Not tremendously useful for researching your family history, but fascinating as historical documents. They can, however, give an indication that your family surnames were around in the area before the existence of parish registers. They also give a interesting insight into the unchanging feudal customs under which the people of Tameside lived for hundreds of years. I have given over a whole section of this website to transcribing a series of medieval documents that have survived for Ashton Manor Manor, for details refer back to the main index. Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre has recently been entrusted with a huge collection of Earl of Stamford Estate Papers - some dating back to the 14th Century.
The hearth tax was levied twice yearly between the years 1662-1688, the tax becoming due on Lady Day, 25th March and Michaelmas, 29th September. Every hearth was taxed at the rate of two shillings, the only exemption being the very poor and charitable institutions such as alms houses. There are two microfilms at Tameside Local Studies Library for the year 1664. The townships of Tameside were then administered under the old system of hundreds, the Cheshire townships coming under the Macclesfield Hundred and the Lancashire townships under the Salford Hundred
The films can be difficult to read, being written in 'secretary hand', with some parts almost obliterated, and the order of townships on the films can be rather confusing. If you do find your ancestors name on these returns, it can give you an idea of their social status, since it shows how many hearths they were liable to pay tax on.
The Old Poor Law "An Acte for the Reliefe of the Poore" was passed in 1601 and remained in force until the "1834 Poor Law Amendment Act". Although there were precursors to the 1601 act this act was widely seen as the first co-ordinated, national attempt at social security in the country. The churchwardens of every parish were to appoint a number of overseers of the poor dependent upon the size of the parish. They were to oversee a system of putting to work all the able-bodied poor of the parish in a form of community service, to set up apprenticeships for their children and to organise a system of parish relief for the old, sick, lame and blind. At the same time the overseers would raise taxes locally to pay for this. A kind of local income tax, this gradually evolved into the local rating system based on property values. I have transcribed an early surviving Poor Law Tax Assessment
Tameside Local Studies Library has about eight microfilms that contain details of what has survived from the Parish Records from the early nineteenth century, including poor rate books, overseer's accounts, highway taxes etc. Not all dates and areas are covered.
Here is an example taken from the Cheshire Land Tax due for 'Dukinfield Hall' in 1780.
|Name of Proprietor||Name of Occupier||Tax Charged|
|John Astley Esquire||John Astley Esq||6||18||9|
|Robert Standley||8||  2||6|
You will see that the film did not give any idea of where the taxpayers lived. The only reason I knew this was for Dukinfield Hall was that I knew from the parish registers that my ancester Robert Standley was living at the Hall at this date and farming the land.
The Cheshire Land Tax Returns for the townships that made up Mottram Parish and Dukinfield and Hyde between the years 1780-1830 are on microfilm at Tameside Local Studies Library. I have transcribed some of them circa 1795 on these pages- Go back to Index
Those for the Lancashire parts of Tameside have not been indexed and are stored at Lancashire Record Office.
There is a huge range of rate books for the towns that make up Tameside, held in the Archives of Tameside Local Studies Library. Early rate books do not contain much more information than the Land Tax records, but from about 1870 start to contain individual addresses.
Before 1918 the right to vote was based on property owing qualifications and women did not achieve full emancipation until 1928, but electoral registers can be very useful in trying to trace more recent ancestors. Electoral Registers 1832-1932 are searchable on Find My Past and also including some very recent ones 2000-2012.
In November (2002), Tameside Local Studies Library launched their image archive on-line, with a release of the first 12,500 photographs, very easy to search and pictures of excellent quality. Allow plenty of time, very difficult to stop browsing once you start. Their on-line archive is now more or less complete with approximately 50,000 entries.