Boston Tax Book Series Pre 1822

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Boston Massachusetts genealogy under town records - tax and assessor's records.

"Parallel tax book series for years before 1822 when Boston was incorporated as a City, are at the Boston Public Library, Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. For most but not all years, there are abbreviations typically used. These are generally consistent from year to year, but may change somewhat from year to year since the men who were Assistant Assessors who went street to street and house to house changed often.

A key to these abbreviations is crucial in fully understanding the records. In the ""Polls"" column, it is usually marked, ""1"", meaning the taxpayer was eligible for one voting poll and taxed for it. If the polls column is marked ""A"", this means the taxpayer is an alien, i.e. not naturalized and not eligible to vote. This ""Alien"" designation was used especially in the lead-up to the War of 1812 and during the War when there was widespread suspicion of British spies rampant among us. But its use continued after the War as a way to weed out ineligible votes.

""Jy"" or ""Jyman"" means journeyman.

""Sp"" means he is being taxed for a shop, not a house or other building.

""Lives in 11"", or ""11"" means the taxpayer lives in Ward 11. ""Hs"" or ""Sp"" in 4 means his house or shop was in Ward 4.

""2 Ap"" or ""2 App"" in the comments column of the right hand column of the right facing page means ""apprentices"".

""Co"" means co-partner in business. ""See Co"" means you should also see the record for the man's listed co-partner for additional information and taxes assessed.

In the ""Owner"" and ""to Whom Assessed"" columns, it is often marked merely with an initial or initials. To identify these persons, either A. Go to the tax payer's name in the first column, it usually corresponds to the first letter of that person's name who is the owner and the man assessed. or B. Otherwise, it corresponds to the first letter of the last preceding listing of a taxpayer or owner whose name begins with that initial higher up on the page. This can be either in the first ""Taxpayer"" column, or the ""Owner"" column for a listing higher up on the page.

There are other rarely used abbreviations that can sometimes be figured out from the context, and sometimes not.

In ""Real Estate"" and ""Personal Estate"" columns, entries marked with a "", does not indicate it's value is the same as preceding entries in the same column. It usually means instead ""0"", i.e., no taxable valuation.

In the ""Real Estate"" valuation column, there may be several separate tenures with multiple residents in each tenure in the same building or location. Each tenure is usually identified by having the taxpayers at that specific tenure identified with an ellipse at one end of their names.

Name spellings can vary from year to year but may refer to the same taxpayer.

The ""Valuation"" book series (sometimes called ""Street Books"" or ""Taking Books"") represents the data compiled house to house as the Assistant Assessors walked up and down each street and inspecting each house. For each Ward, the usually proceeded down one side of major streets, then proceeded up one side of side streets, then returned on the other side of the side street until it met the main street again. It then continued down the same side of the main street. But. . . . other years, Assessors followed a different route through the Ward. The incomplete data some years may be a result of the Assessors being lazy or inefficient one year. If a taxpayer's name is missing one year, it may not indicate he had moved, merely that the assessor missed him. 

For earlier years, many streets had unnumbered houses, so it may be difficult or impossible to locate precisely where a taxpayer lived. But by patiently and meticulously going through the same Ward X books for several years, sometimes you can piece together a precise location. i.e., Washington Street, two buildings south of the NW corner of Pleasant Street. Comparing street number listings in the corresponding year for the published Boston Directories may also help to locate a taxpayer's house, shop, tenure or property.

But, for some years no streets are listed at all, only the Ward number. For these years, you can usually go to the books for preceding or later years to find the correct street name for a specific tenure and resident.

If you are looking for a specific person's name, start with the ""Tax"" book series for each ward -- this has an alphabetical name index. Then you can go to the ""Valuation"" book series to find more detailed information.

To find every listing for property owned in the entire city in one year by one man or one business partnership or corporation, you have to go to the books for all 12 wards. Wealthy businessmen and real estate investors might own property in all 12.

There are many more idiosyncrasies and abbreviations from year to year and volume to volume that can make parsing specific information difficult, and sometimes impossible.