Book Review: Colonial New Hampshire: A History (Jere R. Daniell)

As genealogists in New England we are all familiar with the story of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, the pilgrim separatists and the puritans, of Governors Bradford and Winthrop, of the Great Migration, and of the vast chronicle from the Mayflower to Bunker Hill and beyond.

But what about New Hampshire?  I think sometimes many consider the Granite State to be a mere footnote to the New England story.  More of the same.   Northern Massachusetts.  Or just some Ying to Vermont’s Yang.  Although we are blessed with one early and comprehensive history, Jeremy Belknap’s 18th century History of New Hampshire, reading it is like trying to understand English history by reading the Venerable Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.

Filling the gap and illumining the darkness is Jere R. Daniell (Dartmouth Ermitus Professor of History) and his Colonial New Hampshire: A History now available in a paperback edition from First University Press of New England.

Daniell covers New Hampshire history from all angles, governmental, economic, demographic, social and political, with topics ranging from the ups and downs of the relationships with the natives, the multi-generational legal battles over the Masonian propriotorship, the constantly evolving relationship with Massachusetts Bay to the gradually disintegrating relationship with the English provincial administration.  I found it augmented my knowledge considerably, and I’ve queued it up for re-reading in the future.

Aside from intrinsic interest and background knowledge, why would a genealogist find this book useful?   As a genealogist you should have deep knowledge of the history of an area, the laws and customs governing records and why they were produced.   A good knowledge of the history of a state can only help.

As an example, I recently had a client who was seeking land and probate records for Hampton, New Hampshire, relating to a particular individual between 1648 and 1675.  To a reader of Colonial New Hampshire: A History, this would immediately prompt a recollection that, for a portion of the mid 17th century (1641-1679 to be precise), Hampton and other New Hampshire towns were under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.   The original records for this time period are in Essex County, Massachusetts and not in New Hampshire at all!

Finally, it is worth noting the substantial Bibliography provided by Daniell, including references to primary source materials related to New Hampshire in several area repositories.  This is a resource worth bookmarking.

Title: Colonial New Hampshire: A HistoryAuthor: Jere R. Daniell
Publisher: First University Press of New England
Year: 2015 (originally published in 1981 by KTO Press)
ISBN: 978-1-61168-877-1
Pages: 279
Format: Paperback
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Coverage: New Hampshire, 17th and 18th centuries

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