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Source Information

Ancestry.com. Dorset, England, Land Tax Returns, 1780-1832 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Land Tax Assessments. Dorchester, England: Dorset History Centre.

About Dorset, England, Land Tax Returns, 1780-1832

This database contains annual Land Tax returns from Dorset, England.

Historical Background

The Land Tax was introduced in England in 1692 as a means for raising government revenue and was not done away with until 1963. Land Tax records are of value to genealogists because they often list both property owners (proprietors) and tenants, placing them in both a parish and a year.

For a time, land tax records also served as voter records. The Dorset History Centre explains why this came about:

”Originally the Land Tax was a tax on personal estate, public offices and land… After 1698 it was usually levied only on land. From 1745, although in practice from 1780, it was used as a voting qualification—a land owner who paid Land Tax on freehold property worth £2 or more per annum had the right to vote. As a result the [land tax] returns had to be lodged with the Clerk of the Peace.”

”The survival of the early Land Tax records is variable, but most counties have surviving assessments for the years 1780 to 1832, as these were the returns that had to be lodged with the Clerk of the Peace, and they can now be found with the records of the Quarter Sessions.”

What You Can Find in the Records

These records are annual lists of land owners and occupiers in each parish who owed Land Tax. Records in this database may list the following details:

  • county
  • parish
  • year
  • proprietor
  • tenant
  • amount of tax
  • sometimes a description of property

The Dorset History Centre points out that “since the assessment was written out in the same order each year it is sometimes possible to work backwards using the information of the owner or occupier, from the Tithe or Enclosure map, and the amount of tax levied to identify the property.” Also, starting in 1798, land owners had the option to redeem their land from future tax by paying a lump sum. Their names may not appear on annual lists after the land was redeemed.

This collection includes returns for all divisions except Poole.

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