Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Digging through Tax Digests

The tax digest is sometimes misunderstood. Goodness knows it is never in alphabetical order and difficult to read. However, it is a record of property owned in a specific county and is there for tax purposes. Sometimes it provides lots of details, such as exact acreage, watercourses, adjoining neighbors, and whether or not the person was deceased or an orphan. Administrators and guardians file these reports with the county. Also, the digest lists Defaulters; that is, those persons who for some reason or the other did not pay their tax. Good clue here. Did they move or die? What I do is try and discover the subsequent owners of that property. All to go on is the acreage, watercourse, etc., but that is sufficient for the old days. I look for the same surname and see if that exact parcel may be listed under perhaps a son, or heir. The reason for this is that deeds were not always recorded and we simply do not know who the land passed to. If there is enough information from a deed, such as land lot number and district, you can go to the county tax commissioner's office, look at the map, and determine its location. A good followup here is to visit all the cemeteries in the area to search for relatives.

By Jeannette Holland Austin, author of over 100 genealogy books
Virginia Pioneers

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