Friday, October 14, 2016

Using tax digests for genealogical research

According to a recent article by the Augusta Genealogical Society, property tax digests can be a great tool for historical and genealogical research.  I am somewhat surprised by this since tax digests are not permanent records under the state retention schedule.  In Georgia, tax digests are temporary records to be retained for 14 years.  That being said, I imagine that a lot of counties haven't destroyed their old tax digests, and the article points out that has a large collection.  Records probably vary a lot from county to county, and it sounds useful if a county has maintained them.  Here are the Augusta Genealogical Society's insights:
Your Story: Tax records invaluable for genealogical work
By Augusta Genealogical Society
Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016
One of the most valuable, yet overlooked record sets for genealogical research is the tax digest.
When census records are missing, tax records can fill the gap, showing residence in a particular place at a particular time. Combined with other evidence, a number of facts can be gleaned from extant tax digest. But extracting information from the digest requires patience and perseverance.
Regardless of the state or county in which your ancestors lived, tax records were created, although not all have survived. A check of the websites for the state archives where your family lived might be helpful in determining what is obtainable. It is also important to understand what the tax records imply, which can change from year to year according to the laws established by the state Legislature for each year.
In Georgia, many tax digests have been preserved. Original digests can often still be found in county courthouses, either in the office of the Superior Court clerk or Probate Court, or in the county archives or records retention facility. Most have been microfilmed and are held by the Georgia Archives in Morrow. Some, but very few, are indexed.
Many 18th century Georgia tax digests have been digitized and can be accessed from the comfort of your own home and computer by signing into Georgia’s Virtual Vault. also has a large collection of late 18th and 19th century Georgia tax digests that are accessible online. Although is a subscription site, it can often be accessed through your local public library. So far, Georgia tax digests found on are not complete for every county, but they certainly are worth checking before resorting to rolling through microfilm...

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