Tennessee 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 Tennessee

County Level

Since no complete censuses for Tennessee exist before 1830, tax records are important for identifying early inhabitants. The individual Tennessee county pages on the FamilySearch Wiki are usually the best places to find published tax lists and it is good to start there to see what is available.

State Level

The first tax records of Tennessee were created in 1778 while Tennessee was part of North Carolina. There are three main guides to using early Tennessee tax lists: Curtis, Sistler, and Creekmore. Each book has a very different approach to indexing early Tennessee tax lists. Curtis indexes on a county-wide basis, Sistler indexes state-wide, and Creekmore indexes by militia districts within each county plus additional columns of information from the lists. Creekmore's additional information about the militia districts within the counties is particularly helpful. Unfortunately, Creekmore includes only a single tax year, whereas the other two authors index multiple tax years.

Eligible voters in Tennessee paid a tax for the privilege of voting. This poll tax was paid by white males, age 21 or over. Since this was an annual tax, the tax lists serve as censuses. Some were used to “reconstruct” the missing 1790 to 1820 federal censuses. They can help you trace the migration of families from county to county between federal censuses. The Family History Library has only microfilmed a small fraction of available tax lists, but has collected many periodicals where abstracts have been published (see individual county pages). Many of the original tax lists from 1778 to 1835 are available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Good sources for early Tennessee tax lists are:

  • 1778-1832- Creekmore, Pollyanna. Early East Tennessee Taxpayers. Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1980. Originally appeared as a series of articles in: The East Tennessee Historical Society’s Publications. Includes tax lists for 1778–1832, with surname indexes prepared by Frances Maynard and Dorothy Peters.
  • 1778-1885 - Rasmussen, Geoffrey D., compiler. East Tennessee Tax Records Index. 3 volumes. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, Inc., 2005. These three volumes contain index entries for 69,069 persons between 1778-1850 in Washington County - Tennessee's first county.
  • 1787-1827 - Sistler, Byron.Index to Early Tennessee Tax Lists. Evanston, Illinois: 1977. This book indexes tax lists for 68 counties, as well as petitions, voter lists, and newspaper lists of inhabitants. There are about 46,000 entries representing the years 1787–1827.
  • 1814-1857 - lists for the 3rd Collection District taken by deputy collector of revenue John Teddar are found in the manuscript collection: John Tedder Papers, 1814-1857 at TSLA.  (Includes Franklin, Overton, Warren and White counties.)

Tax Laws

Specific laws were enacted concerning inheritance or probate taxation. 

On 2 August 1813 Congress passed an act that levied a Federal Direct Tax.

References

  1. May be used for free at Family History Center. To locate a center near you, click here.