2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair: 19th Century Ancestors in Tax Assessment Records


Thank you for joining us. I am Andréa Matney,. I am the National Archives community outreach specialist under Research Services and coordinator of the 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair. And we are moving on to session 2, it is titled 19th Century Ancestors in
Tax Assessment Records. Our speaker is Elise Fariello, she will discuss how to find ancestry
information using the 19th Century tax assessment records in record group 58 in these records
you can find information on where they lived in their community, occupation, I’m sorry
occupations, wealth and luxury items that they have owned. Miss Fariello is archives
technician for the National Archives at Chicago, Illinois. We welcome to the broadcast Elise
Fariello>>Hello everyone. Thank you so much for joining
me today. I am coming to you from here at the National Archives in Chicago. And in Chicago
we have the records from the Great Lakes states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota,
Ohio and Wisconsin. The National Archives have regional facilities throughout the country,
the handouts will tell you how to find tax records for the state that you are interested
in. I have spent the last several months processing all of the theories in record group that we
hold here at NARA Chicago. Most of these are the Civil War tax assessments lists. It’s
probably difficult to imagine a time when income taxes weren’t a major part of every
Americans life most citizens did not have to pay income tax until well into the 20th Century.
During 19th Century they are collected sporadically and only affecting the well off. The Civil
War tax was levied in 1862 it inspired 1872 although many of the lists talk about continuing
into 1874 because they contain information about business and excise tax. During the
implementation of this tax the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which wouldn’t be called IRS until
1953 tracked who owed taxes slide number 4? These lists can help genealogists fill in
details of their ancestors life the lists may be able to give insight into the occupation
like with President Lincoln or the White House or the item being taxed with this information
you may be able to seek out further records in state and local government archives churches
or business records. A researcher may discover how their ancestor or any individuals live.
As someone who researched family history myself we are looking for information that cuts below
the surface. The past assessment list can tell you what an individual owned how successful
or not they were in their business endeavors. You can track progress over the course of
these ten years to discover how they fared in the war and post‑war period. Next slide,
please? For instance, if you are in Iowa you would know from the Census records he was
a clothing merchant with the information on the tax assessment list you can know he had
a partner named Joan, you can track the growth in 1863 as shown in the middle part of the
slide when the valued at $847 and when it increased to $1,574. Next slide please? You
may wonder why the National Archives does not have income tax assessment lists or something
similar beyond these ten years. Next slide, please? To answer that question, we need to
look back to the 18th century when a deep seated loathing of taxes was sewn into the
fabric of the United States. Colonial Americans they had no direct representative in parliament
this complaint was significant contributor to the Revolutionary War taxes was a grief
advance and which drew the declaration of independence. The United States first go
at a constitution did not give the federal government any taxing power this is one of
the many reasons why the articles do not pan out for the young country. In the 1789 U.S.
Constitution that did give federal government taxes power with caveat income was not taxed.
Most federal revenue was instead raised through tariffs customer duties and land sales. Next
slide please number 8. In 1791 the tax was unpopular particularly
in rural communities. Western farmers relied on grain crops and distilled these grains
into lick core which was easy to ship and preserve. The communities struggling to make
ends meet, felt the taxes were unfair. It was the whiskey rebellion the first challenge.
