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Online Resources

Why Use Tax Records

By studying several consecutive years of tax records you may determine when a young men came of age, when individuals moved in and out of a home, or when they died leaving heirs. Authorities determined wealth (real estate, or income) to be taxed. Taxes can be for polls, real and personal estate, or schools.

Tax record content varies and may include the name and residence of the taxpayer, description of the real estate, name of original purchaser, description of personal property, number of males over 21, number of school children, slaves, and farm animals. Tax records usually are arranged by date and locality and are not normally indexed. Tax records can be used in place of missing land and census records to locate a person’s residence.

How to Use Tax Records for Kentucky

County Level

Most of the counties have yearly tax records starting from the date of organisation. Extent county tax schedules from the organization of the county through 1892 have been microfilmed and are available from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the FHL. Tax records from 1892 are available at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The Kentucky Historical Society has tax records to 1875.

Tax lists are arranged by county and date. Residents within its districts are grouped together and names are usually arranged under the beginning letter of the surname, but otherwise not in alphabetical order. [2]

When looking through county tax books, make sure to check for divisions of the county in each year. In other words, the county is frequently split into multiple divisions that each have their own set of alphabetical records. Check in all divisions of a county for the name of the person you are seeking, in any given year. Some early tax records have been published and are available in research libraries.

State Level

  • 1862-1866 Internal revenue assessments for Kentucky Internal revenue assessment lists were created into divisions called Districts, each county is put into a district. County names are arranged alphabetically within the division and then within months. The following is a list of counties placed in which district. (knowing the district and county your ancestor lived in will make searching this years taxes list a little faster)
    (once on page scroll down to district desired and click on camera to open)

U.S. Internal Revenue Assessment Lists. Three types of Reports: A=Annual; M=Monthly; S=Special Years and Reports may be different.

There are missing, damaged and misfiled records. Divisions are often not in order but names are generally in alphabetical order. Some are arranged by division and then year. What rolls have a county on them are noted at the front of each roll.

DISTRICT 1: Allen, Ballard, Barren, Breckenridge, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Edmonson, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hancock, Hart, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, McCracker, McLean, Marshall, Metcalfe, Monroe, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson, Todd, Trigg, Union, Warren, Webster counties
Reorganized 10 Sept. 1864 to include Ballard, Breckinridge, Butler, Caldwell, Calloway, Christian, Crittenden, Daviess, Edmonson, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hancock, Henderson, Hickman, Hopkins, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken, McLean, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Trigg, Union, Webster counties
Reorganized 25 Jan. 1866 to include Ballard, Caldwell, Calloway, Crittenden, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Livingston, Lyon, McCracken, Marshall, Trigg, Union, Webster counties.

DISTRICT 2: Adair, Boyle, Breathitt, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Estill, Floyd, Garrard, Green, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knox, Laurel, Letcher, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Russell, Taylor, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe counties
Reorganized 10 Sept. 1864 to include Adair, Allen, Anderson, Barren, Bullitt, Clinton, Cumberland, Green, Hardin, Hart, Larue, Logan, Marion, Meade, Metcalfe, Monroe, Nelson, Russell, Shelby, Simpson, Spencer, Taylor, Todd, Warren and Washington counties - Reorganized 25 Jan. 1866 to include Breckinridge, Butler, Christian, Daviess, Edmonson, Grayson, Hancock, Henderson, Hopkins, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio counties.

DISTRICT 3: Anderson, Bullitt, Hardin, Henry, Jefferson, Larue, Marion, Meade, Mercer, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, Washington counties
Reorganized 10 Sept. 1864 to include Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Owen counties
Reorganized 25 Jan. 1866 to include Allen, Barren, Clinton, Cumberland, Hart, Logan, Metcalfe, Monroe, Russell, Simpson, Todd, Warren counties.

DISTRICT 4: Bath, Boone, Bourbon, Boyd, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Carter, Clark, Fayette, Fleming, Franklin, Gallatin, Grant, Greenup, Harrison, Jessamine, Kenton, Lawrence, Lewis, Mason, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owen, Pendleton, Powell, Rowan, Scott, Trimble, Woodford counties
Reorganized 10 Sept. 1864 to include Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Kenton, Pendleton and Trimble counties
Reorganized 25 Jan. 1866 to include Adair, Anderson, Bullitt, Casey, Green, Hardin, Larue, Marion, Meade, Nelson, Shelby, Spencer, Taylor, Washington counties.

DISTRICT 5: - Established 10 Sept. 1864 to include Bourbon, Boyle, Breathitt, Casey, Clark, Clay, Estill, Fayette, Franklin, Garrard, Harlan, Jackson, Jessamine, Knox, Laurel, Letcher, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Nicholas, Owsley, Perry, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Scott, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe, Woodford counties
Reorganized 25 Jan. 1866; to include Henry, Jefferson, Oldham and Owen counties.

DISTRICT 6: Established 10 Sept. 1864; Bath, Boyd, Carter, Fleming, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Lewis, Magoffin, Mason, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Powell, Rowan
Reorganized to include 25 Jan. 1866; Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Harrison, Kenton, Pendleton and Trimble counties.

DISTRICT 7: Established 25 Jan. 1866; Bourbon, Boyle, Clark, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Lincoln, Mercer, Nicholas, Scott, Woodford counties.

