Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tax Assessment Genealogy Style

Old Tax Assessment and Census lists are coveted by genealogists. They are a great way to mine information about our ancestors. US Censuses from 1850 to date are pretty easy to follow, all the family is listed with information of interest to the government for that particular decade. Before 1850, the information provided takes a bit more sleuthing to decipher what was collected. This is why I'm SO excited about a website I just stumbled upon Mother Bedford's Tax Assessment Returns

First off, Mother Bedford refers to Bedford County Pennsylvania. Bedford County was once a huge mother of a county, but as time has gone by, several other counties have be formed from towns that originally were a part of Bedford. Pretty much all of my ancestral lines spent at least some time in Mother Bedford so it is particularly helpful that this site shares such useful information. 

While I have been doing my genealogy for a few years, I am in no way an expert. I knew enough to collect early american tax records when I found them, but I haven't quite figured out what all the information means. Tax Assessments include names and value of property. Individuals were listed on the early tax assessment returns in one of four categories: Resident, Freeman, Inmate, and Non-Resident. (Women rarely own property. Upon their husband's death, his property transferred to his oldest son. Occasionally you may find a Resident listing a Widow Smith., indicating there was no male to leave the property too.)

  • Resident: Married man who owns property and resides on property
  • Freeman: Single man who owns property and resides on property 
  • Inmate: Any man who rents property he resides on   
  • Non-Resident: Any property owner who does not reside on said property

Thank You Mother Bedford! The definition of Freeman helped me narrow down the marriage window of my 2nd great-grandparents Mary Shoenfelt & John Ritts. Taylor Twp was formed in 1856. At that time a list was published of all land owners. John Ritts is listed as a Freeman, while his father Thomas was a Resident. John therefore was married sometime after June 1856 and before September 1857. 

And Mother explained the inmate code! It's nice to know my ancestor wasn't a criminal. Now if I could remember which ancestor had this notation on their tax record I'd be totally psyched. Since I don't and I don't want to forget the definition when I finally find him, I've written this blog.

1 comment:

  1. I found one of my inmate ancestors: Johan Valentine Metzger, my 5th great-grandpa