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Boston Tax Records: 1780-1821

Collection Overview

The BPL Rare Books and Manuscripts Department holds a comprehensive collection of early Boston tax records. Dating from 1780 through 1821 and comprising more than 1,350 individual manuscripts, the collection represents a rich source of data, preserving intimate and often unique details about the character of Boston and its early residents.

Though the records in this collection can seem challenging at first, a general understanding of why they were created and how they were used can help to clarify the information they contain. 

From 1780 through 1801, the assessors and clerks documented tax assessments and payments in a variety of ways. In 1802, regulations governing tax collection in Boston were changed; from that point forward, records for each year are more or less consistently divided into four main categories: taking books, transfer books, tax books, and abatement books. To learn more about each of these different categories, see the menu on the left.


Digitization and Imaging

The original manuscripts in this collection were microfilmed in 2000 at the Northeast Document Conservation Center. Thanks to the generous support of the Associates of the Boston Public Library, the entire set of microfilms, comprising 63 reels of master negatives, were digitized and uploaded to Internet Archive in 2019.