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Kentucky County Tax Schedules

Kentucky brick walls can be overcome with one of the state's best-kept secrets--county tax schedules available for nearly every year until 1892.


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Tax schedules, also called tax lists or rolls, are valuable as locator aids. Depending on the information listed in the tax records, they may provide not only place of residence but valuable clues about age; death dates; migration; relationships; identity of individuals with the same name; and, of course, relative wealth. Tax schedules that are available over many consecutive years are the most valuable because the changes over time contain important information. Therefore, the nearly-annual county tax schedules of Kentucky are an excellent source of information to knock down these southern brick walls.

Before setting up for a long afternoon at a library looking at tax schedules, know that it can take many hours using tax schedules to uncover, extract, and analyze the information. Because using tax schedules can be so time-consuming, it is generally wise to check censuses, vital records, church records, and probate records first. Tax schedules are particularly valuable for counties where other records have been destroyed or are not available. Schedules for Kentucky counties are generally available from the date the county was organized until 1892.

The validity of tax schedules comes not from the entries for a single year, but the comparison of tax entries over as many years as possible. Finding the same ancestor or family on the schedule each year can make it possible to see life events and stronger relationship connections.

For instance, if a new name is listed on the tax schedule, it can suggest events such as:

  • males coming of age males
  • moving into the county
  • males acquiring taxable property
  • females becoming widowed
  • single females marrying or inheriting property

A name disappearing from the tax schedules could allude to events such as:

  • a male moving from the county or dying
  • a male becoming exempt from taxes
  • a female dying or moving out of the county
  • or even a female remarrying and her property becoming taxed under her new husband

Using Tax Schedules

In order to use Kentucky county tax schedules effectively, don't forget a few of these tips. First, know the county in which the ancestor lived and any county boundary changes that may have taken place. It is important to study the tax rolls to find out what is being taxed, as well as what is not being taxed. Some early tax schedules include watercourse; value and acreage of real estate; number of men over twenty-one and young men between sixteen and twenty-one in a household; slaves; and horses. Seeing changes in specific kinds of property through a span of years can be important in signifying coming of age, marriage, death, and inheritance. Was there a year the ancestor was not listed on the tax schedule? It can also be helpful to check the beginning and end of a schedule to find possible late, delinquent, and insolvent taxpayers added to the schedule later. Because information listed on a county tax schedule varies between counties, it is essential to be thorough and use any information given.

Extracting Tax Schedules

Just rolling through pages of tax schedules is great, but you do need to record your findings in order to make tax schedules work for you. Be sure to extract all years in which the family you are researching was living in the county, including 5-8 years before the family first shows up on the schedule, and 5-8 years following the last recorded tax instance of the family. Extract all entries of the surname you are searching, as well as surnames of those associated with your ancestors. This includes possible neighbors, in-laws, and business partners that may have been mentioned in a land record with your ancestor. It may seem time-consuming to record so many entries from your surname, but as the research unfolds, it will be useful to have them all extracted with the others.

Kentucky tax schedules have been microfilmed for most counties to 1892 and are available from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and Salt Lake City's Family History Library. The Kentucky Historical Society has tax records to 1875. More background on Kentucky's tax schedules can be found in Roseann Reinemuth Hogan's Kentucky Ancestry: A Guide to Genealogical and Historical Research.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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