This week’s #52Ancestors prompt, “Taxes” has been the most challenging prompt so far. But I have learned quite a bit.
Until this week it had never occurred to me to use tax records in genealogical research. That means that in order to do the research I had to first research how to research. Family Tree Magazine gave me the most help in this regard with the article Genealogy Workbook: Tax Records by James M. Beidler. From this article I learned first why tax records are most useful: “Tax records can be instrumental in tracing ancestors between US cencus years and before the first federal census in 1790.” With this hint I focused my research on my maternal grandmother’s tree as most of direct ancestors in that line were American-born. Finally I found this tax record via Ancestory.com for my 6th great-grandfather, Richard W. Jewell.
Let me help you know what this says. There are two pages shown. The entry for Richard William Jewell is shown on the left page in the red box. The columns at the top of the page are (as far as I can tell): Names, Personal, Head, %tax, Tax (split up in dollars and cents). Richard W. Jewell had $2550 in real property, and $220 in personal property, with a total taxable amount of $2770. He paid $2.35. That’s only a 0.08% tax rate. I would happily take that tax rate.
Beidler explained that a “typical tax in the early days was on the value of land, because real estate (‘real property’) was the source of most wealth. This tax, importantly, was sometime levied not on the actual owner of the real property but upon the person who was using it.” As a result, I don’t know if Richard W Jewell actually owned $2550 worth of land or if he was a farmer renting it and “reaping the profits from th use of that land.”
The examples of personal property given by Beidler are “farm animals and carriages, as well as enslaved persons.” However, “the types of property varied by area.” I cannot know with the information I currently have if Richard W Jewell was a slave owner as this tax roll taken June 15, 1802, was compiled during the years that New York state was gradually abolishing slavery (1799-1827).
So what do I learn about Richard W Jewell from this tax roll? I learn that in 1803 he lived in Fishkill, New York. I learned that he either owned or worked land and that he owned taxable personal property.
Here is what else I know of Richard W Jewell:
He was born on June 2, 1745 in Tarrytown, New York. He married Sarah Sheldon in Poughkeepsie, New York. They had one son, Josias Jewell in 1786 (I wrote about Josiah’s daughter, Sarah Ann Jewell, in an earlier post). He lived in Fishkill from at least 1800-1820 (aged 55-75). In 1814 he served in the War of 1812 (which lasted into 1815 as part of the New York State Militia. For his service he was paid $20.
He passed away at aged 77 on 9 December 1822 in Westchester, New York and was buried in near-by Wappingers Falls. It is impressive that he lived to age 77 considering the average life expectancy during the antebellum era was 37 years old.
There is a lot of research to be done on Richard’s life. For example, the record of his marriage to Sarah Sheldon seems to be indexed wrong. It lists the marriage year as 1822, the year of Richard’s death and more than 30 years after Sarah’s death in 1790. In order to get the correct year I need to look at the microfilm that is housed in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Really, though, considering I knew nothing about this ancestor a week ago, I feel pretty good about what information I have. My biggest take away from my work is that the internet is amazing. I have been able to access records from New York from the comfort of my home in Idaho quickly. Just imagine what Richard W. Jewell would think of that.