You can find ancestors for free using Tithe Records if they were of British or Irish origin. Agricultural workers from England, Wales and Ireland were required to pay tithes in order to help in the upkeep of local churches. This ancient form of taxation continued well into Victorian times (1837–1901), and constituted a payment of ten percent from monies gained from the sale of grain, vegetables, lumber and any animals and their products. Records were kept of these payments, and they can be used to find ancestors for free.
Individual properties were assessed by a tithe Commission to establish how much they would be taxed. These assessments are known as the Tithe Apportionments, and can be helpful in your search to find ancestors. Free records can be found in county records offices throughout England and Wales, and some duplicates are kept in the British national Archives. Their usefulness is in that they name both the owners and the tenants of the taxed properties, and also provide a description of the property itself. Some can be found online, but if you want to find ancestors for free, you must know the name of the county that they lived in, or at least the general area so you can search the records of surrounding counties.Try Ancestry.com and get 14 Days FREE!
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The best place to begin your search if you want to find out whether Tithe Records for your ancestor’s county exist, the British National Archives has an online catalogue available. You’ll find all the information you’ll need to find ancestors for free in these records here:
A similar system of tithing existed in Ireland, and these records can also be used to find ancestors for free. A large survey was held in 1823, which listed all and any lands that were to be taxed. This process took fifteen years to complete, and was very unwelcomed by the Irish workers. This was partly due to the fact that the tax was to be paid to the Anglican Church of Ireland, regardless of the religion of the workers. This led to what was known as the "Tithe War" when many people refused to pay the tax, and held sometimes very violent protests.
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How this event can help you to find ancestors for free? The Church of Ireland clergy recorded the names of any tax defaulters. This list of names contains details for over 29,000 defaulters from 232 parishes in Ireland. Known as the Tithe Defaulters Schedules, it has the names, addresses, occupations and other personal data which can help you to find ancestors for free. These lists are held at the Irish National Archives, and there is an index containing the names and addresses of those included in these records. Though you can’t access that data online, you can find out if your ancestor is included in it, after which you can order a copy on CD.
Those who did pay their tithes are listed in the Tithe Applotment Books, also found at the Irish National Archives, at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast. The books are arranged by parish, and if you know where your family was from, can quickly find ancestors for free.
It takes a lot of dedication and perseverance to find ancestors for free, but using secondary records such as these can help you find ancestors that you may have otherwise been unable to locate. If your ancestors were farming and agricultural workers, the Tithe Records of Britain and Ireland can provide that elusive link that may help you to find ancestors for free.
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