Nansemond County, Virginia 1810 Substitute Census


Abstracts from the 1810 Personal Property Tax List

Nansemond is one of eighteen Virginia counties for which the 1810 census is lost. In August 1814, British troops occupied Washington, DC and public buildings were put to the torch. In the destruction that followed, numerous early records of the government were lost, including all of Virginia’s 1790 and 1800 census reports, as well as eighteen county lists for the state's most recent [1810] federal census. Although two “fair copies” of each county’s census had been left in the counties for public display, these were ephemeral lists and not preserved, and by 1814 they too had been mislaid, lost, or destroyed. Hence, the closest document available we have to reconstruct a partial image of the missing county lists is the personal property tax list.

According to research notes by Minor T. Weisiger, Library of Virginia archivist: “Information recorded in Virginia personal property tax records changed gradually from 1782 to 1865. The early laws required the tax commissioner in each district to record in “a fair alphabetical list” the names of the person chargeable with the tax, the names of white male tithables over the age of twenty-one, the number of white male tithables between ages sixteen and twenty-one, the number of slaves both above and below age sixteen, various types of animals such as horses and cattle, carriage wheels, ordinary licenses, and even billiard tables. Free Negroes are listed by name and often denoted in the list as “free” or “FN.”

In previous substitute censuses compiled by this author, the 1810 personal property tax list has been the primary source. In the case of Nansemond, however, the earliest personal property tax list available is that of 1815. The current list is a complete transcription of that document, with the following data present: 1) Number of tithable males over 16; 2) number of slaves over 12; 3) number of horses, mules and; asses; and 4) number of cattle. These are in a columnar fashion, followed by a description of any taxable personal property listed by the tax commissioner for each family.

In addition, the compiler has added data from the 1810 and 1815 land tax lists for Nansemond. This information has been printed in italics to distinguish it from the personal property tax list. When taken together, the two tax sources give a good picture of the county and its social structure.

John Vogt

2011, paper