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New Hampshire statutes

The Legal Genealogist has a mantra — something everyone who’s ever read this blog can probably recite from memory:

If we want to understand the records, we have to understand the law, and not just in the abstract, but at the very time and in the very place where the records were created.

So… where do we find the law?

That’s always a question, and it’s not always easy to answer. There are colonial laws that sometimes were and often weren’t collected and published and then digitized in an easily accessible form. Then in some cases there are territorial laws between the Revolution and statehood. And then the laws of the state.

NH2Sometimes the laws are simply arranged chronologically and published year after year at the end of each legislative term in what are usually called session laws — by definition, the “name commonly given to the body of laws enacted by a state legislature at one of its annual or biennial sessions.”1

Sometimes the laws are compiled into codifications — by definition, the “process of collecting and arranging the laws of a country or state into a code, i.e., into a complete system of positive law, scientifically ordered, and promulgated by legislative authority.”2

And sometimes you have to slog your way through both to answer a particular question.

Even in a place as small, as orderly and as well-governed as the Granite State — New Hampshire — where I’ll be speaking on Saturday to the New Hampshire Society of Genealogists in Manchester — finding the laws can be tough sledding.

But just to give you a leg up if you’re doing New Hampshire research, here’s a guide to the codified versions of Granite State law: a complete list and, if online, where to find every code from the provincial days to just before World War I:

• Albert S. Batchellor, editor, Laws of New Hampshire, Vol. 1: Province Period (Manchester, N.H. : John B. Clarke Co., 1904)

• –, Laws of New Hampshire, Vol. 2: 1702-1745 (Concord, N.H. : Rumford Printing Co., 1913)

• Henry Harrison Metcalf, editor, , Laws of New Hampshire, Vol. 3: 1745-1774 (Bristol, N.H. : Musgrove Printing House, 1915)

• –, Laws of New Hampshire, Vol. 4: 1776-1784 (Bristol, N.H. : Musgrove Printing House, 1916)

The Laws of the State of New-Hampshire (Portsmouth, N.H. : John Melcher, State Printer, 1797)

Constitution and Laws of the State of New-Hampshire (Dover, N.H. : Samuel Bragg Jr., 1805)

Laws of the State of New-Hampshire… 1805 to … 1810 (Concord, N.H. : Isaac Hill, 1811)

The Laws of the State of New-Hampshire (Exeter, N.H. : C. Norris & Co., 1815)

The Laws of the State of New-Hampshire … since June 1, 1815 (Concord, N.H. : Isaac Hill, 1824)

The Laws of the State of New-Hampshire (Hopkinton, N.H. : Isaac Long, 1830)

Revised Statures of the State of New Hampshire … 1842 (Concord, N.H. : Carroll & Baker, State Printers, 1843)

• A compiled volume of the laws from 1842 to 1847 is not available online that I’ve been able to find, but you should be able to locate a hard copy: Laws of the State of New-Hampshire from November Session 1842, to June Session, 1847, Inclusive (Concord, N.H. : Butterfield & Hill, State Printers, 1847). A decent substitute is a slightly later new edition of the 1842 revision, Revised Statures of the State of New Hampshire … 1850 (Concord, N.H. : John F. Brown, 1851)

The Compiled Statutes of the State of New Hampshire (Concord, N.H. : Butterfield & Hill, State Printers, 1853)

The General Statutes of the State of New-Hampshire (Manchester, N.H. : John B. Clarke, State Printer, 1867)

The General Laws of the State of New Hampshire (Manchester, N.H. : John B. Clarke, State Printer, 1878)

The General Laws of the State of New Hampshire (Concord, N.H. : J.B. Sanborn, 1878)

The Public Statutes of the State of New Hampshire (Manchester, N.H. : John B. Clarke, State Printer, 1891)

• William M. Chase and Arthur H. Chase, compilers, The Public Statutes of the Commonwealth of New Hampshire, … 1901 (Concord, N.H. : Edson C. Eastman, 1900)

• –, Supplement to the Public Statutes of the Commonwealth of New Hampshire (Chase edition, 1901), … 1901 to 1913 (Concord, N.H. : Chase & Chandler, 1914)

That should keep you busy for a little while…


SOURCES

  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1096, “session laws.”
  2. Ibid., 216, “codification.”
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