Historical tax records now available online

SBBN-31-07-14 male servant tax. Historical tax records available online.
SBBN-31-07-14 male servant tax. Historical tax records available online.

A newly accessible database of tax documents is proving a windfall for people interested in what Berwickshire residents of yesteryear were made to pay.

The trove of documents is the culmination of nearly a year of work by thousands of volunteers, who transcribed over 181,00 pages in Scots, English and Latin, dating back to the 1600s.

The transcriptions have now been added to a treasure trove of historical information on the Scotland’s Places website, www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk, which brings together records from three of Scotland’s national archives: the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the National Library of Scotland (NLS).

The transcribed documents begin in 1691 with the Hearth Tax, which at the time was a relatively new form of taxation being introduced to Scotland.

If you are curious about the lifestyle of the richer local families in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, you can find what they paid in carriage tax, cart tax and dog tax.

The records show that people’s farm horses and windows, their clocks and even their servants (at different rates according to gender) were all subject to taxation.

Andrew Nicoll, ScotlandsPlaces Outreach Officer said: ”Now that these archives have been digitised, you can sit at your desk at home, in a library , or in a cafe and get closer to family or a place in Scotland instantly.

“Prior to 1811 there was no income tax, so items that were considered luxury goods were taxed instead. This ranged from clocks and watches to pet dogs and servants.

“We appealed for thousands of volunteers last year to crowdsource the transcription task and the result has been impressive. Their work has brought to life some of Scotland’s most famous figures figures, as well as the ordinary man and woman in the street.”

Also newly transcribed are several Ordnance Survey ‘Name Books’, which when collated in the nineteenth century formed the first official record of Scotland’s places and place names.

The records are available to view online at www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk.

For more information about Transcribe ScotlandsPlaces or to find out how to get involved, email enquiries@scotlandsplaces.gov.uk