Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Weird World of Taxation

Think your current tax return is complicated?  Here are some of the weird taxes that have been levied on our ancestors around the world .


hearth tax was a property tax in certain countries during the medieval and early modern period, levied on each hearth, thus by proxy on each family unit. It was calculated based on the number of hearths, or fireplaces, within a municipal area.
From 1784 to 1811, Britain levied a tax on men’s hats. Hat retailers had to buy a license, and each hat had to have a revenue stamp glued to the inside.
In 1696 in England, “An Act for Granting to His Majesty Several Rates or Duties Upon Houses for Making Good the Deficiency of the Clipped Money” created a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. This tax would have primarily been paid by the wealthy and was similar to the earlier Hearth Tax.  The tax was repealed in 1851.
The Stamp Act of 1765 taxed Britain’s American colonists on many things, including dice, playing cards and newspapers. Most of the colonies formally condemned the act, protests turned violent, and several colonies held a Stamp Act Congress. Parliament repealed the act the next year.
In 1712, during the reign of Queen Anne, England imposed a 1 pence-per-square-yard tax on printed, patterned or painted wallpaper. Decorators would bypass the tax by hanging plain wallpaper, and then having it stencilled by hand. Britain abolished the tax in 1836.
Russian Emperor Peter the Great, hoping to modernize his country to compete with Western powers, introduced a tax on men’s beards in 1698. The facially hirsute had to carry around a token showing they’d paid. Police could forcibly shave those lacking their token. Wealthy bearded folk were taxed more heavily than average townsfolk. 
Salt was a valuable food preservative, making it a target for taxation. The Moscow Salt Riot of 1648 protested Russia’s universal salt tax which disproportionately affected the peasantry, whose diet was mainly salt-preserved fish.  In France, the hated salt tax contributed to the French Revolution. The National Assembly abolished this salt tax in 1790, but Napoleon reinstated it in 1806.  In India, Mahatma Gandhi staged a 24-day Salt March to protest British taxes on salt production, a heavy burden for coastal villages.

American colonists paid a tax on tea starting with the 1767 Townshend Revenue Act, which also taxed glass, lead, oil, paint and paper. Boycotts and protests led Parliament to repeal the Townshend Act taxes, except for tea, in 1770. But this isn’t what sparked the Boston Tea Party in 1773. That was the Tea Act, passed on May 10, 1773. It gave the British East India Co. a monopoly on tea sales in the American colonies, allowing it to undercut both smuggled-in tea and Colonial tea importers. Tea would be cheaper, but Colonists would still have to pay the tax.
Playing cards
We noted that the Stamp Act included playing cards among its taxed items. More recently, in 1935, the state of Alabama issued a 10-cent tax on packs of playing cards containing 54 or fewer cards. Each package had to have a revenue stamp affixed to it.  The tax ended in 2015, under legislation that suspends taxes when the cost of collecting them outweighs the revenue gained.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Irish Lives Remembered

The latest edition of FREE online magazine Irish Lives Remembered is now available.


  • Croagh Patrick (County Mayo): The Scared Mountain of the Sun God by Eamonn 'Ned' Kelly;
  • Linking your DNA to Ireland's Ancient "Kings and Queens" by Maurice Gleeson;
  • The Kavanagh/Cavanagh Surname and its relatives, Kinsella and Redmond by Paul MacCotter;
  • An Irishman Abroad: David Tynan O'Mahony [Dave Allen] by Nathan Mannion;
  • A concise guide to tracing your Irish Ancestors using US, Canadian, Australian and British Records by Maura Flood;
  • Money, Mountain Dew, and Murder:Illicit Potin Distillation in Ireland during the 1920s - a four part series, part 2 "Children going to and coming from school are reeling round the roads drunk with poteen" by Stephen Pierce. 
  • Gone With the Wind. A Southern US Reflection of Hierarchy, Power and Essentialism in Ireland [Film Discussion] by Brigit McCone
Regular columns: 
  • Dear Genie (Our Genealogists help you with your research block)
  • Photodetective (Jayne Shrimpton analyses one of your family photos)
  • Patrick's Page (Patrick Roycroft deals with a client at the Irish Family History Centre)
  • FMP Roundup (Niall Cullen lets us know of the new Irish genealogy records that have been added to Findmypast)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Love and Marriage in Colonial Australia

1830 Wedding Dress

I have previously blogged about love and marriage for convicts – now I am moving on the free settlers in colonial times.

If both partners intending to marry were free, couples were able to obtain a marriage licence and did not need permission to marry, but cohabitation instead of marriage was still frequent.  It was not until the end of the convict era and rise of free settlers in the mid 19th century that marriage became more frequent.  It is also worth noting that many marriages outside the Church of England were not considered valid.  A series of reforms between 1834 and 1855 confirmed the validity of marriages conducted by ‘the Churches of Scotland and Rome’, and only later was this extended to Jews and Quakers.

To encourage marriage among the colony’s free settlers, Governor Darling (Governor 1825-1831) created a marriage portions scheme for ‘daughters of men of respectability of the Colony’.  Once they were engaged or promised in marriage a daughter of a man who lacked wealth for a dowry but whose family had standing in the community could apply for a marriage portion land grant.  This land would be granted upon her marriage and would be held by the woman herself, and upon her death would pass to her children, not her husband.