The secretary of the secretary President Washington called up a militia force. When anti federalist
Thomas Jefferson was he abolished all internal taxes. Excise tax came in 1812 when the government
needed funds but was abolished after the war. The outbreak of the Civil War put taxes back
on the table. Next slide, please. To help raise funds, to pay for the war, congress
passed Internal Revenue Act in 1862 create the internal bureau of revenue and the tax
system including the tax assessment list. Most revenues for the war was raised by excise
taxes on tobacco and alcohol. According to former IRS historian the income tax received
was under 20% of the tax revenues. Over 70% came from tobacco, alcohol taxes and other
excise and occupational taxes. The taxes list, do address these actions ‑‑ these taxes
as well as income ones. Next slide, please. While the income tax was allowed to expire
in 1872, the government continued to collect taxes particularly liquor and tobacco. The
regional branches hold lists into the 20th Century. Next slide, please. The holdings of the National
Archives has of these later lists of much less comprehensive than the Civil War era
unlike the earlier lists gathering information on anyone making over $600 a year the lists
were just collecting information on businesses subject to the excise laws. One thing that
is great about these business tax assessment lists from the later period as shown in this
example of the 1904 assessment list from Ohio they include clear definitions of the tax
laws they were enforcing. Much more so than the earlier list. Next slide number 12. Later
records may be less likely to have useful information for genealogists. But if the person
you are researching owned a business you may be able to find something of note. These records
should be considered for use by historians of business or local historians of which there
is a great deal of overlap. Here is an example of a list shown in the last slide you can
see the information collected includes the person or business name location article or
occupation being taxed, penalties assessed and occasional comments bit assessor. Next
slide please. The idea of income taxes definitely did not disappear in 1872. In fact, the populous
party thought to (inaudible) the revenue acts or the wealth Gorman tariff act reduced tariff
and taxed incomes over $4,000. While challenged in court making its way to the Supreme Court
struck down the law the income tax violated the rule stating direct taxes must be apportioned
as laid out in the constitution. There by declaring this unconstitutional in 1875. Next
slide, please. After declared unconstitutional they declared them to be destroyed. The tax
assessment list were preserved they contained information on business licenses and other
taxes. Next slide, please. Number 15. Over the next 20 years support for income tax for
farmers and populous affected by high tariffs and those in government recognizing the government
needed more revenue. The 16th amendment in 1913 legalized income tax in the U.S. by removing
the apportionment clause. Income taxes were levied to pay for World War I and taxes were
developed the one we know and love today. Next slide please. There are assessment lists
from the period 1914 to 1919 after the passing of the 16th amendment. The revenue act of
1913 imposed just a 1% income tax on those who made over $3,000 or couples over $4,000
annually. This impacted less than 1% of the population far less than the Civil War tax
and they are far less significant as well. By this time the collection district changed
dramatically than what they did in the 1860s and 70s if you are looking for people on those
lists be aware of that possibility. Next slide. However, if you are interested in researching
one who fell in the category much of what we will discuss for the Civil War assessment
list will be relevant to these lists as well. Next slide please. Number 18. So, I would
like to get back to the Civil War tax assessment list by clarifying that though called it for
decade‑long run it outlived the war by a number of years. A project during the 1970s
and 80 microfilmed the actual Civil War period of these records meaning about 1862 to 1866.
The microfilm later digitized is available on the partner website family search.org and
ancestory.com that’s the base website free at National Archives family search is free
from many locations. For these records as with the case with all digitized records the
National Archives will not have the original. The list begins 1867 was spend to the corresponding
regional communities. You can look at the handout to find out the regional facility
to contact. There are a few exceptions to this. Some states such as Ohio Wisconsin Massachusetts
were not microfilmed. The 1862 to 1866 list are held with the National Archives at Kansas City.
1867 at after is corresponding regional facility. Next slide please. In 1862 the commissioner
of Internal Revenue divided each state and territory not in rebellion in ‑‑ states
succeeded began being taxed. There is a few in one district no more than congressional
representatives for each state. Though they would shift dramatically this mostly happened
after the Civil War tax assessment period end researchers may want to be aware of that
possibility. This is the arrangement researchers will find the records in today first by state
followed by district then division. Division generally correspond to particular counties.
From there the records are arranged alphabetically by surname. Next slide please number 20. For
example, here is abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1865 annual list. Douglass part of division
8 collection 28 and that was Roanoke County where Frederick Douglass lived and Douglass
was taxed 87.95 for his income, gold watch, piano and carriage. Next slide, please. Finding
your ancestors on this list you have to know where they live down to the county. That information
is easy enough to find for someone famous like Frederick Douglass for most 19th Century
individuals, you know it from the Census records. Once you know that you have to determine which
district encompassed that county. This information is found in the VP produced for tax assessment
lists 1862 to 1866. Descriptive pamphlets can be downloaded in the National Archives microfilm catalog and are reproducible on film. Generally if you are only interested in records after 1866 it would be most useful to get the district information from the descriptive pamphlets. Next slide, please. In this example
of the pamphlet for New York, we see Monroe County is district 28. The DP tells us which
microfilm to look into for 1862-1866 list. Next slide number 23. For the states like Ohio,
Wisconsin, Massachusetts that were never microfilmed, and therefore never digitized we do not have pamphlets. We strive to make
records, as user friendly as possible you may be able to find the information in the online catalog as seen for Wisconsin
here if that is not available back to the regional facility where the records are held should be able to figure out where
to begin looking. Next slide. In addition to the NARA produced descriptive pamphlets,
there are ways to finding the district information from our partner website. If you looked at the family search.org
they divide each state into counties for you
simply click the state first, as I did here for California,
and then the county you are interested for browsing, which I did for Alameda County. Once you drill down to the county level,
Familysearch will show you the rolls available for that county and the district and division
that the county corresponds to on family search the series is not indexed by name once you
click the roll you are interested in you browse through the records and it will be basically
like you are looking at it on microfilm. Next slide, please. 
