I recently subscribed to the new digitised tax records available at ScotlandsPlaces. I’ve already looked through some of the hearth tax records, for my one-place studies. But I’ve now started looking at the servant taxes from the late 18th century. I last looked at these as part of my Research Assistant work at Dundee University in 2003-4, using them along with other records in local and national archives in a pilot study for a larger future research project investigating small towns in late 18th and early 19th century Scotland. Back then I was able to go and check original documents in the National Archives of Scotland. But the new online subscription service allows me to access many of the same records from home, and the number of tax records available through the Internet in this way will grow.
The male and female servant taxes taxed non-essential servants. I’ve just been looking in Haddington for my Somner and Veitch ancestors. And I’ve found quite a few references to them.
Dr Richard Somner (1731-1804) appears in 1777-8 and 1778-9 being taxed for a waiting servant and groom, John Lives. In the first year the tax for having this servant was 15 shillings, in the second 1 pound 1 shilling. There’s then a gap, which I’m intrigued by, before Dr Somner appears again between 1790-1 and 1794-5, in most of those years being taxed for a chaise driver, always 1 pound and 5 shillings. He also had one non-essential female servant in the 1790s, and was taxed 2 shillings and 6 pence for her.
William Veitch (1734-1821) watchmaker in Haddington appears only in the burgh’s female tax lists for 1789-90, 1790-1, and 1791-2. He, too, had one non-essential female servant, and was taxed 2 shillings and 6 pence for her.
The two men are related to me because Richard’s son Richard married William’s daughter Jean, and that couple were my 5xg-grandparents.
It was also nice to look at the Haddington returns because I transcribed and analysed the borrowings of the town’s public library for this period as part of my PhD. And to find out about the borrowers I did a lot of research into parish registers and other sources to build a picture of them. So I’m very familiar with the late 18th century population of Haddington, and recognise lots of the names.