New Hampshire Court Records
This entry was originally written by George F. Sanborn Jr., FASG, and Alice Eichholz, Ph.D, CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Each county, in addition to having a registry of probate and of deeds, has court records. At different times inferior courts of common pleas, superior courts, and courts of general sessions of the peace existed to deal with civil and criminal cases, equity, and naturalizations. The superior court records include naturalization records.
Divorces, although indexed beginning in the 1870s at the Bureau of Vital Records, are all filed at the county superior court. Some earlier ones are in legislative petitions.
The province court records to 1771 are card indexed at the New Hampshire Records and Archives. After that time, the county seat traditionally housed court records. In a few cases, card indexes to plaintiff and defendant are available to guide the search. Original county court records now at the New Hampshire Records and Archives instead of the county seat include Grafton (1773'1899), Hillsborough (to 1880), Merrimack (to 1870), Rockingham (1772'1860), Strafford (1773'1850), and Sullivan (to 1880). Microfilm of Grafton, Merrimack, and Strafford court record copy and docket books are at the New Hampshire State Library. New Hampshire State Papers, vol. 40, contains court records from the Dover-Portsmouth Quarterly Court (1640'92) and there are some general court records and indexes both at the New Hampshire Records and Archives and on microfilm at the FHL for the colonial period. After statehood, the court system became established along county lines. The only court records that have been abstracted or published for the post-colonial period are Laura Penny Hulslander's abstracts of Strafford County Inferior Court Records, 1773'83 (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 1990).