Genealogical Research in New Hampshire
- A Brief History of New Hampshire
- Common New Hampshire Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
- New Hampshire Genealogical Organizations and Archives
- Additional New Hampshire Genealogical Resources
- New Hampshire Genealogical Records
- Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female New Hampshire Ancestors
On This Page:
New Hampshire has one of the oldest histories in the United States, and as such is rich in genealogical materials. Records have been generated since 1640, newspapers published from the mid-eighteenth century, and the oral histories of its native inhabitants passed on for thousands of years. As you can imagine there is a wealth of genealogical resources in New Hampshire, what we aim to do in this guide is to tell you:
- What they are
- Where to find them
- How to use them
These valuable resources can be found both online and off, so we’ll introduce you to some online databases and indexes, as well as the many brick-and-mortar repositories, societies and organizations that will help with your genealogical research in New Hampshire. In order to give you a more comprehensive understanding of these records, we’ll also give you a brief history of “The Granite State”, a state that has needed its inhabitants to be of sturdy build and strong character as its modern nickname suggests.
A Brief History of New Hampshire
New Hampshire is unique among the early colonies, as it was not founded by those seeking to escape religious persecution. Rather Captain John Mason, in alliance with several unknown associates, commissioned a Scotsman by the name of David Thompson along with two Englishmen named Thomas and Edward Hilton, along with a group of others to establish a fishing colony on the Piscataqua River. Colonies were established at what are now the towns of Rye and Dover in 1623, and so begun a long and colorful history.
A community of "towns" was erected under guidance from the English government, and the region was established as a "royal province" in 1679. John Cutt was elected as president, and the population governed and organized as much like England as was possible. New Hampshire remained a "royal province" until 1698 when it fell under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts and its Governor Joseph Dudley, and continued as such until 1741.
New Hampshire remained under English sovereignty until the Revolutionary War. In 1774, citizens of New Hampshire had signaled their devotion to the Revolution by stealing guns and powder from Fort William. They went on to fight in the Battle of Bunker Hill, where they made up the majority of the revolutionary force. Three citizens of New Hampshire would eventually sign the American Declaration of Independence; Mathew Thornton, Josiah Bartlett, and William Whipple.
New Hampshire was the first state to declare its independence and to adopt its own constitution, before becoming the deciding state in accepting the National Constitution proclaiming America a republic; New Hampshire had never known any other form of government. Many subsequent events have contributed to New Hampshire’s history, and as the first ever state library was established there, its genealogical value can not be understated.
- Important Genealogical Dates in New Hampshire History
- 1623 – 1638 - The first settlements were established in New Hampshire at Dover, Plymouth, Hampton and Exeter by religious dissenters, fishermen and traders.
- 1641 -1679 - During this period all settlements in New Hampshire fell under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, and consequently most of the records from this period are held in Massachusetts at the State Archives and similar institutions.
- 1679 -New Hampshire separated from Massachusetts.
- 1739 – 1741 -Massachusetts/New Hampshire boundary dispute finally settled.
- 1754 – 1763 - An influx of soldiers during the French and Indian War opened the way for many new settlements to be established in New Hampshire
- 1764 - First major boundary changed as the west bank of the Connecticut River was declared as New Hampshire’s western boundary.
- 1755 – 1783 - Many settlers from New Hampshire fought and killed during the Revolutionary War
- 1788 -New Hampshire becomes the ninth state after ratifying the US Constitution.
- 1819 - With the passing of the Toleration Act, New Hampshire residents were freed from the paying of compulsory taxes to any church.
- 1842 - New Hampshire’s boundary with Quebec was settled, and consequently many French Canadians began crossing the border to work in New Hampshire’s textile mills and shoe factories.
- 1861 – 1865 -Nearly forty thousand New Hampshire residents fought and killed during Civil war
- 1898 - Spanish American War involving nearly 300,000 Americans sees 1,358 New Hampshire soldiers fighting in Cuba and the Philippines.
- 1917 – 1918: Many men from New Hampshire aged 18 – 45 register with the Selective Service during World War 1.
- 1930’s - The great Depression caused many of New Hampshire’s factories to close, and many of the smaller farms to be shut down and abandoned. Many New Hampshire families moved to the cities.
- 1940 – 1945 - New Hampshire men and women fight and die in the Second World War.
- 1950 – 1953 = New Hampshire men and women fight in Korean War; approximately 150 New Hampshire soldiers killed or missing in action.
- 1964 – 1972 - New Hampshire men and women fight in Vietnam War; 227 New Hampshire residents killed or missing in action.
Common New Hampshire Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
Boundary Changes: A common obstacle when researching New Hampshire ancestors are historical boundary changes. One can be searching for an ancestor’s record in one county when in fact it is stored in a different one due to historical county boundary changes. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries can help you to overcome that problem. It provides a chronological listing of every boundary change that has occurred in the history of New Hampshire.
Name Changes: Surname changes, variations, and misspellings can complicate genealogical research. It is important to check all spelling variations. Soundex, a program that indexes names by sound, is a useful first step, but you can't rely on it completely as some name variations result in different Soundex codes. The surnames could be different, but the first name may be different too. You can also find records filed under initials, middle names, and nicknames as well, so you will need to get creative with surname variations and spellings in order to cover all the possibilities. For help with surname variations read our instructional article on How to Use Soundex.
New Hampshire Genealogical Organizations and Archives
Genealogical resources include not only records, but the organizations that house them, or can direct you to them. These institutions include: Archives, Libraries, Genealogical Societies, Family History Centers, Universities, Churches, and Museums.
New Hampshire Archives
- Following are links to their websites, and a summary of the records.
- New Hampshire State Archives - a genealogist’s paradise hosting a wealth of records ranging from Census Reports, Probate Records, Land Records, Military records, and Naturalization Records to Paupers indices and more
Archives and Records Management
N.H. Department of State
71 South Fruit Street
Concord, NH 03301
- N.H. Vital Records Administration (formerly N.H. Bureau of Vital Records) - repository for Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce records in the state from colonial era to 1948.
New Hampshire Vital Records Administration
71 South Fruit Street
Concord, NH 03301
- Massachusetts State Archives – Vital records, military records, passenger lists, judicial records, and the “archive collection” - an important source of records for early Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire families.
- New Hampshire State Library - maintains an extensive collection of 2400 published family histories for New Hampshire and the rest of New England as well as annual town reports, town and county histories, Federal census records, city and county directories, military indexes up to 1900, historical newspapers collection (microfilm)
New Hampshire State Library
20 Park Street
Concord, NH 03301
Tel: (603) 271-2144 or 603-271-22
- Manchester New Hampshire City Library - collection contains city and town histories, biographies, Manchester history, and genealogies of prominent New Hampshire families.
Manchester City Library
405 Pine St.
Manchester, NH o3104
Tel. - 603 624-6550
Email: via online contact form
- The University of New Hampshire - holds a wealth of valuable genealogical material such as an impressive digital collection of old newspapers, Civil War Records (personal papers, muster rolls, regimental histories and soldier’s letters) as well as the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, an historical genealogy magazine from the early 20th century (1904 -1909), and annual reports for individual towns dating from 1866, including journals and provincial papers.
University of New Hampshire
105 Main Street,
Durham, NH 03824
Tel: 603) 862-1234
- Sullivan Public Library Archive – Town records, school records and memorabilia, newspaper clippings, photographs, town clerk records, religious records, cemetery records, deeds, manuscripts.
New Hampshire Genealogical and Historical Societies
Genealogical and historical societies have access to extensive catalogues of genealogical data. They are also able to offer expert guidance for genealogical researchers. Many members are professional genealogists who are most willing to share their expertise in finding ancestors.
