Essex County, Virginia 1815 Directory of Landowners.
Roger G. Ward. 2005.
In 1782 the General Assembly of Virginia enacted new tax laws which created within each county an enumeration of land and certain personal property. These early land tax laws required a tax commissioner in each district of a county to record a list of the names of persons owning land or town lots, the quantity of land owned and its value, and the amount of tax owed. By 1813, a brief geographic description (usually citing an adjacent stream, road, or other landmark) was required; in 1814, the distance and direction from the courthouse for each parcel was also added to the tax rolls.
The present work is an alphabetical listing of all 1815 landowners found in each county, as well as the accompanying description of the location of the said property. We have not included the number of acres, taxes assessed, or any transactions between landowners which may have been noted on the tax rolls; also, in many cases the geographic location was provided as "adjacent to John Smith", etc. and, while useful many times to a genealogist, was considered to be beyond the objectives of this project. The reader is encouraged to consider the information here-in as an "outline" of early landowners in Virginia rather than a "text" due to the year-to-year variation in information provided to the clerk (or recorded by the clerk), omissions, lack of "identifiers" to determine if "same name" was also "same person" within a district or across districts, marginal quality/clarity (in a few cases) of the microfilm copy, and, not least, errors on the part of either the original clerks or the current author while transcribing.
Some of the approaches to utilizing the 1815 landowner information include:
observe distinct clusters of the same surname within a county in order to clarify the common surnames such as "Smith", "Anderson", etc;
identify non-resident landowners and their county (or state) of residence (these people often being former residents of the current county);
determine neighbors with different surnames (often being relatives);
use the 1815 information as a "bridge" from the 18th and 19th century deed/will books to the 17th and 18th century land grants/patents in the county;
evaluate the 1810 to 1840 census information which generally grouped neighbors;
substitute this information for missing deed/will books in the "burned" counties; and, clarify/enhance vague deed/will information in the counties with more complete records.
FORMAT OF PRESENTATION: Each entry is listed as: Surname, name, personal identifiers (if any); location/place-name of land; miles/direction from the 1815 courthouse. If multiple owners are listed for a property, the listing is duplicated under each of the owner's surnames (i.e "Smith and Brown" is also listed as "Brown, --see Smith"); when multiple owners share a common surname, the property is only listed once. When a landowner had land at more than one location/place-name, the miles/direction listing for each parcel is in the same sequence as the location listing (i.e. James RV, Slate CK; 12N, 5SW.). In the few cases where a landowner had "many" parcels, the miles/direction notation is attached to the location listing (i.e. Sandy RV- 5NE, Willow CK-7S, etc.)