Sunday, September 9, 2018

TAX & ESTATE RECORDS ~ What I learned at a seminar featuring Michael Lacopo

San Diego Genealogical Society

Guest Speaker: Michael Lacopo, D.V.M.

Session 1: More than the Census-Our Families did exist within those ten-year intervals

Session 2: Using Tax Records for Genealogical Problem Solving

Session 3:  Estate Files: Are you getting the most out of them?

Session 4: The German Immigrant experience in the 18th Century

It’s always fun to attend classes, seminars and conferences.  In a dozen plus years, I’ve never attended one and walked away without more knowledge than I started with.  In addition to learning how to do research by actually doing it, and watching various webinars, I cannot say enough about attending seminars and conferences.

I wrote a blog post about this subject in 2014 and what I said still holds true today.


The San Diego Genealogical Society will be celebrating it’s 72nd year next month.  It’s still very active and up to date. Please visit our web page here San Diego Genealogical Society.

Our speaker yesterday was Michael Lacopo.  He has an impressive resume and once you attend one of his classes, you’ll want to hear him speak again. When I attended a class back in 2016 at Jamboree, I couldn’t wait for another opportunity to hear him lecture.  He’s knowledgeable, easy to understand and has a great sense of humor.

Here are some of the highlights from the seminar:

Session 1 – make sure you are paying attention to where your ancestors went during those 10 year intervals between U.S. censuses.  Michael pointed out, using real examples, the surprising movements that could occur during those intervals.  We all know that, contrary to what me might have been told, our ancestors didn’t always stay put.  There are many resources you can use to obtain information between censuses: tax records, land records, probate records, church records, voter and poll records and newspapers are just a few. 

Session 2 – Tax Records – I learned a lot during this session.  I’ve used tax records before, but not often.  And, I never understood the real value of them until Michael explained it.  I can’t possibly cover, nor do I want to duplicate, what Michael told us.  It is after all his presentation.  Here’s what I realized though – from tax records you can determine what kind of property your ancestor owned and where.  This could lead to you finding probate and land records.  Who was taxed in the same location as your ancestor?  Are they related?  Did your ancestor’s property increase or decrease between taxations?  Take a look, you won’t regret it.  I’m doing just that today and I’ve already located quite a lot of information.

Session 3 – Estate Files – I expect that most of you have looked at estate files, probate records, wills etc.  BUT, are you like me and just look for the actual will among those papers?  I always kind of skipped over the administration papers, bond papers and something called a Vendue List (an auction list of the value of items). Who bought items at the auction?  Michael shared that if a buyer came from a county over or some other long distance, they were probably related.  Why was there still activity going on for a probate 15 years after someone died?  It could have been the executors weren’t doing their jobs.  If there was more than one auction of items, check those names.  Did the same name show up again and again?  Probably a relative.  I now realize I may have missed some extremely important clues to family connections.  I have vowed, as of today, to change my ways.  Michael recommended and so do I, that you use Cyndi’s List as a place to find more links to estate files.  I have a lot of work to do now that I know better what to be looking for.

Session 4 – German Immigrant Experience – This was a case study for one of Michael’s ancestors who came to America from Germany.  But, the things we learned can apply to any immigrant experience.  Learning more about what our ancestors went through, just to get here, makes us appreciate all the more, their sacrifices.

I’ve been busy today revisiting tax & estate records for my own ancestors and my approach is completely different.  Thank you Michael.



Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2018   Diane Gould Hall



  1. We never stop learning. There's a talk coming up on my Luxembourg genealogy society's calendar on how to start your family tree. I'll be there representing our board but also to pick up some tips I may not already know - even after 25 years.
    On the US front, earlier this year I found the land tax records in FamilySearch's catalog. The links are saved for the ancestor I am presently concentrating on.
    Thank you for sharing the highlights of Michael's seminars. If his speaking is anything like his writing, I bet it was engaging.

    1. Cathy - so true. I learn something every week, if not every day. And yes, his speaking is just like his writing. He is very engaging and full of great information. I bet he was a wonderful Veterinarian. If you ever have the opportunity either in person or online to hear him, I would take advantage of it.
      Thanks for always stopping by. I really appreciate it :)


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.