History & Facts of New Hampshire Counties

New Hampshire Counties  •  New Hampshire Extinct Counties  •  New Hampshire Burned Courthouses

New Hampshire County records differ extensively from county to county in both quality and quantity. Some have been very carefully maintained and some have been significantly misused and overlooked. Some New Hampshire records have purely disappeared. For genealogists carrying out research in New Hampshire there's no valuable substitute to have an on-site search of county courthouse records. Although New Hampshire is divided into 10 counties.

New Hampshire Counties

Each county records probate records and deeds. However, it is important to note the probates and deeds were recorded on the province level until 1771, even though an act was passed in 1769 requiring such recordings to be done by the counties. Those functions were even later in Strafford County, which began recording probates and deeds in 1773. The county registry of deeds holds deeds from 1771 and onward, while the county registry of probate holds probate records. The county seat is home to both of those registries in each county. Probate records and deeds up until 1771can be found on microfilm at both the New Hampshire Division of Records and Archives and the New Hampshire Historical Society. The archives also holds the deeds for Rockingham County from 1824 and earlier years. Deed records on file go from county inception to about 1850 at both the New England Historic Genealogical Society and the FHL. For the most part, records from after 1850 can only be found in county offices.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Belknap December 22, 1840 Strafford County Laconia
Carroll December 22, 1840 Strafford County Ossipee
Cheshire March 19, 1771 Original County Keene
Coos December 24, 1803 Grafton County Lancaster
Grafton March 19, 1771 Original County Haverhill
Hillsborough March 19, 1771 Original County Manchester & Nashua
Merrimack 1823 Rockingham and Hillsborough Counties Concord
Rockingham March 19, 1771 Original County Brentwood
Strafford March 19, 1771 Original County Dover
Sullivan July 5, 1827 Cheshire County Newport

New Hampshire Town Resources

The New Hampshire State Library has the WPA index on file. The FHL and the New England Historic Genealogical Society also have microfilmed copies of it. That index includes records from 1850 and previous years for New Hampshire towns. Among those records are vital records. However, the town of Exeter was not listed in the index, as it was somehow overlooked accidentally.

The following information can usually be found in the files of the town clerk for each town: Town Officers Lists, Tax Records, Warrants, Minutes, Accounts of Town Meetings, Cattle and Sheep Marks, Voting Lists, Warnings Out, Militia Lists.

Each town's records are different, but they all contain useful information, which the researcher should not overlook. Generally, the researcher will have to do the actual research themselves, but the town clerks are willing to outline what information can be found in their offices.

The researcher will need to figure out which probate and deed records are still extant for that town. So, it will be necessary to figure out the date that the town was formed, the county it is located in, and what its parent counties were. Only then can the appropriate original records be located. Both probate and deed records from before 1771 are all housed at the New Hampshire Records and Archives. It is important to search those provincial records, in order to trace all records for a particular person or piece of property.

There are also other records that can be helpful to genealogical researchers in the state of New Hampshire. Some of those records include: Postal Contact Information, Community Profiles, Elective District Information, Newspapers, Library Records, School Records.

New Hampshire Extinct Counties

New Hampshire seems to have counties that no longer are in existence. They were established by the state, provincial, or territorial authorities. Many of these counties were created and disbanded in the Nineteenth century; county boundaries have modified very little since Nineteen hundred in the great number of states. These counties need to be considered when performing family history and genealogy research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or joined with another county.

  • Norfolk County, Massachusetts Colony (1643–1679) - became Essex County, Massachusetts and the entire state of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Counties with Burned Courthouses

The destruction to New Hampshire courthouses tremendously has a impact on family historians in each and every way. Not only are these kinds of historic buildings torn from all of our lifetimes, so are the documents they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, among others. Once destroyed they're gone forever. Even though they have already been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn too. The most heartbreaking side of this is the reason why nearly all of our courthouses are destroyed at the hands of arsonist. Although, don't assume all records were damaged or lost. Many New Hampshire counties have experienced a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Coos County Courthouse - Fire damaged thirty-three volumes of the pre-1887 deeds and all of the probate records before that date. Damaged deeds were transcribed when possible and are retained in the courthouse. Seven volumes of Grafton deeds relating to Coos County before formation are kept in a separate series with separate indexes covering 1772–1803.
  • Sullivan County Courthouse - Early deeds were damaged by fire in 1827. A separate series of “burned deeds,” consisting of copies of surviving portions of the burned volumes with a separate index, is at the registry.
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