 1872 (except for tax on whiskey)
  • 16th Amendment to the Constitution (1913)
  • Name
  • Location
  • Article or Occupation (Item taxed)
  • Quantity or Valuation
  • Rate of Tax
  • Tax Amount
  • Total Amount
  • Probate Fee - Probate goes to court
  • Estate Tax - tax on the estate after deductions
  • Inheritance Tax - inherit any property
  • Legacy Tax - inherit personal property
  • Succession Tax - inherit real property
  • State taxed collateral beneficiaries (direct beneficiaries we exempt at first)

An Executor is nominated within the Will of a deceased person. If there is no Will, an Administrator is appointed by the Court to manage or administer a decedent's estate.