New Hampshire Probate Records
Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.” Genealogists often refer to 'Probate Records' as "All records which relate to the disposition of an estate," whether the person died leaving a will (testate) or not (intestate).
Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, guardianships, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, depositions, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents.
For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.
Probate records from 1636–1771, originally filed in Portsmouth and Exeter, are now in the collection at the New Hampshire Records Management and Archives. (See Statewide Records Collections below.) For other counties, probate records are found in the county courthouse of each county.
These probate files include letters, affidavits, bills, receipts, original wills, and inventories.
Records of towns along the Massachusetts border may be found in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. This is because New Hampshire was under Massachusetts from 1641 to 1679. The governor of Massachusetts was also the governor of New Hampshire to 1741. The boundaries with Massachusetts were not finally settled until 1739-41.
State and Local
The Family History Library has microfilms of the probate records of most of the New Hampshire counties for the 1700s and 1800s. The films can be borrowed through the Family Search Centers.
Some counties have sent their probate records for early years to the New Hampshire State Archives in Concord, New Hampshire. You can see their list on the Internet and learn about records sent there. You may also wish to see their more detailed inventory, and look under Probate Records. As of March 2012, they indicate that these probate records have been sent to the State Archives:
Cheshire County probate records, 1771-1899. (On films to 1899 at the Family History Library.)
Grafton County probate records, 1773-1899. (On films to 1933 at Family History Library.)
Merrimack County probate records, 1823-1984 (one list says to 1950) (On films to about 1943 at the Family History Library.)
Rockingham County probate records, 1771-1918 (On films to 1969 at Family History Library.)
- The New England Historic Genealogical Society located in the heart of downtown Boston, Massachusetts has early New Hampshire probate records available on microfilm. To search their online library catalog click Here.
- The Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah has many New Hampshire probate records available on microfilm. For collection details see the Family History Library Catalog. Use the "Place Search" option to search for a specific New Hampshire county. Then look for topics labeled "Probate Records" or "Guardianship."
Statewide Record Collections
- New Hampshire Province Deeds and Probate Records from 1623-1772. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1975. Microfilm of original records at the Historical Society in Concord, New Hampshire. Includes index. On 118 FHL films beginning with 1001345
- Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire. Reprint, Bowie, Maryland.: Heritage Books, 1989–1990. (FHL book 974.2 P2p) These volumes are reprints of volumes 31–39 of the New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers. They include abstracts of the wills and probate records between 1635–1771. The indexes include the names of those mentioned in the records, including the names of heirs, witnesses, and owners of nearby land.
Digital versions of volumes 31-39 (1635-1771) are available online through Internet Archives:
vol. 31 (1635-1717), vol. 32 (1718-1740), vol. 33 (1741-1749), vol. 34 (1750-1753),
vol. 35 (1754-1756), vol. 36 (1757-1760), vol. 37 (1760-1763), vol. 38 (1764-1767),
vol. 39 (1767-1771)
Volumes 31-34 (1635-1753) are also available on Ancestry ($).
- Melnyk, Marcia D. Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research, 4th ed. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999. (FHL 974 D27g)
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."
- Val. D. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2000), 309.