Reconstruction Period Research Forum
Poll Tax Records
Message thread duplicated from Main Forum to relate and discuss the role of such taxes during the Reconstruction period. vkn
Does anyone know what kind of information is contained in Poll Tax records?
Re: Poll Tax Records
Poll Taxes I am familiar with in 19th century Georgia were paid as part of a free adult man's annual county tax, and are recorded in one columnn of a county's tax digest, along with taxes on land, personal estate and other taxable categories of property. There is no special information other than a check-in-the-box that a tax was due or paid.
Up to 1865 in Georgia, the poll tax (literally a "head tax") also applied to slaves, and was paid by the owner or hirer at the same time as the other taxes, annually. One difference was that the poll tax on slaves counted every slave under 60 years old regardless of gender, but the poll on white people only taxed males between 21 and 60 years of age. A second difference came after 1849, when the poll tax on adult male whites was reduced to 25 cents, but the tax on slaves remained at 37 1/2 cents per poll, so there had to be two columns in the tax digest, one for "poll" and one for "poll of slaves."
For most of the antebellum period through 1865, Free Persons of Color paid a punitive poll tax of $5 per head.
After Emancipation, from 1866-1868, the poll tax in Georgia continued to be paid by white adult males, and employers were responsible to pay the poll tax for all adult freedmen in their employment (freedwomen and children were not taxed). The law failed to take into consideration that any Black men might be self-employed, and assumed that all freedpeople would continue to have masters/employers!
In 1868, under military Reconstruction, Georgia extended the elective franchise to all adult freedmen. Paying one's taxes had always been a prerequisite to voting, so this meant that Black men now had to be named in the tax digests to document that their tax had been paid.
Beginning in 1868, in Georgia, all adult men (and all property-owning women) theoretically should be named in the tax digests.
Georgia segregated tax digests into "White" and "Colored" sections until 1964. In the 20th century, the White section was printed on white paper and the Colored section was printed on yellow colored paper!
The nice thing for historians and genealogists about Georgia tax digests from 1866 up to the 1890s is that the "Freedmen" section includes a column for "employers name" as well as "freedman's name."
Thanks David. This is very interesting. I was hoping that the poll tax would list slaves by name but it sounds like they were enumerated here as well. I can still check these records though for further documentation of my 2g grandparents as I have documentation of the land that they purchased in January and November of 1887.