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john allen family slate creek kentucky

Enumerations - a work in progress

Tax Lists

The information collected on tax lists varied from year to year and was essentially based on state revenue needs. The lists before Kentucky became a state in 1792 were based on Virginia requirements. There are 2 types of tax lists available, personal and property.

Each white male paid a poll tax when he reached 21 years of age. This can be a good indicator of birth year when a new name shows up adjacent to someone with the same surname. In the earlier years, the tax commissioner, often the militia captain, would travel the country on horseback recording individuals. Later tax payers were required to travel to the tax commissioner to be enumerated.

The order of names can be misleading. Alphabetic sorting was a manual process and limited to lumping, for example, all A's or B's together. If someone with the same surname follows someone, it really just means he was the next person recorded with an "A" surname. It does not guarantee he lived next door. Looking at several tax years can help clarify that question.

Property tax lists introduce another issue, the grade or quality of the land. This sometimes varied from year to year. Land might be rated 1, 2 or 3, with 3 being lower quality and not necessarily even taxed every year. Widows were not always taxed, either. Therefore a particular person might not be listed every year. Much of this depended on state revenue needs.

The address of a rural person was their nearest creek. This can be very helpful sorting out people with the same name and where they lived. The records for some years include both personal and property enumerations.

Generally each county had several tax commissioners (Captains) each year, each covering a particular area. When searching the lists that survived and were microfilmed, one can never be certain every list is present. For example, there is only one 1787 Fayette Co., KY tax list consisting of 17 pages, and there are no Allens. Yet 1788 has 3 lists each done by a different tax commissioner. List has 35 pages. List 2 has 52 pages. List 3 has 35 pages, although upon close inspection list 3 seems to just be a different handwritten version of list. A tax commissioner was required to provide 3 copies; one for the county clerk, one for the county sheriff for collections and one for the state. In any case, it seems unlikely the county grew that much from 1787 to 1788, which suggests 1787 is incomplete.


Federal censuses began in 1790 and have been taken every 10 years since then. However, the 1790 and 1800 censuses for Kentucky and Virginia were destroyed during the War of 1812.

Reconstructed 1790 and 1800 censuses have been published for Kentucky based on county tax enumerations taken around the same time. While the tax lists provide certain other information not recorded in censuses, the tax lists generally do not show numbers of females and children. In addition, there had to have been a male over 21 in the household to be listed on the personal "poll" tax lists. This was not true of a census record. Every household, regardless of age, was listed.

Unfortunately a name like John Allen is very common and shows up nearly everywhere requiring confirmation through other records such as church minutes, marriages, wills and court records.

We are confident our John Allen has been located on the following Kentucky tax records:

1788 - 1792 Fayette Co. tax lists

1793 - 1796 Clark Co. tax lists

1797 - 1803 Montgomery Co. tax lists

John's widow Ann Allen:

1804 - 1825 Montgomery Co. tax lists

And then Ann Allen on the 1810 and 1820 Montgomery Co. Federal censuses


Our John Allen is almost certainly the John Allen with 1 tithable and 3 horses on the 1788 Fayette tax list 1. Nicholas Anderson and Edward Williams are also on list1, indicating John lived somewhere near them. List 2 has an Elisha, Joseph, Richard and William Allen.

1789 lists 2 John Allens; one with 2 tithables, 3 Blacks and 3 horses. The other John Allen has 1 tithable and 2 horses, who is should be our John Allen. Next to him on the list is a George Allen with 1 tithable and 1 horse.

We also have other Allens and based on 9 tax commissioners living scattered around Fayette County. We have a William and Francis in one area. Another William and a James in another area. Then an Elisha and a Richard in separates areas.

In 1790 it appears we have 4 John Allens. The one with slaves is next to Isham, also with slaves. That same captain also listed a John with 1 tithable and no horse and another John with 1 tithable and 2 horses. Then a different tax captain listed presumably our John next to George, each with 1 tithable and 2 horses.

In addition. we have a William, Thomas, James, Elisha, William, Richard, Thomas Allen.