Ancestors lost in the crowd?
New to family history research?
Perhaps these articles on our website may help:
Census 1841 - 1911
Birth, Death and Marriage Registration
The London Gazette
Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors,
and British History
The Hearth Tax
Sign at Pudding Lane, London
Photo by Will Palmer on Flickr CC-BY
Using the tax on fireplaces to research your ancestors.
The Hearth Tax was a tax on "every Fire Hearth and Stove within every such House Edifice Chambers and Lodging" in England and Wales. The records of the Hearth Tax are now stored in the National Archives and some County Record Offices in England and Wales. The records are of use to both the family history researcher and local history researcher, especially if combined with other parish records.
The Hearth Tax (full text) was introduced in 1662 during the reign of Charles II in an attempt to make up a shortfall of income. Lasting only 27 years it was repealed in the reign of William and Mary. The tax was unpopular as it meant assessors had to enter the home to assess the number of hearths.
Each householder whose home was worth more than 20 shillings for rating purposes was required to pay twice yearly, 1 shilling for each hearth in their home. Collecting the tax twice yearly raised certain administrative problems and in some years the collection of the tax was made by private tax collectors on behalf of the Crown. Very few of their records have survived. Therefore, the main years where records exist are 1662-1666 and 1669-1674.
The records are not consistent in the presentation of the information. Almost each tax return is slightly different in its content, quantity of information and presentation.
Most, however, will indicate the name of the parish, number of hearths, and name of the occupant at the time they were assessed. But they can be subject to errors such as misspellings of names, transcribing of the lists, etc.
They can be a small glimpse into the lives of both the rich and poor. This is an example from Kelvedon Hatch, in Essex. John Wright, Lord of Manor, was assessed for 16 hearths, other gentlemen of the parish had similar sized houses: Captain Glassock 15 heaths, Anthony Luther 14 heaths. At the other end of the scale were William White and Henry Hawk, both with just 1 hearth in their cottages.
This return for the home of Thomas Farrimor (Faryner), baker of Pudding Lane, London, shows his 5 hearths and 1 oven. One of which started the Great Fire of London in 1666.
The location of existing Hearth Tax returns can be searched at the National Archives E 179 database