18th Century Tax Records
- 1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index A-C
- 1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index D-I
- 1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index J-N
- 1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index O-S
- 1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index T-Z
- 1765-1799 Chester County Tax Index A-B
- 1765-1799 Chester County Tax Index C-D
- 1765-1799 Chester County Tax Index E-G
With very few exceptions, Chester County Archives (CCA) has all of the surviving 18th century Chester County tax records. Records are extant for 1715, 1718-1740, 1747-1800 (bulk dates – there are years within these time spans for which tax records have not survived or taxes were not collected). All 18th-century records held by CCA were microfilmed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. They are arranged in three series, designated by the letter “C” for County, “P” for Provincial, and “S” for State. Each tax is labeled with specific information as to statute, the date ordered, and the dates of returns and appeals. A complete set of this film is available at the Chester County Historical Society Library (CCHS) and at CCA. Access to the original records is limited as they are fragile.
The taxation process generated three types of tax records:
- return of taxables (list of names with taxable property, no value assigned)
- assessment (list of names with taxable property with values)
- rates (list of names with amount of tax – there may be a second set of adjusted rates drawn up after appeals)
All pre-1765 tax records at CCA are rates, with the exception of a 1726 return for Thornbury. CCA also has photocopies of rates for 1693 and 1696 and the return for 1760 (originals at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
There are four categories of taxables:
- landholder – held land by lease or deed (PA taxed the occupant)
- inmate – married or widowed, landless (contract labor)
- freeman – single, free man at least 21 years of age (as of 1718). Had to be out of servitude or apprenticeship at least 6 months at time of tax. Taxation of freemen was inconsistent. It appears that before 1755 single men living with their parents were not taxed.
- nonresident landowner – owner of unseated (unoccupied) land
In practice, the very poor or infirm were dropped from the tax rolls. The only surviving pre-1765 return (1726, Thornbury) lists people who are not on the 1726 tax rate. For example, Eleanor Clues (“a poor widdow woman never yet assessed”) and Charles Howel (“he is a poor man has a wife & one child”) only appear on the return. There is no reason to believe that assessors in other townships were not making similar judgments.
Certain tax records provide additional information. State taxes to fund the Revolutionary War often include notations as to whether a person supported the Revolution. The 1783 state tax gives the number of white and black inhabitants in each household, as well as the number of buildings on the property. The 1796 and 1799 county taxes often provide some description of buildings.
1715-1764 Chester County Tax Index
This is an index to all extant tax records from 1715-1764. Tax rates are the only records that survive for this time period and will only provide the name of the taxable and their tax rate. Between 1740 and 1747 only two taxes were ordered and collected. The tax records for the years 1742 and 1745 have not survived.
Categories – From 1715 through the 1750s inmates were generally not separated out of the landholder category.
Name Variations - Be sure to check all possible spellings of your surname. The township tax assessor typically wrote the taxable's name phonetically on the return. The returns would then be transcribed into the final tax list leaving open the possibility that the clerk misinterpreted the township assessor's hand writing. The 1715-1764 index is compiled from the final tax list.
Lancaster County - The following townships that eventually became Lancaster County in this index are: Conestoga, Donegal, Pequea, Tulpehocken (now in Berks County).
Schuylkill District - This district included the following townships: Coventry, Nantmeal, Vincent.
New Garden - Residents of New London, London Britain, London Grove and Londonderry are indexed as "Adjacent Inhabitants" in this township prior to 1721/22.
Society Land - Land owned by the Society of Free Traders that eventually become Newlin.
1765-1799 Chester County Tax Index
This index represents many of the extant tax records for the years represented but is not complete. The following years are included in the index: 1765-1768, 1770-1776*, 1778, 1780-1783, 1786-1789, 1791, 1793, 1795-1799.
* The 1776 tax assessment is fragmented and incomplete.