• Taxation Records

    Attachment 13705A taxation record may be the only proof that your ancestor was in a particular place at a particular time.

    Looking at land tax records over time, you can see when men died, moved or sold property and who took over from them. Where other records do not survive, this may be the only method of distinguishing between two men of the same name.

    You can judge the relative wealth of an ancestor, compared with his neighbours. The poorest members of society did not pay tax, but the labourers of the C19th may have had much wealthier forebears, so it's always worth looking.

    Lay subsidies only involve the relatively well off, but anyone with a single hearth had to pay the hearth tax, and the lists of exemptions sometimes survive for those excused on the basis of poverty. Lay subsidies assessed foreigners at twice the normal rate, so you could immediately recognise a foreign ancestor.

    Taxation lists usually show:

    • The names of individuals
    • Where their property is
    • Where they live (if different)
    • What they are being assessed on
    • How much they have to pay
    • The date the assessment was made and/or it was collected

    The earliest useful taxation lists are in class E179 in the National Archives at Kew. There is a database searchable by date and village. The results will show whether the document just shows the names of collectors, or includes those assessed for tax. These records include Lay subsidies for the Tudor and early Stuart periods and the Hearth Tax for the later Stuart period.

    From roughly 1780 to 1832, county record offices hold Land Tax Assessments. These show owners as well as occupiers of the land. Coverage varies from county to county. The records were originally arranged by a smaller administrative unit than the county, known variously as hundreds, wapentakes, lathes etc. Some counties have reorganised the records by parish, but it is worth finding out which hundred etc your parish was in. Land tax was assessed every year. The rate of tax was a fixed percentage, based on the acreage, and the assessors usually listed the properties in the same order each year.

    National Archives: Looking for records of taxation

    National Archives: Tithe Records

    National Archives: The Hearth Tax 1662-1689

    Hearth Tax Online

    FTF Online Magazine: Watch the wall my darling (Customs and excise)

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