Using Tax Records to Trace Your Ancestor
The ACGS met on June 27, 2012 in the meeting room at the Geneva Public Library to hear a presentation by Thomas Stephen Neel, Library Director of the Ohio Genealogical Society. Mr. Neel used Power Point to demonstrate his discussion of the value of “Using Tax Records to Trace Your Ancestor.” He pointed out that tax lists are compiled differently and that it is important to know guidelines of each. School taxes, road taxes, and those collected to care for the poor used varying formats. Most lists include the name of the adult male in the household and do not list family members. It is both helpful and confusing to sort the alphabetic records. Interesting facts of early records include: log cabins were not taxed; land was rated as to usefulness (depending on its condition such as cleared or not and how rocky it might have been). Of course all the lists were hand-written as were the receipts for payment. Fortunately many of these have managed to survive.
Quit Rent Listings whereby a farmer paid a fee or tax to an overlord even though he now owned the property contain valuable information. This custom was continued for some time mainly in New York, Maryland, and Pennsylvania as part of the original Manor System.
Tax lists can be extremely valuable to researchers because they were written annually and not every ten years; establish estimate of ages since only those who had reached their majority were listed; can give an estimate of death when an individual is no longer listed; provide clues as to the financial status of the family; give evidence of ownership of property; identify slaves; and might include the only record when census rolls are missing. However, problems with tax lists can also be found: they are often incomplete; sometimes they are not accessible; are time-consuming to search; fail to report female land owners; laws often changed; limited to whites; land can descend through an administrator which makes it difficult to trace descendants; and many people were exempt from taxes such as ministers, Justice of the Peace, military officers, Revolutionary War veterans, and tax accessors.
A tip for using Ohio Tax Records to trace ancestry is to visit the Family Search site which is a good source of information.
The next program will be held at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 and will be given by Chris Staats to discuss “Using Deeds in Genealogy.” This program and all other ACGS programs are open to the public with no charge. New family researchers as well as those already devoted to this activity are encouraged to attend.