Genealogical Gold in Old Town Books

Items Commonly Found in Town Books

  • Vital Records, in early years organized in family groups.
  • Town meeting warnings and minutes.
  • Tax records, assessments, etc.
  • Freemen’s lists.
  • Lists of voters.
  • Earmarks
  • Warnings out
  • Poor records
  • Religious records

Analysis and Interpretation of Town Records

  • Are you looking at an original record or a later transcription?
  • Was the record created at the same time as the events described?
  • What laws and customs governed the creation of this record?
  • What does the record say?  And what does the record mean?
  • A mention of a person in a record tells you he was there, at that time and place, and also that he was capable (legally and physically) of doing that act.
  • Can be useful to look at your subject’s appearances (and non-appearances) in the record book over several years.

Where to Find Old Town Books

  • First, know what the town was called at the time.  It might have had a different name or been part of another town in the past.  The Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research is an essential resource for this.
  • – go to Search/Catalog, type in the name of the town and click “Search.”  In the results returned, look for the “Town Records” section.
  • Town Clerks, but may or may not allow you access.
  • Local public libraries might have copies on microfilm.
  • Some towns have had their records transcribed and published.  Check WorldCat.

New Hampshire’s All-Name Index

  • A card index of all names mentioned in N.H. town record books.
  • Cards were microfilmed, onto 111 reels.
  • Not all towns were covered, but still an extremely useful resource.
  • New Hampshire State Library in Concord: G 929.1742 N5322i.
  • NEHGS Library in Boston: F33.N457.
  • Partially online at FamilySearch.


  • Roy H. Akagi, The Town Proprietor of the New England Colonies (Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1963). (Amazon, Internet Archive)
  • Josiah Henry Benton, Warning Out in New England, 1656-1817 (Boston: W. B. Clarke Co., 1911). (Amazon, Internet Archive)
  • Samuel Freeman, The Town Officer, 7th Edition (Boston: Thomas & Andrews, 1808). (Google Books)
  • Ann Smith Lainhart, Digging for Genealogical Treasure in New England Town Records (Boston: NEHGS, 1996). (Amazon)
  • Michael Leclerc (ed.), Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th edition (Boston: NEHGS Press, 2012). (Amazon)
  • William MacDonald, “Oaths of Allegiance in Colonial New England,” Proceeding of the American Antiquarian Society, Vol. 31 (April-Oct 1921), p. 377. (Internet Archive)
  • Edmund S. Morgan, The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop (New York: Pearson Longman, 2007). (Amazon)
  • William M. Richardson, The New-Hampshire Town Officer (Concord: Jacob B. Moore, 1829). (Internet Archive)
  • Thomas H. Roderick, “Genealogical Evidence: Marks for Cattle and Sheep,” NGSQ, Vol. 57 No. 2 (June 1969), p. 88.
  • Kip Sperry, Reading Early American Handwriting (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008). (Amazon)
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