How Tax Records Help the Genealogist
Genealogy Tips by Jeannette Holland Austin
|Jeannette Austin||Mar 30||1|
The tax digests in any given county and state provides essential data to the researcher as it lists all of the parcels of land which the person owned and in what counties. One can easily define the acquisition of properties from lotteries and the approximate date simply by noting the amount of acreage in the tax record. For example, the Georgia 1805 and 1807 land lotteries offered 202-1/2 acres in Baldwin and Wilkinson Counties; and 490 acres in Wayne County (1805). During 1820: Appling (490), Early (250); Gwinnett (250); Habersham (250) (490); Hall (250); Irwin (490); Rabun (490)(250) and Walton (250). The 1827 Land Lottery gave 202-1/2 acres in Carroll, Coweta, Lee, Muscogee and Troup. The 1832 lottery consisted of 202-1/2 acres in Cass (now Bartow), Cherokee, Cobb, Floyd, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Murray, Paulding and Union Counties. These are all Indian lands belonging to the Creeks and Cherokees. There was also a lottery encompassing North Georgia lands formerly owned by the Cherokees where people drew for 40-acre gold lots and one can assume the occupation was "gold miner." The best route to information is to first search the lottery records, then the tax digests in specific counties. In many instances, the names of waterways and creeks are provided, also the type of timber on the land, and the name of the adjoining landowner (if there was one). The digests were not indexed and are listed by districts. It is a good idea to search through the time period during which the families resided in that county. In the back of each book is a section of "Defaulters". That is important in discerning whether the family had moved on, or died. A good rule of thumb is that any person listed as a defaulter who was 60+ years of age, probably died in that county. A thorough study of the tax digests becomes essential especially if no other books survived for that county. This is where the tracts of land of each person having the same surname should be compared from one year to the next. For example, John Smith was listed for a number of years. Then, there was an administrator beside his name. (This is the approximate date of his death). Then, following through the years, another persons with the same surname has that exact acreage added to his accounting. This would be an heir, probably the oldest son. A good practice is to make copies of the digest for later comparisons between probable heirs, neighbors and friends. John Smith may appear many times, but how do you know if he is the same John Smith? The answer is to always make note of the names of neighbors. Everyone listed in the same district are friends and relatives. It is the community as well as the history of the times!
The tax digest usually post limited information, however, a study of all those persons with the same surname promises to yield additional results, and considerations.