New Hampshire Historical Society - Another resource located in Concord, the N.H. Historical Society's library boasts the finest collection of printed, manuscript, and historical photographs relating to New Hampshire history that you’ll find anywhere. Their incredible manuscript collection includes the personal papers of many historically notable individuals such as; Josiah Bartlett who signed the American Declaration of Independence, Mary Baker eddy the founder of Christian Science, and the famous orator Daniel Webster. You will also find; account books, indentures, diaries, business records, organizational and corporate records relating to farmers, shopkeepers, craftsmen, agricultural, medical, religious, social, cultural, and industrial groups.
6 Eagle Square
Concord, NH 03301
30 Park Street
Concord, NH 03301
American – Canadian Genealogical Society (ACGS) - maintains the biggest resource facility for French-Canadian research in the United States of America. Their primary resources are Parish records which cover the provinces of Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario in Canada, as well as the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts in the U.S. They also have vital records for New Hampshire up to 1900.
American-Canadian Genealogical Society
P.O. Box 6478
Manchester, NH 03108-6478
New England Historic Genealogical Society - Founded in 1758, this organization has searchable online databases of genealogical records from all over New England. Some of the records you can search here particular to New Hampshire are; Marriage records, Doctors personal records of births 1807-1857, Church Records, Mortality Bills (Deaths from 1708-1802), Vital Records from 1686-1850, Town records, and Tax lists.
New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116
Historical Society of Cheshire County – The Wright Room research library here contains over 3,000 volumes on New England towns, counties, and family histories, complete with a comprehensive and current collection of CD ROMs related to genealogy, vital records, and military records
Wolfeboro Historical Society – Local histories, genealogies, historical photos, town reports, personal notes
New Hampshire Family History Centers
The Family History Centers run by the LDS Church offer free access to billions of genealogical records for free to the general public. They also provide classes on genealogy and one-on-one assistance to inexperienced family historians. At the online directory for LDS Family History Centers you will find Addresses and contact information for LDS Family History Centers in New Hampshire
Additional New Hampshire Genealogical Resources
New Hampshire Mailing Lists
Mailing lists are internet based facilities that use email to distribute a single message to all who subscribe to it. When information on a particular surname, new records, or any other important genealogy information related to the mailing list topic becomes available, the subscribers are alerted to it. Joining a mailing list is an excellent way to stay up to date on New Hampshire genealogy research topics. Rootsweb have an extensive listing of New Hampshire Mailing Lists on a variety of topics.
New Hampshire Message Boards
A message board is another internet based facility where people can post questions about a specific genealogy topic and have it answered by other genealogists. If you have questions about a surname, record type, or research topic, you can post your question and other researchers and genealogists will help you with the answer. You must make sure to check back regularly, as the answers are not emailed to you. The message boards at the New Hampshire Genealogy Forum are completely free to use.
New Hampshire City and County Directories
Although local historical and genealogical societies may prove the best resources for these valuable genealogical materials, you can also find them at the following institutions.
The Library of Congress Reading Room - has a host of New Hampshire City Directories on microfilm. A full listing of the cities and the dates for which they have records can be viewed on their website.
New Hampshire Historical Directories - listing links you to where the directories may be found online, some for free and others involving payment.
Fold3.com - though it is a subscription site, the upside is that that you can view the directories and other records online.
The best source for both online and online research is the New Hampshire State Library. They have an extensive collection of city and town directories as well as other historical data that can be viewed online in high quality resolution.
Historical New Hampshire Maps and Gazetteers
Maps are necessary to genealogical research. They help us to locate landmarks, towns, cities, parishes, states, provinces, waterways and roads and streets. They also help us to determine when and where boundary changes might have taken place, and give us a visualization of the area we’re researching in. For locating place names, a gazetteer is the best possible resource for any genealogist. Gazetteers are also sometimes called “place name dictionaries”, and can help you to locate the area in which you need to conduct research. Below are links to the maps and gazetteers for research in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Genealogical Records
Birth, Death and Marriage Records
In the state of New Hampshire, you can obtain BDM certificates (birth, death, and marriage) from either the city or town clerk, or the NH Vital Records Administration. Records date back to 1640.
Divorce records in New Hampshire are held on microfilm at the Department of State Division of Vital Records Administration.
