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In 1692 the British government instituted another innovative scheme to increase revenue which came to be known as the land tax. The laws changed several times over the years until the tax was finally repealed in 1963. The tax was administered locally and original records will usually be located at the County Record Office. From 1780 to 1832, a copy of the Land Tax Assessment was placed in the quarter session records. The Clerks of the Peace used the Land Tax Assessments to determine a person’s electorial rights until 1832.
The book Land Tax Assessments Family History Library book 942 R4g will provide the dates of records held by the different repositories.
To find Land Tax Records listed in the Family History Library Catalog "Place Search", search for:
ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] – TAXATION
The Land Tax Assessments can be useful for genealogists and family historians. It provides an annual list of proprietors and, in theory, the names of the actual occupiers in each parish. Because the list is annual, arrival and departure dates of an individual or family can sometimes be tracked by examining consecutive years of land tax assessments. It can also be an indicator of inheritance, and thus, death of an individual. You can often differentiate between various pieces of property by the amount of the tax assessed. Persons with a long-term lease or copyhold may be named as the proprietor. The economic status of an ancestor in comparison with their neighbors can be inferred from the tax list. Unfortunately, not all the records have survived.
A blank form or log for recording information from land tax assessments is available online: *Land Tax Assessment Research Form
There are a few drawbacks to using land tax assessments.
- Their survival rate is low for the first 90 years that the tax was collected. From 1780 to 1832, the survival rate is much more uniform.
- Post-1832 assessments contain incomplete lists of owners and occupiers.
- Names in the tax lists are usually male household heads not connected in any way with family members. This increases the risk of getting the wrong person. If a widow remarried, her property might be listed in the name of her new husband.
- The names of proprietors may have been out of date.
In 1798, the government began allowing the tax to be exonerated with a lump sum payment equal to fifteen years of the annual tax. As part of the 1798 assessment, parishes were ordered to file an extra copy with the government so they could compile a uniform assessment for every parish in England and Wales. For more information on the 1798 assessment, see National Land Tax Assessment.
- Gibson, Jeremy, and Dennis Mills. Land Tax Assessments. Solihull, England: Federation of Family History Societies Publications, Limited, 1987. (FHL book 942 R4g 1987.) This book gives dates of records held by each repository, arranged by county name.
- Unwin, R. W. Search Guide to the English Land Tax. Yorkshire, England: West Yorkshire Metropolitan County Council, 1982. (FHL book 942 R47u.) This book explains how to use land tax assessment records.
These records are held at the National Archives and are also at the Family History Library (FHL) on microfilm. The FHL call numbers may be located by searching the Family History Library Catalog Place search for Great Britain and then look for Board of Inland Revenue – Land Tax Assessments.