Tax records vary in content. They may include the name and residence of the taxpayer, description of the real estate, name of original purchaser, description of personal property, number of males over 21, number of school children, slaves, and farm animals. They are usually arranged by date and locality, and they are not normally indexed. Tax records can be used in place of missing land and census records to locate a person’s residence.
The first tax records of Kentucky were created in the 1780s while Kentucky was part of Virginia. For example, the 1787 "census" of Virginia contained an accounting of the name of every white male over 21 years (called "tithables"), the number of white males between 16 and 21 years, the number of slaves over 16 and slaves under 16 years, together with a listing of his horses, cattle and carriages, and also the names of all persons to whom ordinary licenses and physicians’ licenses were issued.
Schreiner-Yantis, Netti and Florence Speakman Love. The 1787 Census of Virginia. 3 vols. Springfield, Virginia.: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987. (Family History Library book 975 R4sn.) Kentucky residents are listed as being in Kentucky County.
Another good source for Kentucky tax lists before statehood is:
Fothergill, Augusta B. Virginia Taxpayers, 1782–1787 Other Than Those Published by the United States Census Bureau. 1940. Reprint, Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing, 1974. (Family History Library book 975.5 R4f.) This includes Fayette and Lincoln Counties, Kentucky. It is alphabetical and contains the taxpayer’s name, county, and number of slaves.
Another source for early tax records is:
Early Kentucky Tax Records from The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Baltimore, Maryland.: Genealogical Publishing, 1984. (Family History Library book 976.9 R4e.) These tax lists contain the taxpayer’s name and county, the number of acres, males over or under 16, slaves, horses and cattle, and the water course near the property. An index is included.
Poll taxes were paid by white males age 21 or over for the privilege of voting. Since this was an annual tax, the tax lists serve as censuses. Some were used to "reconstruct" the missing 1790 and 1800 federal censuses. They can help trace the migration of families from county to county between federal censuses. The Family History Library has copies of tax lists for most counties to the 1890s. Many of the original tax lists from 1782 to 1875 are at the Kentucky Historical Society. These are also available on 398 microfilms at the Kentucky Historical Society. An inventory of the films is:
Kentucky Historical Society Index to Tax Lists. Frankfort, KY: The Society, 1973. (Family History Library book 976.9 R4k; film 1036831 item 4.) This index is arranged by county and includes the year of the tax list and the Kentucky Historical Society reel and page numbers.
A list of persons taxed during the Civil War is:
United States. Bureau of Internal Revenue. Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Kentucky, 1862–1866. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M0768. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1971. (Family History Library films 1491176–99.) This extensive tax list shows monthly and annual taxes on personal property and licenses to practice and do business, income, and those who produced and distributed goods. Kentucky was divided into nine tax districts. Each film has a full list of counties and the districts they belonged to.
To locate Kentucky taxation records in the Family History Library, use a Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
KENTUCKY, [COUNTY]- TAXATION