Monday, March 18, 2013

Questions on Sources, Poll Tax, and Technology

Anonymous asks:
”I found someone on Ancestry[.com] that has my family back to the 1400s.  They don’t have any sources listed and they aren’t answering my messages.  I want to use this information but I have a feeling you are going to tell me I can’t.”

I am not going to tell you that you CAN’T use it but I will tell you that you SHOULDN’T.  Even if every single relationship in that person’s file was completely sourced, you still shouldn’t just copy into your file without some further investigation.

Whether it is sourced or not, start with the first relationship that you don’t have and then research it yourself to see if it pans out.  If the person has sources, you will have clues as to where to look but you still have to do the research yourself. 

If the information has been thoroughly researched and sourced you could add the information to your file using this researcher as your source.  This would be no different than using a compiled genealogy book.  If you want to use it as a source then you need to evaluate how valid you think the research is and document that. 

Dave asks:
“On a tax record, what does 1 poll mean?”

A poll tax is a tax that is placed on a person.  It had nothing to do with whether or not he owned property. Those that had to pay a poll tax were men between the ages of 21 and 50 [age varied a bit by jurisdiction]. Those that paid this poll tax would then be eligible to vote and to serve on a jury.  This was an easy way to keep poor people from participating in local affairs. 

Annice asks:
”Where is the best place to go to keep up to date with the technology aspect of Genealogy?  You mentioned that Thomas MacEntee is the expert but I can’t find anything on his website that tells me the things I want to know.”

You need to catch Thomas by reading the articles he writes for various magazines and in the webinars that he gives.  He has done several webinars for Legacy Family Tree Webinars and here is a list of articles that he has written.  I also recommend you join the Technology for Genealogy Facebook group.  Thomas, along with many other techies, post all kinds of great info here.  I just checked and there are over 1000 members and the group isn’t even that old.  If you have a specific question you can post it and it will get answered.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Tax lists (including poll taxes) may have had that purpose, but they are also great resources for genealogists. Depending on the jurisdiction, and the year, men could be required to pay tax from age 16 to age of death. Or 18 to 60. Or 21 to 50. Investigate the particular jurisdiction and the year, to find who was required to pay.
    On a tax record, "one poll" would have meant he was paying for himself. Sometimes you see "three polls". Probably paying for self and two sons over 16, or one son, and aged father.
    Sometimes you see "two polls" for a few years, and then "one poll", and another taxpayer of 17 or 20 of the same surname. Probably a son growing beyond the age where he must pay his own.
    These records can be invaluable.
    Often records in the same area at the same period treated African American people, very early, very differently, and taxed both men and women. And *these* poll taxes continued, in some places, into the 1960s/1970s. *This* is where the 'poll tax' got such a bad name....
    But, early, don't ignore these records.

  2. Hi..i have been trying to be creative with alternative sources for military records.destroyed in the 70s you might suggest? I am specifically looking for a DD214 from the 1945 era.Thanks!

  3. This is a great question and I think I will save it for a blog post :) I will post it on 20 March 2013 so stay turned!