Genealogical Gold in Town Annual Reports

Items Commonly Found in Town Annual Reports

  • Lists of town officers
  • Lists of everyone who received money from the town.  Tradesmen and laborers are especially represented.
  • Reports from trust funds, including cemetery trust fund, which may list interments.
  • Report from Overseer of the Poor
  • School records, often including lists of graduates and those with perfect attendance.
  • Vital Records for the town, in full or summary form.

Analysis and Interpretation of Town Annual Reports

  • Critical to determine what time period is covered by the report.
  • Fiscal year might differ from calendar year.
  • School’s reporting year might differ from town’s reporting year.
  • Similar use as town record books: Look at what the record says as well as what it means.

Where to Find Town Annual Reports

Key Takeaway

Between those who were born (vital records) and those who died (vital records, cemetery trust fund), those who paid taxes or failed to pay them (tax lists, unpaid tax lists), and those who were too poor to owe any taxes (report of overseer of poor), pretty much everyone in a town had an opportunity to make it into town annual reports.

Published Resources

  • James S. Garland, New England Town Law (Boston: Boston Book Co., 1906). (Amazon, Internet Archive)
  • Michael Leclerc (ed.), Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research, 5th edition (Boston: NEHGS Press, 2012). (Amazon)
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