Genealogy Research,  How To

How To Research Around the 1890 Census Record Loss – Part 5: Taxes

The loss of the 1890 U.S. Census is a stumbling block for many genealogy researchers.  “Losing” our ancestor in 1890 is the cause of many brick walls, but we do have research options to overcome these brick walls.

Devon Lee  from the Family History Fanatics and I have teamed up once again to bring you an 8-part video series focusing on how to research around the 1890 census loss. We want to  take the overwhelm out of researching your ancestors during the 1890 US Census Loss time period.  And yes, we will have fun along the way!!

Today I am talking about using the tax records of our ancestors in this 5th video of this 8-part genealogy video series.

Your ancestor's tax records can serve as a substitute for the lost 1890 census record. See how you can use tax records to track your ancestors.
Example of 1800 Tax Record for Charlotte County, VA

Let’s Talk Ancestors & Taxes!

When your ancestor had to pay taxes, a record was created and that’s a glorious thing.

Unfortunately, there are very few identifying factors on these documents beyond “John Smith paid $40”, but with a little detective work, you can track your ancestors.

As a bonus, tax records can record an ancestor’s presence in the county year by year as opposed to just every ten years like a federal census. So, these records, where available, are a great bridge over the 1890 gap.

Before you start researching the Tax records for your ancestors, remember this:

  • Know the tax law as it applied to your ancestor in that particular location and time. In other words, you must know what the record is and is not telling you. This will help you avoid making mistakes in your analysis of the record.
  • Just because your ancestor is not found in a tax record does not mean he was not there (or that he was dodging the tax collector!).

For example, in 1790 North Carolina, white males over the age of 21 were required to pay a poll tax. If your ancestor was 20 years of age, you will not find him in the list.

By 1801 in NC free white males over the age of 50 were not required to pay the poll tax. If your ancestor was 55 years old, you will not find him on the list.

Your ancestor's tax records can serve as a substitute for the lost 1890 census record. See how you can use tax records to track your ancestors.
Example of 1799 Tax Record, Mecklenburg County, VA

Finding Your Ancestor’s Tax Records

Just where do you find tax records? Are they online? Offline?

Sometimes you will be able to find tax records online, but  most tax records are not online. Check for online tax records in a state archives digital collection. Some states do have older tax records online. Ancestry.com, FindMyPast and MyHeritage all have tax record collections online.

Tax records not online can be found at the county courthouse or state archives. Sometimes counties retained the original tax records and sometimes they sent them to the state archives. Call ahead of time before making a special trip. The Digital Public Library of America and Internet Archive also have tax records.

Now about those tax laws…..

Laws on who and what was taxed varied from jurisdiction. Often who and what were taxed are included at the beginning of a tax book or tax list. You can also check the tax heading columns to determine what and who was taxed.

Let’s Talk Ancestors & Taxes!

Did you miss the first videos on the 8-part series?

In the next and 6th video  in our series we  will explore our ancestors in the newspapers.

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Your ancestor's tax records can serve as a substitute for the lost 1890 census record. See how you can use tax records to track your ancestors. #genealogy #1890census #ancestors

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