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Genealogy Resources

Tax Records and Lists

Tax records at times may serve as a substitute for census records. However, they were created for different purposes -- one to collect property taxes and the other to count people. As a result, absentee property owners mistaken as residents may create fictitious people whose identities must be explained.

Tax lists can be used for determining parentage, birth and death dates, indentured servitude, slavery, manumission, and racial status. They can be used, in conjunction with other records, to help determine the parentage of a female, the date of a marriage, migration routes, estimate age, differentiate between men of the same or similar name, determine relationships, and the accuracy of family traditions.

Tax records include township and county land and poll taxes. In addition, there are federal taxes, including direct taxes and income tax; inheritance and estate taxes; ecclesiastical, faculty, liquor, and school taxes; and the hidden taxes created by licensing, militia, and road service laws.
  • Carroll, Cornelius. The Beginner's Guide to Using Tax Lists. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004.

  • Darrow, Carol Cooke and Susan Winchester. The Genealogist's Guide to Researching Tax Records. Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007.

  • Hone, E. Wade. Land & Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry, 1997.

  • Smith, Gary and Diana Smith. "Using Tax Lists." NGS Magazine 35, 2 (April-June 2009): 56-59.
  • Tax Photographs Between 1939 and 1941. New York City photographed every house and building in the five Boroughs. Copies of these unique images are now available for purchase. During the 1930's, local governments began to use photography as a tool for appraising real property for taxation purposes. New York City was the largest municipality to adopt this technology. The result was 720,000 35mm black and white images of every property in the five Boroughs.