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Illiana ancestors: First US income tax levied in 1862

As U.S. taxpayers view April 15 as the date that tax forms (and payment) are due for 2011 income, many do not realize that the first U.S. income tax was actually levied in 1862 in order to pay the Union’s cost of the Civil War.

The law was passed as an emergency measure and generated about $55 million during the war. Residents of states and territories that had not seceded were taxed at 3 percent on annual income between $600 and $10,000, and 5 percent on incomes over $10,000. The rates were changed over the years, and it has been said that citizens viewed paying the taxes as part of the patriotic war effort.

Records generated by the tax can be helpful to historians because they include names of persons liable for taxes, addresses, and remarks on the assessment. Thus one can ascertain an ancestor’s wealth as compared to neighbors and others.

A most informative article, “Income Tax Records of the Civil War Years,” appeared in a 1986 article in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Prologue Magazine. Written by Cynthia G. Fox, a researcher at NARA, the article can be read/downloaded at

She notes, “Some information in the assessment lists is not duplicated elsewhere. For example, persons who had no fixed address may not be included in census records. Some of these individuals — traveling retail dealers and peddlers, for example — were required to obtain licenses under the Civil War tax laws.”

The assessment lists were bound into volumes and have been microfilmed. The records from Illinois, 1862-1866, are on 63 rolls of microfilm, M764. “In order to make the lists easier to use, descriptive pamphlets have been prepared that list counties included in each collection district.”

WWI draft cards

FamilySearch, the nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has announced that its website has added more than 25 million World War I draft registration cards. At one can browse through the images in this collection.

Three draft registrations were conducted during World War I. On June 5, 1917, men between 21 and 31 had to register. The next was held June 5, 1918, for men who turned 21 since the first registration. On Sept. 12, 1918, men between 18 and 45 were registered. The registration cards are arranged by state, by city or county, by local draft board, then alphabetical by surname.

On a personal note, while doing an ordinary search for data on specific individuals at, I have found draft registration cards for those who registered for the draft during World War II. The information on the registration card includes name, residence, mailing address, phone number, age, place of birth, date of birth, “name of person who will always know your address,” employer’s name and address and signature.

Queries, as well as a general exchange of genealogical material that readers would like to share, will be printed in the column for free. Contact Joan Griffis by e-mailing

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