DISTRICT 8: Established 25 Jan. 1866; Breathitt, Clay, Estill, Garrard, Harlan, Jackson, Knox, Laurel, Letcher, Madison, Owsley, Perry, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Wayne, Whitley, Wolfe counties. (NO Lists for District 8)

DISTRICT 9: Established 25 Jan. 1866; Bath, Boyd, Carter, Fleming, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Lewis, Magoffin, Mason, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike, Powell, Rowan


The first tax records of Kentucky were created in the 1780s while Kentucky was part of Virginia. For example, the 1787 "census" of Virginia contained an accounting of the name of every white male over 21 years (called "tithables"), the number of white males between 16 and 21 years, the number of slaves over 16 and slaves under 16 years, together with a listing of his horses, cattle and carriages, and also the names of all persons to whom ordinary licenses and physicians’ licenses were issued.

  • Gail Jackson Miller. Kentucky tax lists: a valuable resource for pre-1850s research. NGS Magazine 39 #1 (January-March 2013): Kentucky tax lists at FamilySearch.

Many early Kentucky tax lists have been published, including:

  • 1700s - Early Kentucky Tax Records from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing, 1984. These tax lists contain the taxpayer’s name and county, the number of acres, males over or under 16, slaves, horses and cattle, and the water course near the property. An index is included.
  • 1782-1787 - Virginia Taxpayers, 1782-1787 by Augusta B. Fothergill, Reprint, Baltimore, Md. Genealogical Publishing, 1974. This includes Fayette and Lincoln Counties, Kentucky. It is alphabetical and contains the taxpayer’s name, county, and number of slaves.
  • 1787 - The 1787 Census of Virginia by Florence SpeakmanLove and Netti Schreiner-Yantis, compilers, 3 volumes, Springfield, Virginia: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987. Kentucky residents are listed as being in Kentucky County.
  • 1790 - First Census of Kentucky, 1790 by Charles Brunk Heinemann, Washington, D.C.: n.p., 1940. .
  • 1800 - Enumeration of Tax Papers Second Census of Kentucky-1800 by Garrett Glenn Clift, A Privately Compiled and Published Enumeration of Tax Papers: Frankfort, Ky.: n.p., 1954. : Appearing in the 79 Manuscript Volumes Extant of Tax Lists of the 42 Counties of Kentucky in Existence in 1800.

There are two main microfilm collections of Kentucky Tax Lists available. The Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives collection and the Kentucky State Historical Society's collection. (The FHL films are credited with the Kentucky State Historical Society in their catalog entry.)

The Family History Library has copies of tax lists for most counties to the 1890s. Many of the original tax lists from 1782 to 1875 are at the Kentucky Historical Society. These are also available on 398 microfilms at the Kentucky Historical Society. An inventory of the films is:

  • Kentucky Historical Society Index to Tax Lists. Frankfort, KY: The Society, 1973. Index to Tax Lists. This index is arranged by county and includes the year of the tax list and the Kentucky Historical Society reel and page numbers.

A list of persons taxed during the Civil War is:

  • 1862–1866 - United States Bureau of Internal Revenue. Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Kentucky, 1862–1866. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0768. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1971. This extensive tax list shows monthly and annual taxes on personal property and licenses to practice and do business, income, and those who produced and distributed goods. Kentucky was divided into nine tax districts. Each film has a full list of counties and the districts they belonged to.
  • 1792-1840 - Kandie Adkinson's "Researching Early Kentucky Tax Lists: 1792-1840" is an excellent article on Kentucky taxation. The first half the article covers the 1792-1840 Kentucky legislation involved in the tax process, and the second half includes an example and "points to remember" when searching Kentucky tax lists. Kandie Adkinson continues her covering of the Kentucky legislative tax process to 1880 in the 2011 editions of the periodical Kentucky Ancestors.

To locate Kentucky taxation records in the Family History Library, use a Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog

Tax Laws

Tax money bag.jpg

Poll taxes were paid by white males age 21 or over for the privilege of voting. Since this was an annual tax, the tax lists serve as censuses. Some were used to "reconstruct" the missing 1790 and 1800 federal censuses. They can help trace the migration of families from county to county between federal censuses.

Since 1861, the tax collector collects taxes. Previously the treasurer and later the sheriff collected taxes. Except for inheritance taxes, the tax collector collects all county taxes, including "taxes on real and personal property, schools and special districts, and business licenses. "Historically the office of tax collector was combined with the office of county treasurer and sheriff. Today it is usually with the treasurer's office."

Abraham Lincoln instituted the income tax in 1862, and on July 1, 1862, Congress passed the Internal Revenue Act, creating the Bureau of Internal Revenue (later renamed to the Internal Revenue Service). This act was intended to “provide Internal Revenue to support the Government and to pay interest on the Public Debt.” Instituted in the height of the Civil War, the “Public Debt” at the time primarily consisted of war expenses. For the Southern States that were part of the Confederate side of the Civil War, once Union troops took over parts of the Southern States, income tax were instituted on them. [3]

  • To learn more about this Collection click here
  • To learn more about the Civil War taxes click here

What history has shown us is that while property taxes are locally levied, there is significant state involvement with the amount of tax local political subdivisions can levy, how property assessments are conducted, and what services local taxing subdivisions must provide for their residents. This comes at a cost to state taxpayers, because the state has obligations it must fund as well, with a limited amount of state tax dollars.

(Kentucky was considered a border state during the civil war).

References

  1. May be used for free at Family History Center. To locate a center near you, click here.
  2. Ancestry's Red book revised Edition
  3. Creation of the IRA