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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Researching the Early History of Black Lives in the Connecticut River Valley


Tax records are available at both the state and local levels. These resources help identify residency and frequently include the names of heads of households, ages, relationships, occupations, enslaved people, wealth, personal property, livestock, assessed valuations, acreage, and property locations.

Since tax records list the heads of households in particular areas at specific times, they often serve as substitutes for lost census records. Tax records are usually very complete resources because they include eligible voters and every owner, male and female, of real estate and taxable personal property.

The W.E.B. Du Bois Library owns significant Massachusetts tax records in various formats. Tax lists may also appear in town histories.

Selective List of Materials in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library

The Massachusetts tax valuation list of 1771 - Pruitt, Bettye Hobbs 
Call Number: F 63 P838+
In July, 1771, the Massachusetts General Court passed "An Act for Enquiring into the Rateable Estates of this Province." Each town then elected assessors who prepared a list of all taxpayers and taxable property within that town. Printed tax forms listed 27 categories of taxable property and recorded all males 16 years of age and older. This volume offers a transcription of and name index for the 38,000 names found in the Massachusetts Archives manuscript valuations (Microfilm A 180 Volumes 132-134).

Massachusetts local tax list through 1776 
Call Number: Microfilm 1579 Reels 8 and 9 only Salem 1682-1773
Reproduces tax lists of Massachusetts towns during the Colonial period. Also includes detailed valuation returns from the Massachusetts Archives (Microfilm A 180 Volumes 132-134).

Tax and valuation lists of Massachusetts towns before 1776. Finding list for the microfilm editions, compiled by Ruth Crandall 
Call Number: Microforms Guides HJ 9255 A3 T38
Guide for Microfilm 1579. Provides a reel-by-reel contents listing for each town. Detailed introduction explains the procedures employed in compiling these 17th and 18th century tax lists.

A list of the polls and of the estates, real and personal, of the several proprietors and inhabitants of the town[s] of the Commonwealth, 1784 
Call Number: Microfilm 8730
Contains assessors' returns of Massachusetts towns pursuant to "An act for inquiring into the rateable estate of this Commonwealth" passed by the General Court in 1784. A United States Congressional regulation required an accurate accounting of the quantity of land within each state.The returns, microfilmed in rough alphabetical order by town, list survey buildings (dwelling houses, shops, barns, mills, iron works, etc.), cattle, and acres of meadow, pasturage, salt-marsh, etc. Covers the following towns:

Abington, Acton, Alford, Amesbury, Amherst, Ashburnham, Ashby, Barnstable, Barre, Becket, Bedford, Belchertown, Berlin, Billerica, Blandford, Bolton, Boston, Boxborough, Boxford, Bridgewater, Brimfield, Brookfield, Brookline, Buckland, Cambridge, Colrain, Dracut, Ipswich, Lancaster, Malden, Milton, Newburyport, Oakham, Plymouth, Roxbury, Sandwich, Springfield, Taunton, Tyringham, Walpole, Warwich, Weston, Williamstown, Worcester

An index and guide to the microfilm edition of the Massachusetts and Maine direct tax census of 1798 - New England Historic Genealogical Society 
Call Number: HJ 9255 A3 N4, Microforms Guides HJ 9255 A3 N4
Guide to Microfilm 4778. Provides reel-by-reel contents and an index of towns. Notes the town records, now unavailable because they were destroyed in a fire. Also includes the principal statutes and directives which defined the purpose and methods of this tax.

Massachusetts and Maine direct tax census of 1798 [compiled by] New England Historic Genealogical Society 
Call Number: Microfilm 4778
In July, 1798, the Senate and House of Representatives voted to lay a direct tax on the United States. This first federal direct tax on real property and slaves was intended to raise money for an impending war with France. The returns for Massachusetts and Maine, then a district of Massachusetts, were deposited in the Old Boston Custom House. Today the remaining original volumes reside at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

This "Federal Dwelling House Tax" contains the owner's or tenant's name of each house in every town in Massachusetts and Maine. The lists also include the acreage, the number of dwellings and their descriptions (dimensions, materials, etc.), relative boundaries, valuations, taxes due, and number of slaves. The names are generally in an alphabetical arrangement for each town. Use this census as a companion to the 1800 US Federal Census (Microfilm D 254) and to track the movement of individuals between the 1790 and 1800 censuses.

Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston - Boston (Mass.). Registry Dept. 
Call Number: F 73.1 B74 Volume 22
"The Statistics of the United States' Direct Tax of 1798, as assessed on Boston." "The tax return is so fully compiled that the area and boundaries of every piece of land in the town is given, together with the names of the owners, occupiers, and abutters." This transcription also contains a name index for the individuals mentioned in the "bounds and valuations."

Boston taxpayers in 1821 
Call Number: F 73.25 B767 1988

List of persons, copartnerships, and corporations who were taxed on twenty-thousand dollars and upwards, in the City of Boston, in the year 1860 - Boston (Mass.). Assessing Dept. 
Call Number: HJ 9256 B78

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Search the Library Catalog by Subject. Examples of subject searches:

Real property tax - Massachusetts - Hardwick - Periodicals

Real property - Valuation - Massachusetts

Tax assessment - Massachusetts - Leverett - Periodicals

Taxation - Massachusetts - Boston - Lists

Taxation - England - Essex - Lists

Taxation - Massachusetts - Wenham