Tax records vary in content, according to the time, place, and purpose for which they were made. Researchers often use tax records in combination with censuses and directories and with land and property records. When no other source exists, tax lists can help to locate a family in a particular area. Since they were often made each year, they can list a family's residence between census years. They can help establish age, residences, relationships, and the year an individual died or left the area.
Governments have collected taxes in Ontario since 1793. Until 1850, tax rates were determined by the provincial parliament and not by local officials. Taxes were collected by court officials located in the various districts. Tax rolls made under this system exist for a few townships. Most of these date from the 1820s or 1830s.
Early tax records Since 1850, clerks of all Ontario municipalities—counties, cities, towns, villages, and townships—have been required to maintain tax records. Many of these records have been preserved. The major early records are assessment rolls, which state the value of the land or other property owned by individuals, and collectors' rolls, which list the amount of taxes paid in a given year. Statute labor lists are sometimes included with the assessment rolls. They show the number of hours that the person had to spend maintaining roads in the local area.
Voters' lists were made from the local tax lists. Adult males had to pay taxes in order to be eligible to vote. Men without real property (land) were sometimes assessed a poll tax, or head tax. Some men not old enough to vote (under twenty-one) were nevertheless named in the statute labor lists.
Assessment rolls give the most information on individuals. They can include the name and age of the head of household, his occupation, and information about his lands, home, family numbers (children by age categories), crops, and farm animals. They often indicate whether he was an owner or a tenant. Some of the late 19th-century assessment rolls even indicate the individual's religious affiliation.
The Family History Library and the Archives of Ontario have microfilm copies of pre-1900 assessment and collectors' rolls for about 200 of the more than 800 municipalities in Ontario. Other local tax records must be consulted at the county archives or municipal offices holding the records. Sometimes a county history or directory will include a copy of an early tax list, when the official list no longer exists.