The Bride’s Index – Dating from 1640-1900, contains the names of brides, the mothers of brides and the mothers of grooms. Film Number: 0975678 ff.
Index to Divorces – lists divorces from early colonial period to 1936. Film Number: 1001323 ff.
Many county court records have been microfilmed and are also held by the Vital Records Administration. Although they contain divorce records they are not catalogued as such. Those that have been transferred to microfilm are:
Grafton County Superior court of Judicature Court Records – Records from 1774 – 1851, includes divorce cases overseen by the Grafton County Courthouse. Microfilm Number: 1763455 ff.
Grafton County Supreme Court Equity Records – 1881-1918, includes divorce records kept by both the Supreme and Superior Courts. Microfilm Number: 1763365 ff.
If you require a copy of a divorce record it may be obtained from the Vital Records Administration office or from the Clerk of the Superior Court in whichever county the divorce was granted
The Federal government conducted the first census of New Hampshire in 1790. Since then they have continued to be taken every ten years. You can access New Hampshire census reports up until 1930, most are complete except for the 1890 census which was lost in the same warehouse fire that destroyed those of other states. Every one of the New Hampshire reports has been indexed except for those of 1870 and 1910.
The New Hampshire State Library holds the original schedules for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, and has microfilm copies of those from 1800, 1810, 1820, and 1830. It also retains printed copies of the first Federal United States census taken in 1790.
Prior to 1790 there are enumeration lists available at the State Archives for 1732, 1744, 1767, and 1776. They can be found in the New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers which are housed at most libraries throughout New Hampshire. Some of the census reports are not complete.
For example the 1800 report omits the towns of Atkinson, Greenland, Hampton, Hampton Falls, Londonderry, Northampton, Pelham, Plaistow, Salem, Seabrook, Stratham, and Windham in Rockingham County, and Alton, Barnstead, Brookfield, Effingham, Gilmanton, Middleton, New Durham, Ossipee, and Tuftonboro, Wakefield, and Wolfeboro in Strafford County.
Information for the towns in Strafford County that were omitted in the 1800 report can be found in the 1798 Direct Tax List, which contains the occupants name, and the name of the properties owner if not the same. A copy is currently held by the Wolfeboro Historical Society, and other copies can be found in the State Archives, the State Library, and with the New Hampshire Historical Society.
New Hampshire Church Records
Church records can reveal much genealogical material, and there are many to be found in New Hampshire.
An excellent comprehensive source and guide to church records in New Hampshire is the 1942 publication Guide to Church Vital Statistics in New Hampshire. Published by the New Hampshire Historical Records Survey, Service Division, Work Projects Administration. It is an essential guide to where specific church records can be found in the state. You can obtain a printed copy at the New Hampshire Division of Records Management and Archives. You can also find microfilmed copies in genealogical libraries and the LDS Family History Centers throughout the state.
The American Baptist-Samuel Colgate Library in Rochester New York has some original records of the American Baptist Church in New Hampshire from various towns. A list of the records they have for New Hampshire can be found online in their Archive of Original Records Directory, scroll down to New Hampshire.
Records of the Catholic church are some of the most prized to be found in New Hampshire. The original records are maintained by the parish in which they are or were generated and requests can be made to those institutions. You can find a listing of every Catholic Church in New Hampshire at Parishes Online.
The Congregational church was one of the earliest to be established in New Hampshire, and joined with other Protestant faiths to form the United Church of Christ in 1957. They have an Online Directory which you can use to find their congregations in New Hampshire.
The Congregational Records and Archives Library in Boston, Massachusetts hosts a few collections from congregations in New Hampshire, and they also have an Online Directory of Repositories in New Hampshire where you can find Congregational records.
Local congregations are responsible for maintaining membership records, and a listing of all Methodist Churches in New Hampshire can help you to find the required contact information. Listings are quite comprehensive and include the name of the pastor presently presiding; street address, telephone number, email address, and website link if the congregation has one.
As a final option, Church Angel has a listing of many churches in New Hampshire which you can search according to town.
