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.
- 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.
- FamilySearch.org – 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)