15 April 2016

Freebie Friday: Your Ancestors Had to Pay Taxes, Too

Your taxes aren't due today so let's celebrate with another free form. Today's form is one you can print or use digitally. You can download a copy in the Resource Library (you'll need a password but it's free to Occasional Genealogists subscribers, click here to subscribe). Historic tax lists come in a variety of types, so this is a pretty difficult generic form to create.

What I've done is give you a few questions to get you started (I'm assuming you're pretty new to tax research). For a beginner, the most important piece of information may be the type of tax/list you are using. You need to understand the purpose of the list to understand all the clues it may provide. Try to learn a bit about the type of lists you should find fbefore you head off to do research. If you don't do this, make sure you determine what kind of list you are using and make note of it so you can look up further information later.

Just a warning, if you don't know what you're looking at ahead of time, you may find you have to make another trip (or a second research session if you're lucky enough to be using tax lists online) to "finish" researching all the lists available for that time and location. However, you don't want to be looking for additional lists if they don't exist, either.

Let's take a look at how to use this form.

For All Users

How much information is requested on a tax list varies with the type of list. The laws dictating what was taxed (so what information had to be recorded) would vary, even from year to year. When there are a lot of columns, I like to use a table or spreadsheet to abstract the information (or more accurately, transcribe the information for a single person or a few people). You can adjust this form (after you've saved it) however you want.

I've given you a place for your source and the number of pages of abstracted records. Tax lists may or may not be paginated. Many are alphabetical so pages weren't always included. Make sure you record this type of detail.

You need to be sure you record any locality subdivisions, also. The digests I often use are divided into divisions within a county. Although I may be looking for a particular person or family, I go through all the sections and record any relevant people. I'm related to a lot of families in the counties where I research, and I'd prefer not to have to go back and look at the same list again. That means I have to indicate the subdivisions on my form as I go. I would list only the county in the "location" field at the top. You can choose how you want to deal with this, just don't forget to record the most specific location you are given.

I've included comments to explain the information you are supposed to record. I am never sure if these will follow your saved copy so you may want to add your own explanations.

A Printable Form

The form has a table included as a grid. If you want to use this form as a printable, just print it as is and then define the columns once you see what information you need to record. You can also alter the form to make it landscape and add more columns to fill the page. The second page can be printed multiple times if you are going to transcribe records or record a large number of people.

A Digital Form

If you will use the form digitally, you can resize the columns to fit your information. Don't forget to make the top row a header row so you know what the information means. You may also want to make the form landscape if there are a lot of columns of information.

The header and footer are different for the first page. If you find your information does take more than one page, you may want to make a significant change and include everything in the header including your table header (and make page one's header the same as all the other pages). This will give you your header rows at the top of each page. This wastes a lot of space if you'll be printing but is worth it for fully digital notes. If I was going to use a lot of tax records, I'd alter my template in this way. I wouldn't bother for one use as cut and paste would be just as fast.

Learn More

Tax lists are an amazing genealogical resource. It's not uncommon to find clues to family relationships, occasionally even direct evidence. Sometimes migration will be indicated. Even without those "high priority" clues, an abundance of information is possible from tax records. You need to learn how to milk them. A quick (free) online resource to get your started is part of the "RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees." You should then seek out information on the time and place your focus person lived.

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