Detail of picture showing Hastings County Courthouse

New owners of old houses in Belleville and Hastings are often interested in finding out who built the property and when, or who has lived in it since. Taxation records can be a useful source of information for this.

Municipalities need to know who owns all the lots of land in their jurisdiction and how much it is worth in order to raise the taxes they use to provide services to the population. As municipalities were established, lists of lots were compiled, with the names of their owners and occupiers and their valuations. Fortunately for today’s researchers, many of these lists, known as assessment rolls, survive. They can be a rich source of information, as we mentioned last year.

Over the past twelve months, we have been gradually making more of these assessment rolls (for Hastings County and for Belleville) available online. As an example of information in these records, here is an extract from the 1877 roll for lots 36 and 35 on the east side of Pinnacle Street in Belleville.

Detail of Belleville assessment roll for Pinnacle Street, 1877.

70 | W. H. & I. B. Graham | Unfinished Terrace | E. Pinnacle | 36

71 | Gaol & Court House | Edward Meyers | Gaoler | not assessable | E. Pinnacle | 35


We can see that lot 36 was occupied by an “Unfinished Terrace”, while the Gaol and Courthouse (which were not subject to taxes) were on lot 35, complete with Edward Meyers, the gaoler, and some unnamed prisoners.

Combined with maps, photographs, and newspaper reports, information like this can help us to date the construction of buildings and identify their first owners. From this entry in the assessment roll we discover that Bellevue Terrace on Patterson Street in Belleville was not completed until 1877, and that it was built by W. H. [William Henry] and I. B. [Isaac Brock] Graham. 

Sheet three of the Evans and Bolger map of 1877 shows the new terrace, just to the north of the Hastings County Court House:

Detail of Evans and Bolger map of 1877

David Morrice's photograph in the header of this post, taken from City Hall, shows both the new terrace and the Court House, with the gaol block behind it. 

Sometimes information in the assessment rolls is the only way of discovering when a building was constructed, and who was responsible for the work. These taxation volumes are also a valuable social record of the people of Belleville and Hastings, their ages and their occupations.