New Hampshire Military Records
Because of its revolutionary past, many military records regarding New Hampshire and those who served in both National Forces and State Militias can be found. Because there are so many, we’ll categorize them by conflict to make it easier for you to locate the ones that might serve you best. These records date from the 1600’s up until the Vietnam conflict, identify persons who either served in the military or who were eligible for military service.
Colonial Military Records
Very early military records regarding New Hampshire may be found in the New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers found in most libraries or in the LDS Family History Centers throughout the State. The papers also include information on those who served in the French and Indian Wars between 1754 and 1763. You can also find these records in the New Hampshire State Archives – ask to view the Adjutant General’s Report Vol. ii, 1866.
Revolutionary War Records
Revolutionary War records can be divided into two categories - those for Patriots and those for Loyalists who remained loyal to England during the conflict. They date from 1775 – 1783 and can be found in several locations.
A major source for records of those who were patriots during the Revolutionary War can be found in the Revolutionary War Rolls 1775–1783 from the United States War Department held in the National Archives. They are microfilmed compilations of the records of individual soldiers. The New Hampshire records can be found in films 830322-830333 in the LDS Family history Centers as well. The New Hampshire Historical Society has a 71 volume index of names for the New Hampshire soldiers who received pensions, as well as a card index to revolutionary War Rolls.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) have a Free Lookup Message Board where volunteers will check to see if your ancestor is listed in the DAR Patriot Index.
A history of New Hampshire women patriots is give at SeaCoastNH.com, where many names are mentioned along with dates and addresses.
The Loyalist Collection held by the Harriet Irving Library at the University of New Brunswick in Canada is valuable source of Loyalist records. The collection includes Loyalist related primary source material regarding British, Canadian, and Colonial American activity during the American revolutionary War. Such sources include; Official documents and military correspondence, journals, maps, muster rolls, diaries, Carleton’s Loyalist Index, payment lists, settlement lists, and pensions lists.
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a conflict brought on by trade restrictions imposed on the Americans by the British and their support of the Indian tribes against the new colonists. The bulk of records for this conflict can be found in the US National Archives in Washington D.C., but there are some accessible online records as well.
The 1840 Census of Pensioners Revolutionary or Military Services contains the names of pensioners and widows who were receiving military pensions in New Hampshire at that time. This would have included veterans of the War of 1812 or their surviving spouse. The listing contains the name of the pensioner, as well as the name of the head of the household in which they resided, along with the pensioners name and place of residence.
Civil War Records
New Hampshire soldiers played a major role in the success of the Union forces during the Civil War. Almost 40,000 men from New Hampshire served in various regiments during the four year period, and as such many records were created for them. A great online resource for New Hampshire Civil War records is the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, a completely free search engine run by the National Park Service that allows you to search 6.3 million soldier records by name, unit, state or function.
20th Century Records
The US National Archives holds many records from the two World Wars as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They range from casualty lists to records of combat operations, medal awards, official personnel files, enlistment and draft records, unit patrol records, and many historical photographs. Records only become available to the public 62 years after the end of a person’s service, so more recent records may not be available.
When ordering copies of records from the National Archives, be aware that only a veteran or next of kin (surviving spouse, father, mother, sister, brother, daughter, or son) can receive copies, but generally there is no fee involved. Records can be ordered online, by fax, or by mail
New Hampshire Cemetery Records
- Databases that can be searched online for New Hampshire Cemetery records
- New Hampshire Tombstone Inscription Project – database of records from the 18th and 19th centuries; includes major cemeteries, as well as smaller family plots with only one headstone remaining.
- A Very Grave Matter - This website features a wealth of photos and historical information of cemeteries and gravestones in southern New Hampshire, southern Maine, and northeast Massachusetts.
- New Hampshire Cemeteries List - If you’re not sure which county your ancestor is buried in, or the name of the cemetery within the county, this website provides a by county listing of cemeteries in Ne Hampshire.
