Family Tree Friday: Tax Records at the National Archives
Did you know that the first federal direct tax was in 1798? This was a tax on real property (real estate or land) and slaves which was levied as a response to rising military tensions with France. Sometimes called the “Glass Tax” (referring to glass window panes, which indicated wealth), the records consist of various assessment and collection, or “Particular” lists. There are several types of Particular Lists, but I found Lists A and B to be the most interesting for genealogy research.
List A includes dwellings situated on two acres or less and valued at more than $100. You will find the name of the occupant, the name of the owner, dimensions of the dwelling and any outbuildings, the type of construction, the number of windows and lights, and the value of the dwelling. Below is an example from Dauphin County, PA.
On the first line, we see that Robert Sprowl lives in a log house owned by William Scarlitt. Valued at $150, the house has four windows and 48 lights. By contrast, a few lines below this entry, we find a Reverend Moeller living in a two story log house with eight windows and 149 lights. This dwelling has three outbuildings – a shop, a kitchen, and a stable. The total value of the house and the outbuildings is $900.
List B provides a description of all lands, lots and buildings, except those described in List A. Below is an example, also from Dauphin County, PA.
We see Jacob Awl living on land owned by the heirs of Jacob Awl, deceased (the deceased Jacob Awl was probably the occupant’s father). There are no dwellings listed – any houses are most likely on List A. There is a barn, which was constructed of stone and wood. The total value of the land is more than $3,000.
Another interesting Particular List (not pictured) lists slave owners and how many slaves they own, as well as the number of slaves subject to tax. The slaves are not listed by name.
The National Archives holds the direct tax records for Pennsylvania, as well as some for Connecticut (see this article for a fascinating discussion of how and when the Connecticut records were discovered). They are part of Record Group 58, Records of the Internal Revenue Service. The Pennsylvania records are available on microfilm publication M372, U.S. Direct Tax of 1798: Tax Lists for the State of Pennsylvania, 1798 at the National Archives Building and several of the regional facilities. The Connecticut records are located in Waltham. Records for other states are housed in various historical societies.