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New Hampshire petitions online

It’s the Granite State’s turn.

New Hampshire has now joined the list of states with online copies of one of The Legal Genealogist‘s favorite resource types.

New Hampshire’s legislative petitions for the years 1700-1826 have gone online at Ancestry.

And they are absolutely wonderful.

Now… anybody who doesn’t know my enthusiasm for legislative petitions hasn’t been paying attention. Starting back in 2012 with “Treasure trove: legislative petitions”1 and coming forward to “Lone Star memorials” in 2019,2 and with a webinar in between,3 I hope I’ve made it clear that this is a record type I just adore.

Brewster petition

So with a great big hat tip to reader Carole Gardner for alerting me to the fact that this collection is now online at Ancestry, let me give you just a few examples of why records like this are so much fun — and so valuable genealogically:

• On 8 March 1697/8, Sarah Robey of Hampton told the Legislature she was a “poor Widow of about Sixtie years” who supported herself just barely by running “a publick House of Entertainment,” and asked for remittance of the excise tax.4

• On 29 January 1750, Thomas Harvey of Nottingham asked the legislature to allow him to appeal a court ruling that went against him in an estate case. He named his father — John Harvey — and John’s “Widow Relict” Elizabeth.5

• On 16 August 1800, neighbors of Joseph Durgin asked the Legislature to allow a small lottery for Durgin’s support. They explained he had been “for a long time … deprived of his sight and having a large Family to support.” There are 62 signatures on that petition.6

And in the one that I’ve used since Day 1 in talking about petitions and that still breaks my heart, in November 1779, Nero Brewster and 19 other persons held enslaved in Portsmouth sent a petition to the New Hampshire legislature. The petitioners described themselves as “… Natives of Africa, … detained in Slavery …” and said their petition “Sheweth, That the God of Nature gave them Life and Freedom upon the Terms of the most perfect Equality with other men; That Freedom is an inherent Right of the human Species, not to be surrendered, but by Consent, for the Sake of social Life; [and that]… while [they were] but Children, … were transported from their native Country, ….” They concluded: “… your humble Slaves most devoutly Pray, for the Sake of injured Liberty, for the Sake of Justice, Humanity, and the Rights of Mankind; … by all that is dear, that your Honours would … enact such Laws … whereby we may regain our Liberty & be rank’d in the Class of free Agents, and that the Name of Slave may not more be heard in a Land gloriously contending for the Sweets of Freedom…” 7

The Legislature held a hearing but decided to hold action until “a more convenient opportunity.” That more convenient opportunity arrived, I might add, on the 24th of April.

In the year 2013.8 The posthumous emancipation was signed 7 June 2013.9

In every way, legislative petitions are an amazing window on the world as it was.

And the Granite State’s early petitions are now online.

Check ’em out.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Written in Granite,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 1 Nov 2021).


  1. See Judy G. Russell, “Treasure trove: legislative petitions,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 10 Feb 2012 ( : accessed 1 Nov 2021).
  2. Ibid., “Lone Star memorials,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 9 Aug 2019.
  3. Judy G. Russell, “The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions,Legacy Family Tree Webinars, 14 Sep 2016 ( : accessed 1 Nov 2021).
  4. Petition of Sarah Robey, 8 March 1697/8; digital images, “New Hampshire, U.S., Government Petitions, 1700-1826,” ( : accessed 1 Nov 2021).
  5. Ibid., Petition of Thomas Harvey, 29 January 1750.
  6. Ibid., Petitiono in support of Joseph Durgin, 16 Aug 1800.
  7. Ibid., Petition of Nero Brewster and Other Slaves, 12 Nov 1779.
  8. See Meghan E. Irons, “N.H. moves to symbolically free Colonial slaves,Boston Globe, posted 24 Apr 2013 ( : accessed 1 Nov 2021).
  9. See “New Hampshire: Freedom Given Posthumously,” The New York Times, 7 June 2013 ( : accessed 1 Nov 2021).
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