One of my favorite records are Homestead Exemptions. I've used these records to help better understand the lives of my ancestors and fill in the blanks between census years. So far I've used them to research my Georgia ancestors. Georgia's records began in 1852 but, as these were state created laws, they began at different times in different states. According to the Georgia Archive, "the basic purpose of this exemption is to make a certain amount of person's property untaxable."
Given the purpose of the records, you might be able to guess what kind of information is included: the person who is seeking tax protection and details on the property needing protection. These records will list the head of the household and in some list his family members. Often, every member of the household will be listed by name; it's like a mini census! Then there is a list of property, such as acres of land, livestock, furniture, and seemingly random items such as sewing machines and guns. Sometimes you'll luck up and the record will include a plat map.
For example, you can see the Homestead Exemption application for my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, William W Sprouse. This record was filed in 1889 - hey, look at that! It's like a stand-in for the destroyed 1890 census. It lists William, wife Nancy, and children Tully, Walter, Nina, Miller and Bernie. This was exciting for me, in part because my Great-Great Grandmother, Nina Sprouse, never appeared on a census record with her parents. The record also lists the family's property and it's value. It's interesting to see the price of things in 1889.
Finding these records is always exciting for me, even though they tend to indicate that my ancestors were struggling financially. They are a bit of a gold mine and may help you learn something new about your ancestors.
23 May 2013
21 March 2011
I located the homestead exemption for William Britt on microfilm at the GA archive. The following is a transcript, which lists him, his wife, daughter and stepson.
Schedule of propertybelonging to William Britt as head of his family consisting your wife Permillia Brit and two minor children both under the age of sixteen years of age to wit Jesse & Rosa and claimed to be exempt from levy and sale under section 2040 of 1882 and the amendments thereto.
William X Brit
E. L. Green
Schedule of propertyone soral mare about 15 years old, head of Hogs and seventy dollars worth of provisions Beds and bedding and ??? bedstand s?? for use of family one spinning wheel one pair cotton ???, one hundred pounds lint cotton one cooking stove and fixture and lot of table crockery Wearing appairel of family one family bible and religious works and school books. Fifty bushels of corn one thousand pounds of fodder one table and set of chairs and one hundred dollars worth of household and kitchen furniture one family sewing machine one one horse waggon of the value of ten dollars. Two trunks two water buckets one looking glass one side Board all of less value than fifteen dollars and one clock
Filed in the office a??? and recorded this 12 day of September 1893