Kentucky Taxation

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Online Resources

Why Use Tax Records

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

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

Many early Kentucky tax lists have been published, including:

  • 1782-1787 - Fothergill, Augusta B. Reprint, Baltimore, Md. Genealogical Publishing, 1974.: Virginia Taxpayers, 1782–1787 Other Than Those Published by the United States Census Bureau 1940 Virginia Taxpayers,1782-1787. This includes Fayette and Lincoln Counties, Kentucky. It is alphabetical and contains the taxpayer’s name, county, and number of slaves.
  • 1787 - Love, Florence Speakman and Schreiner-Yantis, Netti, compilers. The 1787 Census of Virginia. 3 volumes. Springfield, Virginia.: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987. Kentucky residents are listed as being in Kentucky County.
  • 1800 - Clift, Garrett Glenn. A Privately Compiled and Published Enumeration of Tax Papers: Frankfort, Ky.: n.p., 1954. Enumeration of Tax Papers Second Census of Kentucky-1800: 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. In the second half, she includes an example and "points to remember" when searching Kentucky tax lists. In the first half of her article, she covers the 1792-1840 Kentucky legislation envolved in the tax process. She 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

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.


  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