Monday, January 23, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy: Week 4 Free OFFline Genealogy Tools

This is Week 4 of Amy Coffin’s Abundant Genealogy series.  

Free OFFline genealogy tools:  For which free offline genealogy tool are you most grateful?  How did you find this tool and how has it benefitted your genealogy?  Describe to others how to access this tool and spread the genealogy love.


Since my friend Neva would NOT appreciate being referred to as a “tool,” I’ll have to write about a genealogy tool she swears by and finally persuaded me to try after many reminders and much gentle scolding.  It’s the personal property tax records.

What’s so great about personal property tax records?

·        In Virginia, the censuses for 1790 and 1800 are lost, but early tax records can act much like a census since all people who were taxed are listed. 

·       Tax records can be used to estimate year of birth.  Any male at least 16 years old was tithable, or taxable, so they appeared in the household.  If they appeared under their own name, they were at least 21.  Of course, this is not an infallible method since records are sometimes incomplete and tithables might not always have been reported. 

·        Women who owned their own property or were the widow of a property owner were also listed.  Yay – it’s possible to find a wife well ahead of the 1850 census.

·        Names of people who died were listed as long as their estate had not been settled (usually indicated by either “estate” or “deceased”). 

·        Where a person lived can be determined by the name of the collector, by the geographic region of the county, or by the militia that was drawn from that district.  By studying lists from year to year, a researcher can tell when an ancestor left a locality.

·        A person’s economic and social standing can be determined by comparing records within the county.  The laws for what was to be taxed changed from year to year, but in general the list included the number of slaves, various categories of animals (usually horse and cattle, but sometimes hogs, sheep and stud horses), and various luxury items like pianos, harps, billiard tables, carriages, kitchen furniture, watches and clocks, jewelry, portraits, icehouses, and stocks and bonds. 


How I’ve used the property tax records

I found my 5G grandfather Windle Eppard and his brother Andrew in the 1801 property tax records.  They both died before the 1810 census was taken, so neither appears in any available census record.  Each had one tithable (themselves) and 3 horses. 

I’ve been unable to find a father for my 4G grandfather James Jollett, but through the personal property tax records, I’ve found a likely candidate:  Thomas Jollett.  But I’ll need to do more research. 

I know from remnants of a burned deed that the father of my 3G grandmother Mary Ann Armentrout Jollett was named John Armentrout.  In Rockingham County in the 1700s, there were MANY John Armentrouts.  I have used the property and personal property tax records to narrow the field of candidates.  I have not proved her father yet, but the tax records have been helpful in identifying possible family members who might be easier to study and obtain records that might lead me to the solution.


How to access personal property tax records

The Library of Virginia in Richmond has copies of personal property tax records for each county and city from 1782 to 1927, and for each year ending in 0 or 5 from 1930 to 1975.  Tax records from 1782-1863 for the counties that are now part of West Virginia are also at the LVA.  There are no records for 1808 and 1864, the two times the General Assembly suspended collection of taxes and enumeration of tax payers.  The records are on microfilm and are available through interlibrary loan. 


1 comment:

  1. You've listed all the reasons I love using the tax records. They have provided valuable clues to my "brick wall" ancestor.

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