1771 Massachusetts (and Maine) Tax Inventory is Available Online

A free online searchable database called the “1771 Massachusetts Tax Inventory” is available online. While the title says “Massachusetts,” keep in mind that what is now the state of Maine was still a part of Massachusetts at that time. Since the database includes all of what was then the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the property owners in what is now Maine are also listed in this database.

The collection of data contains the names and descriptions of taxable property of nearly 38,000 individuals who resided in 152 Massachusetts towns in 1771. Data include enumerations of the type and value of real estate and buildings, as well as tabulation of livestock and farm commodities produced.

The on-line version allows you to browse the data by selecting items to view and “drilling down” through totals for counties and towns to the holdings of individual taxpayers.

An interactive map helps you locate towns and counties in the state. The map is based upon a map of Massachusetts drawn in 1792 and scanned from the Harvard University map collection. In order to use the map, you must install the Flash plug-in for you browser.

To use the online database, simply a last name in the SEARCH box, clicked on Search, and the list is shown. Counties are grouped together, and town residents are grouped together.

The results don’t just list the names of property owners, there is much more information included. Such as what types and numbers of animals they owned, and how much hay and grain that property produced per year.

You can find the 1771 Massachusetts Tax Inventory at: http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hsb41/masstax/masstax.cgi.

My thanks to newsletter reader Larry Parker for telling me about this valuable resource.


Thank you! Wonderful insight to our ancestors’ lives. Gives perspective to how hard it must have been for some when they didn’t even own a horse, oxen, goat, sheep, or swine. And how well off when they did own 1 horse, 2 oxen, 7 cows, 20 goats and sheep, and 2 swine. Now I need to research the various kinds of hay. Had never heard of English hay.


Thanks, Dick. Did a search and found an ancestor immediately whose brick wall has been giving me trouble.


Elaine G. Bennett March 7, 2018 at 7:43 pm

I entered ewing and it came back dewing..


Very nice – found my Daniel GILLSON in Groton, busy making cider! Thanks for the post!


Hugh McClellan of Gorham is misspelled — but I’d imagine reading the old handwriting must have led to many similar errors. I was fascinated by how many “servants for life” were in the three Maine counties…old Hugh owned 2 in Gorham.


🙂 Thank you. I found my Loyalist ancestor and his father and other assorted relatives among the 1771 tax records.


I located more information about the 1771 tax assessment:
The residents themselves each submitted a list of their property as of September first. The information was needed roughly once every seven years for reapportioning the tax burden among the localities.
Only “improved” land was reported – meaning that any acres of native forest were not included in each property report. Property owners had small gardens, which were not reported. In gardens, home residents would grow relatively small amounts of vegetables such as potatoes, squash, pumpkins, peas, beans, turnips and maybe others.
In the listings, “grain” meant wheat grown to make bread, plus corn and rye. Some grain became animal feed, and some grain was kept to produce seeds for the next year’s planting. Grain and other products could be sold for money, and were often traded for other items with nearby residents.
Only adult animals were reported, so each farm had significantly more total numbers of animals than reported. Uncounted animals were oxen under four years, cows and horses under three years, plus goats, sheep, and pigs under one year of age.


    Larry Parker, may I ask where you found this additional information? I’m trying to find out how Massachusetts defined the age limits for “servants for life,” as an ad for a N.H. tax inventory taken in 1770 requests info on “male and female slaves from sixteen years old to fifty.” Thanks!


Thank you for sharing….trying to trace ancestor from Maine by way of Cape Cod. Interesting read!


Don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I put a name in the serch bar and get a blank page with “Submit” in the upper left corner. If I click on that I get a page with Matthew Knight’s tax info. Never heard of him. No matter what name I put in the Search Bar I get Matthew Knight’s info.


    That was doing the same thing to me, yesterday. I got it working, but I forgot if it was by trying a different browser, or just waiting a little while and trying again. The site is working correctly as I type this.


Nope. Two different computers and two different browsers on three different days. I put in a name, I get a blank page with Submit in a bos, click on that and up comes Matthew Knight’s info. Wonder who he is.


    —> I put in a name, I get a blank page with Submit in a bos, click on that and up comes Matthew Knight’s info.

    I just went to http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~hsb41/masstax/masstax.cgi and tried it again. It worked perfectly. I didn’t see the problem you described and I was able to look at records of several different men. I didn’t see any information for anyone named Matthew Knight. So far, you are the only one to mention a problem with the web site. I don’t know what is different in your computer(s) but obviously you are seeing something different from what everyone else is seeing. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the web site.


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