Genesse County Michigan Tax Roll with title US Tax Record Methodology

How To Research US Tax Records

When you discover the value of using US Tax records in your genealogy research, the next step is to develop a strategy to research the assessments in a methodological way.

In this video, I walk you step by step through my tax record research process.

Using Tax Records to Find Your Ancestors - Genealogy Methodology Tutorial
Watch this video on YouTube.

Set Up for Success When Researching US Tax Records

Before you begin researching in US tax records, prepare to organize what you want to find in the documents and what you discover.

I dislike research logs but instead prefer research reports. As such, I set up a research tracker (my precursor to a research report) to outline what I plan to investigate and what I discover along the way.

US Tax Record Research Plan
US Tax Record Research Plan

Notice in this US Tax Record research plan, I have quick links to pertinent reference materials and quick facts about the location I’m researching.

You’ll notice that I currently have links to maps, Michigan Statutes, and probate records.

  • The maps help me navigate as I browse through the digital tax books.
  • The statutes help me understand what was taxed and how.
  • The probate records are the next step in my research after I complete this yearly review.
  • I should also include links to land records. When I discover an increase or decrease in taxable land, I should investigate land records for a possible reason.

Below the quick links, I have a table to extract relevant information on the Genesee County, Michigan tax tables. You’ll want to add different columns depending on what your county’s tax lists recorded.

As I researched tax records, I noticed the strong correlation, particularly in this location, between tax assessments and land transfers. As such, I made a table with columns to reflect my need to record both records in one table. I the following columns:

  • Year
  • Property location
    • Michigan has a township-section-range arrangement. I keep this separate from the specific property description.
  • Transfer
    • indicates when taxes were paid
    • indicates when land transfers happened
  • Parcel
  • Notes
    • Taxes paid
    • Land transfer notes (not shown)

Your tables will vary according to the information available on your tax records. Just set up a document or a spreadsheet in advance before you dive into researching your records.

As you find records to add to your table, save the files to your online family trees or in your genealogy database. That way, when you are finished assessing your research, your source are already organized.

Steps For Researching US Tax Records

Since Tax Records vary depending on the location you research, use this follow research plan to guide you through the investigation process. Modify the plan as needed based on what you have available.

Genesee County, Michigan Map
Genesee County, Michigan Map
  1. Where applicable consult a map:
    • For locations that tax property, a map will help you navigate through the tax books to find your ancestors.
    • After you find your ancestor’s property, locate the land on the map for further insight and clues.
  2. Research searchable tax records on:
    • Ancestry
    • FamilySearch
    • FindMyPast
    • MyHeritage
  3. Research browse only tax records.
    1. Genealogy websites
    2. Collections in Archives and Libraries
  4. Extract Details to Your Tax Record Tracker
  5. Consult State Statutes to Better Understand Applicable Tax Laws.
  6. Expand Your Tax Record research using Land and Probate records.
Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan
Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan

What Will You Find in US Tax Records?

Researching tax records does not have to be difficult, though the process can be time-consuming. Or at least it’s slow at the time of this blog post.

If you have avoided researching in US Tax Records because the seemed to difficult to tackle, it’s time you give them a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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