‘Cause I’m the Taxman, yeah, I’m the Taxman…”

Many of you will recognize the title of this post as a line from the Beatles song “Taxman”.  This is a very appropriate title for this post, for you will see as we delve into the tax lists of West Virginia, which are “housed” on the FamilySearch website.  In my previous post, I was using the federal censuses to try and track down the Cornell family. I will be showing you how I was able to dig even further into the Cornell family’s whereabouts using the tax lists. First, I will give you a little instruction on how to get to and navigate the lists. Below is a link to a FamilySearch page that lists all the counties that are now a part of West Virginia. If you are a FamilySearch member (free sign up for non members), you should be able to see these lists, but make sure you are signed in…bookmark this link as I am sure that you will want to revisit this page many more times: 

FamilySearch Catalog – Personal Property Tax Lists

Once you are at the page, click on the county of your research. In this case, I chose Wood County, since that was the last place I was able to trace the Cornells with some certainty in VA. My choice took me here: 

FamilySearch Catalog – Personal property tax lists, 1801-1850 

This page gave me three choices of different time periods: 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

Note: The camera icon on the far right is what is clicked to get to the images of the associated tax list. If there is a lock present with the camera icon, it means you are not logged into your account for FamilySearch and you will not be able to see the images. 

So I clicked the icon for the years 1801-1830 as I wanted to see how far back I could go to ascertain when the Cornells first made their presence known in Wood County. 

This is what I first saw when I got to the images: 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

Now, for some navigation tips – once you get the hang of these workflows, navigation will be easier than you think. 

First, let’s look at how these images were formatted in the first place. If you look at the images that are mainly black with a white label (note the arrows): 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

These are the pages that mark each taxation year for Wood County (1801-1830). If you double click on one, that action pulls the image forward in the screen. This is a good way to facilitate a faster movement through the images, depending on what year you are looking for. You can also just select an image and then click the 3rd icon down on the navigation tool in the upper left hand side of the screen, as that accomplishes the same result: 

A note here about the appearance of these particular images. Not all the images with the year called out on them are black with a white label. Every group of these and every county can be different in how they look. I found this out when visiting the other links for the other years of Wood County, but you should still be able to distinguish between the list pages and the year pages. 

Now, a really neat way to get back to the group view is by using the navigation tool to the upper left again. Just click the 3rd icon down again:

Navigate back and forth between image pages by using the navigation arrows: 

Now you are ready to get through these images much faster using these techniques. 

At this point, I want to thank Cathy Meder-Dempsey for cluing me in to these tax lists: 

Opening Doors Through Brick Walls – An Example of What You Can Do with Personal Property Tax Lists 

So now, as I went through each taxation year looking for any Cornells, I saw for the most part, the names were in alphabetical order. In some cases, some of the lists are a bit wonky, where some of the letter groups are out of order and one letter group like “S” will be at the top of the page and another like “C” will be at the bottom of the page. I’m just giving you a heads up so you won’t feel like you are getting lost if this happens to you in your research. 

Once I got into a rhythm of going through these images, I got to the 1818 taxation year and found my first instance of a Cornell family. Richard Cornell and William Cornell-May 26th: 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

Here is a screenshot of the 1818 header page for a description of the columns: 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

Just a note – not all of the headers for the tax lists are going to look the same…in fact, as you go further ahead in time, more columns of taxable information are added to these lists. 

As I went through ahead in time, I discovered Richard and William Cornell pretty regularly in the tax lists, and at first, it seemed kind of odd to have gaps of time where they are not present in the tax list for a particular year, but as with any type of listing of population, there can be a myriad of reasons why they are not in the list. 

It wasn’t until the 1831 tax year that more of the Cornell family came to light: 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

Richard, Eli and Jesse Cornell…does this prove parentage? Not unless it was noted in the tax list as sons to the father. Some of the tax lists do show that notations were made for sons, but in this case, that didn’t happen. 

Here in 1833, I found one more Cornell added to the list along with Richard, Eli and Jesse…a William Cornell. 

Image courtesy of FamilySearch© 

This had to have been a younger William because I found a will for a William Cornell in 1830 in Wood County, his wife Jane is mentioned. No children are mentioned, but it is believed that this was the father of Richard Cornell (further proof is needed). 

As time went by, these lists tended to get longer and longer, which is an obvious event, as more and more people ventured further west and the population was increasing by leaps and bounds. 

So I was able to find more Cornells located in Wood County, beginning in 1818 and moving forward in time to 1850. Besides Richard, Eli, Jesse and William, I also found the following: 

Ephraim Cornell 

Jacob Cornell 

Jonathan Cornell 

Wesley Cornell 

John Cornell 

Now you can also derive more information (and possible satisfaction) from these tax lists and possibly find out more about your ancestors who lived in the western part of Virginia in the early years of these counties that eventually became part of the State of West Virginia. 




Cathy Meder-Dempsey 

Art Cornell

Mary Frances McCartney Cornell

A big thank you to my wife, Cheryl, who supports and loves me  

2 thoughts on “‘Cause I’m the Taxman, yeah, I’m the Taxman…”

    • Thank you Cathy! I had fun with this one and being a Records/IT/CAD Manager, I have spent my fair share of time creating step by step instructions and I thought this would be good way to help others to utilize these lists. Thanks again! Brian

      Liked by 1 person

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