Tax Lists

If you haven’t been using tax records in your research, you could be missing out on a goldmine of information! The microfilmed tax lists are for Kentucky State taxes and the headers changed from year to year based on what the General Assembly had approved for that specific year.

There is an excellent article called “Tax Lists (1792-1840) An Overlooked Resource for Kentucky History & Land Title” written by Kandie Adkinson from the Kentucky Land Office available online which every Kentucky researcher should read and refer to. It will give you great insight into the laws of the times so you’ll know exactly what you could find in the tax records. For example:

  • All free males 21 years of age or older were enumerated on tax lists if they owned one horse. Notice that there was no requirement to own land to be in the tax list, but at least one horse. So if you’re unsure of the date of birth for an early Kentucky ancestor, see if you can find the first year that they appear in a tax list. That could be the year that they turned 21, or close to it.
  • Women were included on tax lists if they were the head-of-the-household. (Unless she had another male in her family pay the taxes.) Finding a female ancestor’s name in a tax list can help you to narrow down a date of death for her spouse. I have read that after a man died, his widow had one year to mourn and then had to start paying the taxes so take that into consideration when looking for an approximate date of death.
  • More often than not, the tax records include the number of school age children within a family. Pay attention to the age ranges as they didn’t stay consistent.
  • Taxpayers were allowed to report land that they owned in other counties or states. Excellent clues to be found there!
  • Sometimes, a person would be declared to be exempt from paying taxes. This would include ministers, veterans, poor, disabled and widows unless she had a male over 16 residing in the home. So if an ancestor disappears from the list, he may not be dead, he may have been exempt. You might find a court record that gives a date that a person was declared exempt from taxes.

Russell County was formed at the end of 1825/beginning of 1826, so available tax records can be found between 1826-1874. That’s half a century of “yearly census” information! The only years that are missing are 1830, 1832 and 1834. The information in each tax list may be slightly different and I’m only going to give specific information that I feel would be most helpful for research.

In the early tax lists, you’ll find information on

  • the amount of land
  • the “rate” of the land (In 1793, it was declared that “The rich lands in Fayette County shall be considered as the standard of first-rate land.” This was repealed one year later, but the land continued to be rated until 1840.)
  • In whose name Entered (who received the warrant – often assigned to someone else and thus the remaining names might be different), Surveyed (might be the same person or it might be the assignee) and Patented (also called the land grant). This information is only available in the first 10 years of tax lists.
  • the county the land was in
  • the nearest water course
  • the number of white males above 21 years old
  • the number of slaves above 16 years old
  • the total number of slaves
  • the number of horses, mules and cattle (Remember, a man had to have a horse to be taxed.)
  • the number of coaches and carriages
  • the number of billiard tables and retail stores

New items were tracked as time passed and by the 1870’s, you’ll also find items such as:

  • the number of town lots
  • the value of gold, silver and other metallic watches and clocks
  • the value of gold and silver plate
  • the value of pianos
  • the number of dogs
  • the number of sheep killed by dogs
  • the number of pounds of tobacco and hemp
  • tons of hay
  • the number of bushels of corn, wheat and barley
  • Income from U.S. Bonds

Beginning in 1840, Russell County was divided into 2 districts – the upper district and the lower district. If you don’t find your ancestor in the 1st section of the tax list, be sure to look in the 2nd section. If a section was labeled as upper or lower, I tried to include that information. It would probably be possible to figure out which link is upper and which is lower based on the first few names listed, but I have not taken the time to do that.

Specific, unique genealogy info included
1826
1827
1828
1829 Children over 4 years old and under 15, No. of children at school
1831
1833
1835
1836
1837 No longer dividing land by “rate”, no longer asking in whose name entered, surveyed, patented
1838 Male children over 5 & under 15, females over 5 & under 15, total, the full label is only on page 1 and the upper number is difficult to read so 15 is my guess.
1839
1840 – pre-printed forms issued. Land is no longer categorized by “rate”.
1840 2 sections Children between 7 & 17 years old
1841 2 sections Children between 7 & 17 years old
1842 2 sections Children between 7 & 17 years old
1843 2 sections Children between 7 & 17 years old
1844 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1845 upper district Children between 5 & 16 years old
1846 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1847 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1848 lower district Children between 5 & 16 years old
1849 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1850 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1851 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1852 2 sections Children between 5 & 16 years old
1853 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1854 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1855 Children between 6 & 18 years old
1856 Children between 6 & 18 years old
1857 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1858 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1859 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1860 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1861 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1862 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1863 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
1864 2 sections Children between 6 & 18 years old
No longer asking for number of slaves
1865 upper district Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1866 lower district Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1867 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1868 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1869 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1870 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1871 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1872 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1873 Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1874 Name of Nearest Resident, No. of Election Precinct in which situated, Enrolled Militia, Children between 6 and 20 years old
1875 not yet available online
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