Tax records are often difficult to find, are not usually indexed, and give limited information,. Because of this, they are normally searched only after exhausting other sources. Certain circumstances may suggest consulting tax records earlier. For example, apprentice tax records should be consulted in the person sought was employed in a trade which had a guild during the 18th or early 19th centuries. Also, Land Tax Assessments may help track family movements during the 1780-1832 time period. Records exist for different taxes levied throughout English history. Separate records may have been created for assessment and collection of the taxes.
Originally government revenues came from property owned by the Crown. The government levied small national taxes during times of specific financial need. National taxes were separate from the local taxes, or "rates," collected by the parishes for local services and poor relief (see the "Church Records" section of this outline).
The earliest national taxes were called "lay subsidies." Other taxes followed. Major types of taxes included: Lay Subsidies. Beginning in the late 12th century, the government sporadically assessed taxes on personal property. The records give the name, parish, and amount. The subsidy records from 1542 to 1545 contain the most information, listing people over the age of 16 with income from land, with taxable goods worth two pounds, or with an annual wage of one pound or more. The original records are in the National Archives.
Poll Tax. This tax was levied on all males except beggars and monks. The few surviving records for 1377, 1379, and 1381 are in the Public Record Office. These records give the name and amount only but are kept by parish. The government revived the poll tax between 1660 and 1698, but few records still exist. Those that do are in city archives and county record offices.
Hearth Tax. This tax of a shilling for each fireplace or stove (except those of paupers) was collected twice a year from 1662 to 1689. Records give the name and number of hearths. The names of those exempt (poor people) were included from 1663. Records from 1662 to 1666 and 1669 to 1674 are in the National Archives. The other years are among records of quarter sessions (see the"Court Records" section of this outline).
Land Tax Assessment. From 1693 the government assessed a tax on all land valued over a fixed annual rent of 20 shillings. Read more...
Apprenticeship Tax. From 1710 to 1811, a tax was assessed on the money a master received for an apprenticeship indenture. The tax was due within one year after the term of indenture expired. Apprentices put out by a parish or charity were exempt from the tax.
The records contain the master’s name, address, and trade, as well as the apprentice’s name and date of indenture. The records are in both city (if the tax was paid in London) and country (referring to the rest of England except for London) records. There are indexes for 1710 to 1774 (Family History Library films 477624–637). The original records are at the National Archives (see the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline for the address). For more information on apprenticeships, see the "Occupations" section of this outline.
Other Taxes. From 1642 to 1680, each parish was assessed a tax called the "monthly assessment." The records are of limited value since they do not always give individual names.
In 1661 the restored monarch improved his poor financial condition with a tax called the "free and voluntary present." Records of this tax are arranged by place.
From 1695 to 1706, a "marriage tax" was assessed on bachelors, widowers, and childless couples. It was also charged for parish register entries of baptism, marriage, and burial. Few records survive, but those that do serve as a surname index to parish registers.
A tax on each window in a dwelling was collected from 1696 to 1798. Records give the owner’s name and number of windows.
Records of other taxes are held at the National Archives.
Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library has some published tax records and some microfilmed original lists. They are listed in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
ENGLAND - TAXATION
ENGLAND, [COUNTY] - TAXATION
ENGLAND, [COUNTY], [PARISH] - TAXATION
Records published by societies or in periodicals are not listed separately in the catalog. Some are listed in:
- Some records are listed and described in John WestVillage Records. Second Edition. Chichester, England: Phillimore, 1982. (Family History Library book 942 H27w 1982.)
For further information, see the following sources:
- Beresford, M. W. The Lay Subsidies and the Poll Taxes. Canterbury, England: Phillimore & Company, 1963. (Family History Library book 942 A1 no. 836.) This explains the history and existing records of early English taxes.
- Dowell, Stephen, and A. R. Ilersic. A History of Taxation and Taxes in England. Six Volumes. London, England: Frank Cass & Co., Ltd., 1965. (Family History Library book 942 R4d.) These volumes give a detailed history of taxation in England.
- Gibson, Jeremy. The Hearth Tax and Other Later Stuart Tax Lists and the Association Oath Rolls. Solihull, England: Federation of Family History Societies Publications, Limited. (Family History Library book 942 R43g.) This reference gives the types of taxes, dates covered, and repository catalog numbers by county of surviving tax records.