Using Land Records
Intimidated by land records? You’re missing a treasure-trove of records that can help you break down those genealogical brick walls. We daresay that more genealogical problems are solved with land records than with any other single source available to us as researchers. And these few simple steps will help you learn how to use them!
Early New Hampshire land records are now available online, free of charge, and serve as a great way for getting comfortable with all that legal “mumbo-jumbo” in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Before you jump in, however, take a few moments to read Elizabeth Shown Mills’ article, “Analyzing Deeds for Useful Clues.” That and other excellent articles are available to you at the Board for Certification of Genealogists’ Website.
Using two websites, NHdeeds.com and Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, you can explore all of New Hampshire’s provincial deeds, learning the legal terminology (much of which is still used today), until you’re comfortable enough to walk into any courthouse and search for your ancestors. The provincial deeds are included with the Rockingham County deeds. To access them, just click on the link, and you’re on your way! Then, follow these steps:
- On the left side of the screen, click on “Search County Records.”
- Scroll down, and click on “Accept Disclaimer Agreement.”
- A separate search screen should pop up. If it doesn’t, follow the instructions provided.
- Under “Select Index,” select from the dropdown menu either “Verified Grantor [Seller] 01/01/1629-12/20/2011” or “Verified Grantee [Buyer] 01/01/1629-12/20/2011.”
- Enter a surname or enter a document book and page number (e.g., Book 1, page 1, if you want the earliest recorded document).
- Press “Click Here to Begin Index Search.”
- If you’re looking for a particular surname, you can use the buttons at the bottom of the page to scroll through the index for spelling variations. You may be surprised to see how many different ways your ancestor’s surname appeared!
When you encounter a word that you don’t understand, look it up in Bouvier’s Law Dictionary. If you need help learning to read the old handwriting, Cyndi’s List has some excellent online sources to help you. The more you practice, the easier it will become!
If you use these tools, it won’t be long before you’ll be confident enough to walk into any courthouse or Registry of Deeds in the country and ask for those deed books where your ancestors are hiding!