This scheme promoted marriage within the free settlers, as a man was more likely to enter into marriage with a woman who had property to bring with her into the union.  In 1830 and 1831, a total of 42 women were granted a marriage portion land grant, with properties ranging in size from 60 to 1280 acres.  The scheme was problematic, however, and administration of it slow, taking up to 6 years to finalise.  The scheme, which was introduced in 1828, was finalised late in 1831, and the idea that married women could own property separate to their husbands would take 50 years to reemerge.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Love and Marriage in Convict Australia

Two decades after the colony of New South Wales was established, Governor Lachlan Macquarie considered the future of the colony to be at risk of moral degeneration.  Cohabitation, or couples living together outside the married state, was seen as ‘highly injurious to the interests of society’, and Macquarie was keen to rectify the situation by encouraging marriage amongst the population, both convict and free.

For convicts, marriage was strictly controlled by the state, and convicts required permission before they could legally marry.  During the time of Governor Ralph Darling (1825-1831), controls were tightened and a convict’s master or mistress, plus a clergyman, had to approve the marriage before the couple could apply for permission from the Governor.

In many cases permission was refused, most commonly because the woman was considered to already be married.  It had been thought that married women would be better treated in the colony, so some women convicts falsely declared themselves married when disembarking in Sydney.  When they later wanted to marry in the colony, they were refused permission.

Transportation often resulted in the separation of married couples, and it was difficult (although not impossible) for couples to reunite – either by the spouse travelling out to the colonies or the freed convict returning to Britain.  While it was held that ‘seven years separation by water’ entitled a person to remarry, doing so with the knowledge that the first spouse was still alive could result in a charge of bigamy, and the Solicitor General advised in 1841 that such couples ‘remarried at their own peril’.

Once the Governor had granted a convict permission to marry, the marriage was announced by reading the marriage banns.  A clergyman would announce the marriage three times, allowing any parties with an objection to the union time to come forward.  If no objection was made, the couple then married.  If a convict was still bonded at the time of their marriage they still had to remain in service until they were finally declared free.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Who Do You Think You Are Magazine

The latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are magazine is now available free online for Campaspe Library members via our subscription to RB Digital eMagazines.
Inside this month's issue
  • 2019 celebrities revealed!
    Say hello to the stars who will uncover their roots in WDYTYA? 2019 - including Kate Winslet and Daniel Radcliffe
  • Discover childhood records
    How you can build a picture of your ancestors' early years at school, work and play
  • Snapshots in the sun
    The stories behind your family's summer garden photographs
  • Reader story
    DNA testing unlocked the mystery of David Cooper Holmes' ancestor - a career criminal and folklore heroine
  • Scottish illegitimacy
    How records reveal the fate of unmarried mothers in Scotland
  • Plus...
    The best film archive websites; finding your military ancestors in regimental histories; the history of prison reform; and much more...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Discovering Your Trade Union Ancestors

The scale of the British trade union movement is astounding. Tens of millions of people have been members, and 5,000 trade unions are known to have existed at one time or another.  The website Trade Union Ancestors can help you locate a specific trade union in time and place with the A to Z index of trade unions and trade union family trees. In addition, you can read about some of the events and people that shaped the trade union movement through 200 years of history in their trade union histories, trade union lives and striking stories.

The historic union records that  survive illuminate the working lives, daily concerns and political attitudes of our ancestors.  Trade Union Ancestors aims to help  family historians to identify the correct union, to discover the role their ancestor played in it, and to find out more about trade union history.

Website editor Mark Crail stresses that the site is far from comprehensive and he cannot guarantee it is mistake-free.  Also, while millions of people have been trade union members over the past couple of centuries, millions more working people were not. At the beginning of the 20th century, just one in ten working people were members. And though masses of union records have survived, much more has been discarded or destroyed down the years.

The site draws material from a range of sources. Among the most fruitful are:
  • The first four published volumes of the Historical Directory of Trade Unions. These are a wonderful but incomplete guide to the development of the trade union movement published between 1980 and 1994 by Gower. The first three were compiled by Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan, and the fourth by Marsh and Ryan with the help of John Smethurst. Wonderful though they are, the series is incomplete and there are some rather obvious omissions as a result – not least the Transport and General Workers Union. Time has also moved on since they were published, with mergers and amalgamations taking place annually. There is now a fifth and a sixth and final volume available.
  • The archive listings published online by Warwick University’s modern records centre. The centre has an unrivalled collection of original trade union papers, including the archives of many long since defunct trade unions deposited by their modern successors.
  • A variety of published sources including the potted histories that some unions include on their websites, the books that unions have produced down the years about their origins and developments, and the many general union histories published since Sydney and Beatrice Webb originated the genre with their History of Trade Unionism, first published in 1894 and revised in 1920.
  • Government papers and public records – some of them published (such as Labour Market Trends, from which data on this website is extracted) and some stored away in the National Archives waiting for someone with the time and interest in the subject to come along and find them.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

New Records on FamilySearch

Free family history website FamilySearch has added a several new collection this month.  They include 594,707 Herefordshire bishop’s transcripts (1583-1898), 109,010 Scottish Presbyterian and Protestant church records (1736-1990) and 1,125,332 records of passenger arrivals at New York City, primarily dating from 1944-48, although some cover the early years of the 20th century.
Each Church of England parish was required to create copies of its registers to send to the local bishop, known as bishop’s transcripts.  These records are therefore a good alternative source for Herefordshire baptism, marriage and burial records where the originals are lost, although there may be occasional errors.
The Scottish Presbyterian and Protestant records also cover baptisms, marriages and burials in different Scottish religious dominations.
The New York arrival records include images of the original passenger cards, potentially including the passenger’s age, place of birth, occupation, marital status, last permanent residence, destination, purpose in coming to the USA and even physical descriptions.
The Herefordshire bishop’s transcripts are transcribed from original documents at Hereford Record Office. The Scottish Presbyterian and Protestant records are from the National Records of Scotland. The New York arrival records are from the American National Archives and Records Administration.