On NARA’s partner website ancestry.com the lists are indexed and searchable, type in the name you are searching and see what
comes up. Be aware about misspellings on the original record or in the indexing process can affect
results. If you are not finding the subject you can always try browsing as found in slide
here with the arrow pointing on the right‑hand side of the page. If you do find the person
you are interested in on microfilm family search or ancestry make sure ‑‑ make
note of the division. If you want to pursue the tax assessment lists that haven’t been
digitized you can approach the regional facility with as much information as possible. Next
slide, please. Number 26. So, when you are ready to look at 1867 to
1874 list you have to make sure which facility have records of interest. Many of our regional facilities
encourage researchers to make an appointments prior to visiting. If you decide to come in person make sure
you contact them ahead of time. We are also able to do limited research on behalf of customers
via written request if you don’t live near the regional facility. The more information
you have the more likely a staff member can help you locate your record. Finally for extensive
research. NARA’s website offers independent places ‑‑ independent researchers for
hire. Next slide. Once you found the list whether on microfilm online or in person.
You want to know exactly what it is you are looking at. The tax laws of 1862 much like
today were very complicated. The records are complicated as well. When you get down to
the division previously described the records are further broken up into specialists monthly
and annual lists. Next slide please. The so‑called special lists were used to supplement incomplete
lists and included taxes deemed special for example October 1864. If you are unable to
find the individual that you are looking for in the regular monthly or annual list which
we will discuss in later greater detail in a moment don’t forget to check special list
found at the end of the monthly list. Next slide please. Monthly were placed on a variety
of articles and projects from ale to zinc and levied on transportation interest paid
on bonds and financial institutions and more. Next slide the monthly lists are excellent
for extracting information on an individual’s businesslike we did earlier. It’s worth noting
how much data you can find on any one person. For example, here is boot and shoe salesman
of Mt. Rose, New Jersey. Perhaps this limited information in July 1866 tax assessment list
doesn’t provide you with a ton more information about Ruben’s life in it we see where he lives
the type of business he had how much that business was worth and what he was taxed on
it. Next slide please. However, given that same information once a month for four years
and more if you are able to go to the regional facility you can gain a lot of insight into
how someone was living for example here is the results of Ruben savage and the tax assessment
list from ancestry. Next slide please. There aren’t too many records in the National
Archives so regularly and frequently track any aspect of the any one aspect of the life
of the average American. Undoubtedly, the information recorded would be invaluable to
the descendants of that individual. Beyond that though the records should be noted for
the value to business historians local historians and labor researchers. They can provide valuable
insights into the movement and activities of certain people immigrants at the time or
women in business. The lists themselves do not track the information some data can be
interpreted by names or other aspects. Next slide, please. 
So, in the IRS tax records, two certainties of life, death and taxes, emerge in the May
1868 list on the left‑hand side of the page which shows Alva Green handling the estate
(indicating). This is a trove of information on the family. Money to left to three daughters
and each taxed 1%. The list show the women in Cleveland Newport and Concord as well as
married names. For another example on the right‑hand side of the page you can see
there were many wills executed in March of 1865 in Kentucky. Though the record does not
tell us why there were wills executed there you may be able to find more information using
additional records of newspapers or obituaries. Next slide please. 
Slide number 34. Annual licenses were required of a variety
of professions including bankers, confectioners, livery, stable keepers, silk makers, oil distillers
peddlers and more. Various institutions like taverns made an annual license and annual
duties were imposed on medicine cosmetics and other items next slide please. Annual
tax was compiled into two lists the name of people residing in the division liable for
taxation and names of the people outside of the division who owned property in the division.
Under each name recorded the value of the assessment and amount of duty or tax due.
The duty of any person liable through annual income tax filed a list of taxable properties
in the division where he or she resided. The assessments lists were turned over to the
collector of Internal Revenue. This was on the back of the Ohio tax assessment list volume
the collector specified a time and place when he would collect taxes due. Next slide, please. 
Beginning in 1862 Americans paid 3% tax on income over $600 and 5% tax on income over
$10,000. In 1864, the rate increase and ceiling dropped so Americans paid 5% tax on income
over $600 and 10% tax on income over $5,000. Next slide please.
