An In-Depth Look at Victorian Tax Rolls 1

National taxes funded wars, an ongoing event in Scottish history. Some taxes were used to pay military debts in between wars. These National taxes are in addition to any local council taxes that were levied, since the local taxes were used for local needs such as poor relief. The National Records of Scotland has digitized some of their historical tax records and made them available on their sister site ScotlandsPlaces. While this used to be a subscription based website, it is now freely available. The tax records are from the 16th and 17th centuries. Here are the ones that are available on ScotlandsPlaces:

  1. Poll Tax - 1645-1831 historical Land Tax rolls list the owners of land as well as the assessed rental value of those lands
  2. Dog Tax 1797-1798 - this would be similar to current dog licence fees.  A tax of 5 shillings was levied on all non-working dogs. The rolls list the names of the dog owners as well as the number of non-working dogs that they owned. Note that farmers who used dogs to round up sheep or cattle were exempt from this tax since their dogs were working dogs. It was people who owned dogs as family pets who were subject to the tax.
  3. Horse & Mule Tax 1797-1798 - these rolls have the names of the owners of horses or mules as well as the number of each that they used in husbandry or trade. The
  4. Cart/Carriage Taxes 1785 - 1798 - owners of 2 or 4-wheeled carriages were taxed on the carriages. The carriage tax rolls list the names of the carriage owners as well as the types of carriage(s) that they owned. This tax fell mostly to farmers and land owners, but would also include other businesses such as tinkers, food delivery men and, of course, undertakers.
  5. Male Servant Tax 1777 - 1789 - this tax was primarily for the wealthy and included any "non-essential" male servants. All working class apprentices or those otherwise indentured - farm or industrial labourers, servants in shops, restaurants, inns etc, were exempt. This tax was for personal servants such as butlers, valets, gardeners, coachmen and the like.
  6. Female Servant Tax 1785-1792 - this tax was levied for home/estate/business  owners who hired domestic servants. It lists the names of the home/business owner as well as the classification of each domestic servant (kitchen help, seamstress, nursemaid, etc)
  7. Shop Tax 1785-1789 - lists all of the shop owners in any given parish. On some rolls, the name of the business also exists
  8. Clock and Watch Tax 1797-1798 -  has the names of clock and watch owners - again a tax for the more upper crust classes.
  9. Window Tax - houses with 10 or more windows were taxed. Later all houses with 7 or more windows were liable for tax. Windows could not be boarded up simply to avoid paying taxes. They needed to be bricked in and not opened again following the assessment period.
  10. Inhabited House Tax - a later poll tax (1694 & 1698) imposed to pay arrears for Navy & Army debts. Only the poor and children under the age of 16 were exempt. This created a great deal of hardship for many working class families.
  11. Consolidated Taxes - From 1787 all of the various taxes were consolidated and payable to a single fund.

To navigate the ScotlandsPlaces website, you simply click on the parish that you are interested in. You can do so from the menu on the left hand side of the home screen, or you can click directly on the parish from the map in the centre of the screen. Once you click on the link for the parish, you will be taken to a page that lists what is available to view for that parish. Note that you can also view Ordnance Survey maps from the National Library of Scotland and photographs from the Royal Commission of Ancient and Historical Monuments on the ScotlandsPlaces website as well. Click on the link for "Historical Tax Rolls" to see the tax rolls available for the parish of interest. The searches are not indexed so take a bit of work.

From here it is a several step process. You will be given a list of the taxes that exist for the parish. Click on any one of the available titles. Then you will get a series of volumes. Click on any one. Now you will get a list of page numbers. Clicking on any of the numbers will take you to a digital image of the tax record. Now that you are aware of the process, you can go and look at any of the records that might include information regarding your ancestor.

About Christine Woodcock

Scottish born, Canadian raised, Christine Woodcock is a genealogy educator with an expertise in the Scottish records. She enjoys sharing new resources to assist others in their quest to find and document their heritage. Christine is also a lecturer, author and blogger. She is the Director of Genealogy Tours of Scotland ( and enjoys taking fellow Scots “home” to do onsite genealogy research and to discover their own Scottish heritage.

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