- Political Graveyard - contains a Geographical Index to cemeteries in New Hampshire where politicians have been buried. It is quite a comprehensive listing, and even if your ancestor wasn’t involved in politics, you might find the cemetery they were buried in here, as the list is quite extensive.
New Hampshire Obituaries
Obituaries can reveal a wealth about our ancestor and other relatives. You can search our New Hampshire Newspaper Obituaries Listings from hundreds of New Hampshire newspapers online for free.
New Hampshire Wills and Probate Records
Court records are an excellent resource for locating ancestors in New Hampshire. It is possible that they may be listed as plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, or jurors, and there are many types of cases they could have been involved in such as; law suits, property disputes, adoption, divorce, debt settlements, and many other matters. The value in court records is that they can establish relationships between family members, reveal places of residence, occupations, personal descriptions, and more. Following are some excellent resources for New Hampshire probate records.
New England Historic Genealogical Society – early New Hampshire probate records on microfilm.
New Hampshire State Archives – probate records of the Superior Court (marriage, divorce, alimony, equity and appeals) 1769 – Present, Court of Common Pleas (civil matters) 1769 – 1859 and those of County Courts 1771 – 1920.
New Hampshire Immigration and Naturalization Records
The early settlers of New Hampshire were originally emigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland, who were later joined by many French born immigrants from Canada, and subsequently Germany, Poland, Sweden, Greece, and other countries.
The major port of entry for those coming to New England was Boston, and consequently the Massachusetts State Archives may have information on your New Hampshire ancestor in their collection of Boston passenger lists for 1848 to 1891.
Many Irish emigrants arrived during the period of the Great Famine, and there is a database of close to 700,000 names of Irish who arrived in the USA between 1846 and1851. Many of those emigrants found their way to New Hampshire.
The Irish Immigrant Database may also prove useful to genealogists conducting research in New Hampshire. It is a collection of missing persons or information wanted ads published in the Boston Pilot newspaper between 1831 and 1921.
There is also a Scottish Emigration Database maintained by the University of Aberdeen that may prove useful to anyone searching New Hampshire ancestors. It currently identifies over 21,000 Scottish emigrants who left the ports of Glasgow, Greenock and other Scottish ports between 1890 and 1960.
Most New Hampshire naturalization records created prior to 1906 have been microfilmed by the LDS church and are available through their Family History Centers. Many others have also been indexed or transcribed for publication and can be found at local and regional libraries and genealogical and historical societies.
Records held in the New Hampshire State and the US National Archives will include records of Passport Applications, Citizenship Certificates, Declarations of Intent, Alien Registrations, and First Papers.
Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female New Hampshire Ancestors
Looking for female ancestors requires an adjustment of how we view traditional records sources. A woman’s identity was often under that of her husband, and often individual records for them can be difficult to locate. The following resources are effective in locating female ancestors in New Hampshire where traditional records may not reveal them.
Marriage and Divorce Records
The State Department of Health in Concord has the following indexes of marriages and divorces from county to state level on microfilm that can be very useful for finding female ancestors.
- Grafton County Supreme Court equity records 1881-1918 (film 1763365 ff.)
- Grafton County Supreme Court of Judicature court records, 1774-1821, 1836-1837, court dockets 1774-1819, 1833-1851 (film 1763455 ff.)
- Index to divorces and annulments pre-1938 (film 1001323 ff.)
- Marriage Index, colonial era to 1900 (film 1001120 ff.)
- Bride’s Index, 1640-1900 (film 0975678 ff.)
- Index of References to American Women in Colonial Newspapers Through 1800, Helen F. Evans (The Bibliographer, 1979)
- Hands That Built New Hampshire: Spinning and Weaving in New Hampshire, Federal Writer’s Project
- A History of the New Hampshire Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1895-1940, Alice Stratton Harriman (Musgrave Printing House, 1941)
- The Paved Way: A History of New Hampshire Women, Olive Tardiff (Women for Weekly Publishing, 1980)
Selected Resources for New Hampshire Women’s History
University of New Hampshire
Durham, NH 03824
Hanover, NH 03755