Family Tree Friday: More on Tax Records at the National Archives

Last time I talked about the 1798 Direct Tax. This time, I want to talk about tax assessments during the Civil War.

With the passage of the Internal Revenue Act on July 1, 1862 (12 Stat. 432), Congress authorized the collection of monthly and annual taxes on goods and services, licenses, income, and personal property. The legislation was complicated, and provided for the creation of collection districts in every state and territory under Federal control. Each state or territory could have one or several collection districts – how many there were depended on the population. The assessment lists were collected by the assistant assessors at the local level, and then turned over to the district assessor and collector.

Much like the 1798 direct tax reflected military tensions with France, the Civil War assessments were instituted to raise money for war efforts.
There were three types of assessment lists – annual, monthly, and special. Annual and monthly lists reflect assessments made annually or monthly, while special lists include supplemental (not recurring) taxes.

On the 1863 annual lists for Washington, DC, we see that there are three categories (or classes) of taxes – ad valorem (income) duty, licenses, and enumerated articles. All entries show the name of the individual and their address. George Emerson paid $60.00 tax on income from two rooms he rented out. He was also a retailer, and was assessed $6.67 for his license. The third class of annual taxes (enumerated articles) imposed a tax on certain types of personal possessions. H.N. Easby owned a one horse carriage, for which he was assessed one dollar.

Annual tax assessments for Washington, DC; 1863.
Annual tax assessments for Washington, DC; 1863.

Monthly lists are similar and mostly show licensing taxes. In 1862, Browning and Keating, a wholesale liquor dealer, was located at 353 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. They were assessed $100.00. They were also a retail liquor dealer, as well as a general wholesale dealer. In total, they paid $170.00 in taxes in September 1862.

Monthly tax assessments for Washington, DC; September 1862.
Monthly tax assessments for Washington, DC; September 1862.

The Civil War tax assessment lists have been microfilmed and are available at the National Archives Building in DC as well as several regional facilities. They have also been digitized and are available online at Some of our regional facilities have tax assessment records that date as late as 1917. All of the assessment records are part of Record Group 58, Records of the Internal Revenue Service.

2 thoughts on “Family Tree Friday: More on Tax Records at the National Archives

  1. I found my g grandfather listed as a prisoner at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary from 1907 to 1909. He was convicted in Big Stone Gap, VA. His crime was “violating the internal revenue act.” What does that mean? Is it possibly for making moonshine? Where can I find out more? I tried the Wise County court records, but they just link you to the home page of

    1. Hi Desta,

      The best way to find out what your great grandfather was convicted of would be to get a hold of his case file. Our Atlanta facility holds case files for inmates of the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for the years 1902 to 1921. You can find an index here, where you can get the inmate number. To request copies of the file, you can contact the Atlanta facility directly.

      – Katherine

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