These records cover a relatively short but prolific period in addition to the civil war
Emancipation Proclamation, reconstruction began in the south and the Indian war continued
in the west. The 1860s saw the completion of the first trance continental railroad and
many Americans went west ward. (inaudible) for example, the record displayed here shows
P.T. Barnum doing well in 1863. In addition to his fairly spectacular income he proposed
a number of carriages and 700 grams of civil plate, he paid 978 in taxes. Compared to his
well off neighbors paying between 6 and $250 in taxes Barnum was doing exceedingly well.
Next slide, please. So, the
ongoing Civil War did not have a negative impact on his business. In 1864 he reported
$35,000 in income. Impressive 15,600 increase. That year he paid over 1700 in taxes. According
to historian and former NARA employee, paying income taxes was a point of national pride
during the Civil War. Barnum a noted abolitionist ‑‑ maybe more so after the Emancipation Proclamation
the next year. Next slide. Certainly anyone who paid income tax was doing well for themselves
to further contextualize his salary or neighbors were worth researchers can consult the contemporary
work the cost of labor and substance for the year 1869 which showed consumer goods and
rents as well as average salaries for professions. People can consult a special report on immigration
compiled to provide information to newly arrived immigrants on what they expect to find and
pay for new homes and items. These publications can give you further insight into what information found on the assessment list meant for your ancestor’s daily life. Next slide please number 40. So it’s
good to find famous rich people like Barnum in the assessment lists. But all kinds of Americans were captured in the
records. Take G. N.Henkly of Illinois. He lived in Perry County, covered by the first division of district 13, he paid $5 in 1863 for his license to deal retail. Next slide, please.Though limited in detail the list tells us he was doing fairly well for himself 1867 he had income $1200 and a gold watch too. Next slide. And here he is again in 1871 renewing his license. This time specified as a retail liquor dealer.
Next slide please number 43. So as I mentioned earlier how the monthly list could be used by a variety of historical purposes beyond genealogy, I offer the annual lists are particularly of value
to local historians, by tracking the annual list you get a sense of the town or city. The lists
can reveal the rise of certain industry and track who was involved in certain trade. They
tell us how communities changed or how they didn’t over the course of these 10 years.
Next slide, please. For example, on this one page of Indiana district
1 division 4 in 1867 we see the locals would have gone for a drink to brewer John and he
had a billiard tables or they could get liquor here or go bowling get seats at the confectioner
and hire this lawyer to handle their legal affairs. Next slide, please. Four years later
we can see what has changed and what stayed the same. Retail alcohol business is doing
well with the brewery still in business as well as many liquor and tobacco dealers. It
looks like a number of businesses from the 1867 list fell by the wayside it didn’t tell
the whole story. That brings us to limitations of these assessment lists. They only track
a limited amount of information providing a snap shot of someone’s life. Did some of
these other individuals leave the area did they change careers? Did their business fail
he or not get enough money to get on the list that year? There is added complication it
only listed people with number of success. 1870 onward collects from all statuses races
and ethnicities. This list only tracked a person with a business license or made over
$600 a year. If you know the person researching did one of the things if you don’t know where
the person lived it can be hard to find them on the list. Adding to that the list will
often only use someone’s first initial with surname. And you may find there are gaps in
the records. Next slide please number 47. Don’t let those reasons discourage you from
looking for the resources. We can look at other NARA records. Look at this confectioner
found in one list but not the 1871 list from the annual list we would not know what happened
to him. However, looking at the Census records can help. Here he is on the right in the 1860
Census listed as a Baker and confectioner. Looking at the record to the left it shows
he had gone into the coal business it’s hard to extrapolate from the records available
but it does explain why he was not on the assessment list. Perhaps the confectionary
business was affected. Next slide please. The tax assessment list take us beyond the
Census records too we see this man in the 1870 annual list. He was taxed on wholesale
retail liquor business as well as being a tobacco dealer and insurance agent he was
a busy man. If you note the arrow pointing to the left there is a little X near his name
(indicating). Next slide, please. So, if we look to the records in the nearest
federal court to where Mr. Van Velkenberg lived which was Indianapolis you can see in 1869 he was charged
with not having paid taxes. If you are interested in pursuing the district court records they
are held in NARA group 21. Next slide, please number 50. So, within the case file you see
he was charged with engaging in the business and occupation of selling and offering for
sale spirits without paying taxes required by law. He learned his lesson in 1869 having paid
taxes the next year without getting noted on the 1870 assessment list. Next slide, please.
The United States district court records are littered with people not paying taxes
or obtaining proper licenses during this period. Here is an example of another man selling
liquor without paying taxes it includes an affidavit from Wisconsin. Next slide, please. 
And here is one more example of Indiana practicing law without having the appropriate license.
