Sunday, November 20, 2022

Taxes and Other Dull Topics


I can see why some people don't really take to family history. There is a dreary side to research which requires the fortitude necessary to drag one's self through such scintillating record sets as local and property taxes. And that is pretty much what this Tilson and Davis liaison from Washington County, Tennessee, is calling me to do.

In the face of a cheery upcoming holiday season, reading through tax records is hardly what I am looking forward to doing. Brick wall ancestors, however, sometimes call us to slog through such details. 

Jumping in—after all, one can never start a project without taking that first step—I found one record set at FamilySearch which looked promising. The Tennessee tax records in this set began in Washington County in 1778, plenty of time for my Tilson ancestors to make their arrival from Virginia before the last page of the collection's initial volume wrapped up the year of 1846. After all, my Tilson ancestors—and a possible Davis ancestor—were said to have arrived just as that century opened.

Unfortunately, despite highly legible pages, thanks to a clerk with a straightforward hand—not too messy, but with not too many flourishes, either—it appeared the records seemed to skip a few years, right when I'd like to spot the first appearance of my Tilsons and Davises. I did find one Nathaniel Davis—not that I know anything about this man, but it could lead to something promising—but not much else.

I'm still in the page-by-page process right now. The record set is not indexed for easy searching, though it is mostly organized by year. It appears everyone was organized by groups under men called Captains. Until I know which captain would be the overseer for the region in which my ancestors settled, I'm bound to move my way through the entire set, page by page. Wouldn't want to miss anything essential.

Image above: Washington County (Tennesssee) List of Taxables for Captain William Taylor's Company in 1801, including entry for Nathaniel Davis; from digitized tax books 1778-1846, film number 825545.


  1. Replies
    1. I could read handwriting like that all day long--and I did, actually. Unfortunately not finding much so far, but at least my eyes weren't complaining!


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