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Apr 27, 2018

Use Tax Records to Document Your Ancestor or the Enslaver in South Carolina

If you have never searched tax records when looking for an ancestor, it is a great place to start when trying to fill in details about your ancestor. The census tracks a person every ten years from 1790 to 1940 with the exception of the 1890 US Census which was almost entirely destroyed in a fire.  We also showed you the 1869 Militia Enrollment and the 1869 South Carolina State Census which can help you find your ancestor before 1870, but tax records can also fill in more of the years in between the US Census.

Tax records give different details about your ancestor than census records. Create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everyone you find. You should look for family members and the people who enslaved your family. Some of the details you collect would include what we found in the FamilySearch Wiki article on South Carolina Taxation:




Description of real estate

Original purchaser

Personal property

Number of males over 21

Number of school children


Farm animals

“Annual tax lists can help establish ages, residences, relationships, and the year an individual died or left the area,” South Carolina Taxation.

Where can you find tax records for South Carolina?

  1. Offices of the Assessor, Auditor, Sheriff, and Treasurer in each county. 
  2. South Carolina Department of Archives and History: Taxation
  3. County records: South Carolina Department of Archives and History
  1. There are tax records by the federal government for 1864–1866
    United States. Bureau of Internal Revenue. Internal Revenue Assessment List for South Carolina, 1864–1866. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1988.) FHL films 1578451-1578452, South Carolina Taxation.
  2. The Family History Library has some county tax records on film, beginning with the late 1700s in some cases. To access available tax records, use the Place-names Search in the FamilySearch Catalog for:
  • SOUTH CAROLINA, [COUNTY] (Put in the county you are researching) – TAXATION, South Carolina Taxation.
  1. S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 –

More tax records going back to 1700’s are listed on FamilySearch Wiki: South Carolina Taxation.

An example using my family

Hopefully, you now know how to access tax records. The county, the archives,, and are places that were cited above. Take a look at the 1865 tax record for James Kincaid Vance (1818-1896) that I discovered below.

blog 54 Image 1 U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Records of the Internal Revenue Service. Record Group 58. The National Archives at Washington, DC.
Blog 54 Image 2 U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Records of the Internal Revenue Service. Record Group 58. The National Archives at Washington, DC.

He was the enslaver of Beverly Vance in Cokesbury, Abbeville, South Carolina. He was married to Matilda, and they had children. We do not know if he owned Beverly’s family prior to emancipation, but he did own Beverly.

In this tax assessment, J. K. Vance paid $4.00 for a carriage and a gold watch. This is the only record for J. K. Vance in 1865 that has been found so far. It is useful because he moved and traveled from Cokesbury, to Laurens, to Louisiana, to Greenville, and anything that provides his residence allows me to trace him. We know that it is important to trace him because I need to determine how much interaction he had with Beverly after 1865.

I have not been able to verify Beverly’s date of death. He and J. K. Vance shared the same father. Maria Conant (sp) (1810 –  ) was Beverly’s mother. She lived in Laurens with Beverly before 1840 when J. K Vance married. J. K. Vance moved with his wife, Louisa, and Beverly to Cokesbury. Beverly went back to back Laurens in 1868 and purchased a watch from the estate of Samuel Vance (1789 – 1868), the father of J K. Vance.

Next week, we will share the results of a search of father and son George Chappelle among tax assessments.

Sharpen the Saw

Can you use tax assessments to document an ancestor or an enslaver? Share it in our Facebook Group.