Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2009-12 > 1260910792

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Subject: Re: [TGF] Kentucky tax laws of early 19th century
Date: Tue, 15 Dec 2009 14:59:52 -0600
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Neal wrote:
> I am looking for help with interpreting Kentucky tax records from 1810 to
> The subject of interest appears in the tax records for several years
possesing land and livestock. Then the subject is listed with no land, but
taxed on his livestock.
> Did this person become a certain age where his land was no longer taxed?
Or is he now a tenant farmer? (I'm waiting on deed film)
> Later he disappers entirely. I assume he moved, died (no widow shown) or
is in some way exempt from the tax man.


You raise a good question but there are many possible answers; and, as is
usually the case in genealogy, the devil lies in the details.

1. "Kentucky tax records" is a generic description. What *specific* label is
on the tax roll on which no land appears for him? Some rolls cover only
personal property and the poll tax. Some rolls cover only land. Some rolls
are a combination of both types. Sometimes (frequently!) a roll doesn't
actually have a label, but we can ascertain the kind of roll it is from the
subject headings on each column. Sometimes (even often) the subject headings
are missing, but we can still ascertain what the columns represent and what
kind of roll it is by studying entries for others on the roll. If the years
for which he paid tax on land and livestock were represented by combination
rolls and in the next year there is no land, it could simply be that the
latter year is one in which land assessments appear on a different roll.

2. Aside from the question as to whether a roll covers both real and
personal property, there's another question relating to *kind* of roll: Are
you using the rolls created by the assessor, or the rolls created by the

3. In stating what this man was taxed on, you do not mention poll tax.
Whether or not he was assessed a poll is usually an indicator of the kind of
tax roll you're using and/or the age of the man (an issue that you also

4. You wrote that he had been taxed on land for several years but "then
[presumably the next year] is listed with no land." What about the years
after that year of change? Did future years continue to show no land for
him, even though others on the roll were assessed land tax?

5. Did you read the entire roll (all names, not just your surname of
interest), looking for comments that may have been inserted beside a name?
In some Southern counties it was the custom, the first time someone is taxed
on a particular piece of land, to note where/how he acquired it, as in
"purchase from Riddlespritzer" or "Higginbotham estate."

6. If you are using the collector's roll for that odd-ball year, did you
read the tail end of the collector's roll to see what comments he added
about adjustments between the assessor's roll and the one he is submitting.
Often comments appear here as to why certain people or their property is
removed from the roll.

Regarding your question . . .
>"Did this person become a certain age where his land was no longer taxed?
Or is he now a tenant farmer?"

... two issues arise here.
1. It is extremely rare (in fact I can't recall any such incident in any
state) in which historic individuals were exempted from property tax on the
basis of age. Many areas did have age exemptions for poll tax, but not
property tax. If they were "wealthy" enough to own property or to have money
loaned out at interest, they were expected to pay.

2. Your either-or question omits other alternatives. A non-landowner who was
a farmer was not necessarily a tenant farmer. For example, many
non-landowning farmers were renters, not tenant farmers (or squatters on
unclaimed land, another alternative). The differences in those categories
affected their social and economic status as well as the mode in which they
compensated the landowner. Also, in some eras and locales, land-rent
contracts called for the renter, not the landowner, to pay the tax.

Just food for thought!


Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

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