The court records help drive home how these impacted people’s lives and Americans at the
time were interacting with the federal government. Next slide, please number 53. Women may be
less represented an these lists but the fact ‑‑ but the assessment list tracks anyone who
owned a business or made over 600 a year regardless of gender. Here is speaker Elizabeth Katie
Stanton on the list for New York. It show cases major events such as Civil War came
to the business world even temporarily. During the Civil War when the men were off fighting
women held down jobs and shops and are represented as doing so in these lists. Next slide, please.
For example, on this page we see Sarah Barrett as breadwinner for her family running a retail
liquor store. The 1866 August assessment list it the image in the back of the slide. The
lists don’t tell us where Mr. Barrett is on his way home fighting in the war ill or
something else entirely here is a likely candidate for the family in 1870 on the left with David
Barrett working as a baggage maker 1880 on the right we see she is a widow. Through these
documents we can pick up the sketch and know she had experience in retail and relied on
her selling skills when the family needed. Next slide, please.
In these records you can uncover amazing Americans like Elizabeth Keckley. She was born into slavery
in Virginia purchased her freedom and moved to Washington, DC. There she created a successful
business working as a seamstress to the elite including Mary Todd Lincoln here she is on
the 1875 list with impressive $2,000. Next slide, please. Civil War tax assessment lists
are many NARA records held in our regional facilities that greatly help genealogies find
the ancestors and learn how to live. They provide unique insight into the 1860s and
70s and implementation of tax laws and impact on American life. If you are interested in
pursuing this remember you will need to begin knowing where your ancestor lives use the
descriptive pamphlet or staff at regional facility to find out which list your ancestor
may be on. If you know what kind of business they ran or occupation they had that may let
you know if you want to check monthly or annual list. However, the list for any one district
or division generally are not so voluminous it may be easier to check both. If you are
fortunate you may be able to find a wealth of information from your home computer or
computer at a NARA research facility. If you are able to get to a regional facility you
can dig through oversized old volumes to find ancestor’s name and information about the
business and hometown. So I hope this presentation will inspire genealogists to seek out the
useful records and help researchers find and use ancestors in these records and understand
what we can learn about 19th Century life from tax records. Next slide, please. So,
thank you so much for joining. And please let me know if you have any questions.
>>Thank you ‑‑ pardon, thank you Elise. We have been working on our audio portion.
So, thank you for bearing with us. Elise, thank you so much for your presentation we
do have important question that comes in often and help us out. But it’s about reference
reports. The question is: Is there a reference report for the list that have been ‑‑
have not ‑‑ have not been microfilmed?>>I don’t believe we have a reference report
for that. On the handout I provided it does say which list for not microfilmed I believe
I captured all of the ones on the list. But if ever anyone is having trouble contact the
regional facility, and you know, we will let you know if the records are somewhere else.
>>Thank you so much. Thank you for that answer. In regards to that, someone had asked a question
about New England and east coast states where those records are located, however do you
find going over how the records centers, why certain records are in different locations
for the ‑‑ in particular for the records that you are discussing? Why are records in
a particular region?>>The regional facilities cover particular
states. So, in the NARA Chicago we cover Illinois Indiana Michigan Minnesota, Wisconsin and
Ohio. The Great Lake states. And other regional facilities cover other states. Sore the outliers
that may seem strange, Kansas City, it’s actually the records that were microfilmed
were sent to Kansas City to be stored there. And that just when they sent them over they
included the ones that were never microfilmed those why that IRA the 1862 to 1866 list are
at the National Archives in Kansas City.>> Thank you for that answer.
>>We have another question that come in is there a way to guess at income based on a
tax? For example my ancestor paid $10 for 182 cattle. So, how does one guess ‑‑
guess their income based on the tax?>>That’s a good question. So, you may want
to check out some of those additional contemporary resources I mentioned if anyone is interested
I would be happy to send them the links to them. They have information on what certain
items were worth. There may also be information within the records themselves. So, I think
I mentioned earlier the later lists have all of the tax laws enforcing written right on
them. So, for those lists it would probably say what each cattle was worth and how much
it was taxed. The earlier lists you may be able to find it in newspapers or contemporary
records where people would have had to look to know what they were going to be taxed on.
>>Thank you, Elise. Let’s give just one moment do we have any more questions from the audience?
I don’t have any more cued up at this moment. We are getting a lot of thank you’s. One
person commented to you Elise a very informative presentation. So, thank you very much.
>> Thank you.>> I am looking one more time. I do not see
any more questions. If we ‑‑ if you want ‑‑ if one occurs to you later send it to [email protected]
Thank you very much Elise

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *