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Reeds on the Kentucky Tax List

Tax records, when available, can provide year-by-year clues and insight into families in early America. This week I looked for the Reeds on Shelby County, Kentucky lists from 1792-1815.

I found many residents with this name and its variants Reed, Reid, Read, and Ried. They were clustered on different waterways in the county.

Some lived on lands along Clear Creek, Brashears Creek, and Bullskin Creek. I do not know whether they are related to me or not.

My own known group lived along Elk Creek. Caleb Reed (1756-abt 1832) had a place there. Others included his brother Joshua and sons Thomas and Caleb C. I also found David and Barnett. I do not know the relationship between the last two and Caleb’s family. Perhaps they were additional brothers to Caleb and Joshua.

I learned some interesting information about the Reed family from the tax lists:

  1. My ancestor Caleb had more livestock than the others did. He always had at least 4 horses and sometimes as many as eight. The others had 2-3. In the early years, when cattle were included on the tax list, he had over a dozen. The others had fewer.
  2. Caleb possessed a larger farm than the other relatives had. He was taxed in some years for 350 acres compared to 89 for his brother Joshua.
  3. The tax lists confirm the age of Caleb’s son Thomas. Family records say this son was born in 1783. In 1799, a male 16-21 appears in Caleb’s household. The new 16-year-old must have been Thomas.
  4. The tax lists provide a clue to the age of Caleb’s son Caleb C. Reed. Other records offer conflicting information for his birth year. According to the 1820 census, he was born about 1775, long before his father was married. The 1810 census for Caleb’s household includes a son who may have been Caleb C. who was born much later, 1784-94. The 1804 tax list includes an additional male 16-21, perhaps Caleb C. If he turned 16 that year, he was born about 1788, the same date range as the youth on the 1810 census. This would place him between two other known children, Abigail (1785) and John (1794). Assigning a birth year of 1788 makes sense for Caleb C. given the evidence of the 1804 tax list, the 1810 census, and the sibling birth years. The 1820 census must have misattributed his age.
  5. Caleb’s eldest daughter Sarah (Sally) married Thomas Johns in 1799. He appears on the tax list for the first time that year. His last entry is in 1808. He was not in Shelby County in 1810. The tax list provides a more precise year for the family moving away.
  6. Caleb’s second daughter Rachel married Augustine Elliott in 1801. He regularly paid taxes from 1802 until his death in 1808. The following year, Rachel began paying the tax.
  7. Caleb’s youngest daughter Elizabeth married Jonah Harris in 1814. He appears on the tax list for the first time the prior year, in 1813 and again in 1814. I did not find him on the 1815 list. Either he was missed or the family had moved away by then. They do not appear on the 1820 census for Shelby County.
  8. In 1810, Caleb again had a male 16-21 in his household. If his son Caleb C. Reed was born in 1788, he was over 21 that year. The new 16-21-year-old would have been Caleb’s youngest son, John who was born in 1794 according to family records.
  9. In the early years, the tax entries were listed by date paid. This changed in 1813 when the taxpayers were listed by militia group. The Reeds were listed in Reed’s Company of the 85th Regiment. Caleb had been a captain in the Corn Stalk Militia several years earlier, but I do not know whether he or someone else led the company in 1813.
  10. Joshua and Barnett Reed continued to appear on the tax list throughout the period. David last appeared in 1811 and was not replaced by a widow or possible son the following year. Perhaps he moved away.

Going through tax lists can be tedious. I took three sessions to view the years from 1792 to 1815. Yet I found the effort worthwhile, especially for a state where no census records exist for 1790 and 1800.

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