09 October 2012

Before and After: Using Tax Records For Civil War Analysis

     The Civil War had a major impact on the lives of the people who lived through it. One way to see this impact is through tax records. I recently found tax records at the Georgia Archives from just before and shortly after the Civil War for Tilman Albea, my 4x Great-Grandfather.

     Tilman lived in Lincoln County, Georgia and was a farmer. When the war began he was 55 years old. His sons served in the Civil War, including my 3x Great-Grandfather, Thomas T Albea. His wife, Julia, owned her own property in 1861, for which Tilman is listed as an agent. She is not listed in 1866.

Polls of Whites
Polls of Blacks
Kids age 6-18
Hired Hands
Acres of Land
112 + 110
Value of Land
$800 + $600
Value of Slaves
Other Property Value
$298 + $75
Total Property Value
  $1098 + $1975   

     So, what can we see in these tax records regarding the impact of the Civil War on Tilman Albea and his family?

     First, the family had a lot less land in 1866 than 1861. Before the war they had 222 acres combined. After the war, Tilman was listed with only 110 and the value was a lot less. Julia was no longer listed with her own property. Did they sell the rest? Was it taken? Perhaps they couldn't pay their taxes? Or maybe gave it to one of their children? Regardless, the remaining 110 acres were worth almost half of what the 110 acres were worth in 1861.

     Second, the amount of money held by the family appeared to be zero in 1866 (it was marked with an x), verses $400 in 1861.  It was probably difficult to hold cash after the war, and any cash they might have had would probably have been worthless confederate money. The value other property, likely things such as wagons and farm equipment, had also dropped. Combined with the loss of land, their total property value was only a fraction of what it was before the war.

     Also notable: slaves. In 1861 the family, specifically Julia, owned one slave.  She had inherited this slave from her mother in 1858 (which is also when she got her land). From wills and census records, it's believed that this slave was a 16 year old named Jinney.  Obviously, the family did not have any slaves in 1866. They did, however, have a person living with them that qualified for a black poll tax. This means that there was a black male living with them who was eligible to vote.

     These tax records paint a picture of a family that suffered financially during and after the Civil War.  Further tax records show that the land continued to loose value; minute book records show requests for tax exemptions; newspaper records show the auction of this land by the Sheriff's office.

     This once prosperous family was greatly impacted by the Civil War. Future generations would not own land, but would rent, first as farmers and then as mill workers. It wouldn't be until 100 years later, during the post WWII boom, that my direct Albea family line would own land again.

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