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Brief History

Effective family research requires some understanding of the historical events that may have affected your family and the records about them. Learning about wars, governments, laws, migrations, and religious trends may help you understand political boundaries, family movements, and settlement patterns. County and town histories often include biographical sketches of local residents or mention military units in which they served.

The following important events in the history of New Hampshire affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements:

  • 1623–1638: Traders and religious dissenters established the first permanent English settlements in New Hampshire at Dover, Portsmouth, Exeter, and Hampton. John Mason was the proprietor of a large part of New Hampshire. He and the later Masonian proprietors made many town grants and individual land grants until the early 1800s.
  • 1641–1679: New Hampshire settlements were under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.
  • 1679: New Hampshire became a separate royal province with the same governor as Massachusetts for most of the period before 1741. The Massachusetts governor made many land grants in what is now New Hampshire.
  • 1739–1741: Boundary disputes with Massachusetts were settled.
  • 1754–1763: The French and Indian War brought many soldiers into New Hampshire, opening the way for new settlements.
  • 1764: The western boundary was declared to be the west bank of the Connecticut River. Earlier, most of Vermont had been claimed by New Hampshire. Before 1764, New Hampshire’s governor made many land grants in the area that later became Vermont.
  • 1775–1783: Many soldiers from New Hampshire fought in the Revolutionary War.
  • 1788: (June 21,)New Hampshire ratified the U.S. Constitution to become the ninth state.
  • 1819: The Toleration Act was passed. New Hampshire residents no longer could be forced to pay taxes to support a church.
  • 1842: The boundary between New Hampshire and Quebec was settled. At about this time, farm workers and overseas immigrants began moving to New Hampshire cities to work in the textile and shoe factories.
  • 1861–1865: About 39,000 New Hampshire men served in the Union Army.
  • Late 1800's: French Canadians and Europeans settled mostly in cities to work in factories. Manufacturing surpassed farming as the chief occupation.
  • 1898: 1,358 New Hampshire soldiers served in the Spanish-American War. Over 300,000 U.S. men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 20,000 New Hampshire soldiers served in WWI. More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. During World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served. The Navy’s first submarine was completed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, beginning decades of submarine construction and repair.
  • 1930's: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many employees lost their jobs.. Many small farms were abandoned, and the families moved to cities. The snow skiing industry continued to grow as the tourist industry expanded.
  • 1940–1945: Over 60,000 New Hampshire men and women served in WWII; 1,600 died. Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II. Factories converted to defense production and agriculture boomed.
  • 1947–1954: The postwar slump hit factories and farms. Textile and shoe manufacturers continued to move to the South.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950's–1960's The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1960's: Technology and electronics firms boomed.
  • 1964–1972: Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Content

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories of New Hampshire.

To learn if there is a town history book that contains extrensive information about your ancestor's surname, see William Copeley's book, Index to Genealogies in New Hampshire Town Histories. Concord, New Hampshire: New Hampshire Historical Society, 1988. (FHL book 974.2 D22c, fiche 6010808.) Many libraries have copies. This book has a list of surnames, and indicates which towns' histories have a good deal of information relating to that surname.


  • Committee for a New England Bibliography. New Hampshire, a Bibliography of its History, vol. 3. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall, 1979. This book includes state, county, and local histories, and an index of authors, editors, compilers, subjects, and places. FHL book 974.2 H23c.
  • Hammond, Otis G. Hammond’s Check List of New Hampshire History. 1925. Reprint, Somersworth, New Hampshire: New Hampshire Publishing, 1971. This source contains a bibliography of histories by subject and town and includes an index. Family History Library book 974.2 A3h.
  • Filby, P. William. A Bibliography of American County Histories. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1985. FHL book 973 H23bi; Worldcat.
  • Kaminkow, Marion J. United States Local Histories in the Library of Congress. 5 vols. Baltimore: Magna Charta Book, 1975-76. FHL book 973 A3ka; Worldcat

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of New Hampshire:

  • Stackpole, Everett S. History of New Hampshire. 4 vols. New York: American Historical Society, 1916. This is an extensive and complete history of New Hampshire. The four volumes include illustrations, maps, genealogies, portraits, and indexes. FHL book 974.2 H2ses; fiche 6046856.
  • Barstow, George. The History of New Hampshire, From its Discovery in 1614. Concord, New Hampshire: I.S. Boyd, 1842. This large volume tells the history of New Hampshire from 1614 to 1819. It contains detailed descriptions of towns, military skirmishes, and events, complete with information on names and dates. It is arranged chronologically with exact dates of events in the margins. There is no index to names. Family History Library book 974.2 H2b.
  • Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New Hampshire. 2 vols. 1812, 1831. Reprint, New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1970. These volumes contain a detailed history of New Hampshire and descriptions and narratives of the events which took place in the state. It is replete with copies of documents and letters. The second volume includes explanations of the records kept by the towns along with statistics shown by county. Family History Library book 974.2 H2bj.
  • Squires, J. Duane. The Granite State of the United States. 4 vols. New York: American Historical, 1956. These four volumes contain a complete history of New Hampshire from 1623 to 1956. Volumes one and two detail the history of the early settlements, the colonial and social life, public affairs, and business and industry information. Volumes three and four contain biographies and genealogies. All volumes have illustrations, portraits, and bibliographies and are well indexed. Family History Library book 974.2 H2s.

United States History

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983. This provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history. FHL book 973 H2alm; Worldcat
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976. This includes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations. FHL book 973 H2ad; Worldcat. A snippet view is available at Google books.
  • Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. Springfield, Mass.: G andC Merriam, 1971. This includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information. FHL book 973 H2v; Worldcat. Limited view at Google Books.
  • Writings on American History By American Historical Association, Library of Congress, United States National Historical Publications Commission, Published by KTO Press, 1921 FHL book 973 H23w; Worldcat. Has the full text available at Google Books

Finding More Information

To find more books and articles about New Hampshire 's history use the Internet Google search for phases like "New Hampshire history." FamilySearch Catalog Place Names Search lists many more histories under topics like:

NEW HAMPSHIRE- HISTORY
NEW HAMPSHIRE, [COUNTY] - HISTORY
NEW HAMPSHIRE, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - HISTORY
NEW HAMPSHIRE, BIBLIOGRAPHY

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  • This page was last modified on 14 August 2014, at 23:58.
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