How Much Tax Did Your Ancestors Pay?

Scotland’s wealthier residents during the 17th and 18th century have had their tax records laid bare by the ScotlandsPlaces project, with handwritten records now transcribed and available online.

Over 3000 volunteers from across the globe have been working since last autumn to transcribe over 181,000 pages of historic archives dating from 1645-1880. There are more than one million records originally written in Scots, Gaelic, English and Latin, covering land taxation, taxes on clocks and watches, windows and farm horses, and Ordnance Survey ‘Name Books’, which formed the first official record of Scotland places and place names.

The transcriptions of these records have now been added to a treasure trove of historical information on the Scotland’s Places website,, which brings together records from three of Scotland’s national archives: the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the National Library of Scotland (NLS).

Andrew Nicoll, ScotlandsPlaces Outreach Officer said, “Now that these archives have been digitised, you can sit at your desk at home in Glasgow, in a library in Stonehaven or in a cafe in Melbourne and get closer to family or a place in Scotland instantly.

“Prior to 1811 there was no income tax, so items that were considered luxury goods were taxed instead. This ranged from clocks and watches to pet dogs and servants.

“We appealed for thousands of volunteers last year to crowdsource the transcription task and the result has been impressive. Their work has brought to life some of Scotland’s most famous figures figures, as well as the ordinary man and woman in the street.”

The records are available to view online at

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