A major resource you will use in your research will be tax records. Take Ireland for example. If the 1841 and 1851 censuses had survived, then nobody would ever look at the Tithe Applotment (1823-37) or Griffith’s Primary Valuation (1847-64). However, without the censuses, these taxations are now a primary source for locating families.
No matter the country, you have to ask a few solid questions as you approach taxes:
- What laws affected who and what was taxed? A good genealogical reference work for the area will provide guidance.
- What segment of the population was taxed and exempt? For example, if there was a “head tax,” at the age of 21, then subtract 21 from the first year someone is taxed. This may be the only place you document a birth year. A widow’s name may appear which would indicate the husband had died. This may also be the only place you identify her first name.
- Determine what is being taxed? For example, land is always important; so keep track of the acres and watercourses. The number of slaves and horses are important as these were often kept within families. This may be the only proof you have of a relationship!
- Where is your person located on the tax rolls in relation to others with that surname? Did the tax collector go out into the countryside, or did the family load up in a wagon the same day, head into the courthouse and pay their taxes? You can assume some family relationships by how the names are arranged on a page.
These are just a few suggestions for why tax lists are important. Once you have a list of everybody by your surname for a ten or twenty year period, then you will be amazed at what you see.