New Hampshire History

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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 this time, 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.

1898: 1,358 New Hampshire soldier served in the Spanish-American War.

Late 1800's: French Canadians and Europeans settled mostly in cities to work in factories. Manufacturing surpassed farming as the chief occupation.

1918: More than 20,000 soldiers served in WWI. The Navy’s first submarine was completed at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, beginning decades of submarine construction and repair.

1930's: Many employees lost their jobs as the Depression closed factories and mills. The snow skiing industry continued to grow as the tourist industry expanded.

1941–1945: Over 60,000 men and women served in WWII; 1,600 died. 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.

1960's: Technology and electronics firms boomed.

State Histories

A few sources for historical events are:

Stackpole, Everett S. History of New Hampshire. 4 vols. New York: American Historical Society, 1916. (Family History Library  H2ses; fiche 6046856). This is an extensive and complete history of New Hampshire. The four volumes include illustrations, maps, genealogies, portraits, and indexes.

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.

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.

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.

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 area families. The United States Research Outline (30972) "History" section cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories, which include local histories of New Hampshire. For a statewide bibliography of local histories see:

Committee for a New England Bibliography. New Hampshire, a Bibliography of its History. Bibliographies of New England 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.

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.

Information on additional resources about the history of New Hampshire and local histories of its towns and counties can be found in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under: