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At first glance, researchers might conclude that Virginia tax lists contain very little family history data, though one soon learns that valuable genealogical conclusions can be drawn from these records, nicknamed "annual censuses," such as: relationships, approximate years of birth, socio-economic status, identification of neighbors, the ability to distinguish between persons of the same name, evidence of land inheritance, years of migration, and years of death.

Virginia began enumerating residents' payments of personal property and land taxes in 1782. These two types of taxation were recorded in separate registers. Personal property tax lists include more names than land tax lists, because they caught more of the population. The Family History Library has an excellent microfilm collection of personal property tax lists from 1782 (or the year the county was organized) well into the late nineteenth century for most counties, but only scattered land tax lists. Microfilm collections at The Library of Virginia include land tax lists for all counties and independent cities for the years 1782 through 1978, as well as personal property tax lists for the years 1782 through 1930 (and every fifth year thereafter). Taxes were not collected in 1808. 

Some tax records are available online or in print, though published abstracts often omit useful details found only in the original sources. Statewide indexes can help genealogists identify specific counties where surnames occurred in the past, providing starting points for research.

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