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Monday, June 06, 2005

Essential Books: Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire

If any book can be called the Bible of Maine and New Hampshire genealogy it is this—the Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, compiled by Sybil Noyes, Charles T. Libby, and Walter G. Davis (Portland, Me.: 1929-38; reprint, Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996). Every known 17th-century inhabitant of the two states is represented here, whether they left descendants or merely merited a mention in any of the 400 lists which make up the first portion of the book. Inclusion of the lists—drawn from depositions, petitions, inquest proceedings, and other primary sources—is ingenious, allowing the authors to cite these published and unpublished documents within the text without expanding the book beyond its already jam-packed 795 pages.

Noyes, Libby, and Davis succeed in compressing into a paragraph the lifetime of an individual, without sacrificing the details which make genealogy interesting. Take the entry for Henry Russell of New Hampshire:

2 HENRY, Newcastle, ±80 in 1681, was warned out of Portsmouth in 1671. He and his w. Frances, who scattered accusations of murder, bastardy, etc., among the neighbors with freedom and frequency, kept an inn of sorts where Thomas Skillings of Falmouth stayed in 1673 while his new broadcloth was being made up. He suspected Landlady Russell of stealing a yard thereof. Unlawful drinking there in 1674, the host drunk in 1678 and 'bad order' kept in the ho. in 1679. Jury 1684. Lists 55b, 313acf, 317, 330a, 331b. In 1681, his w., 'growing crazier,' he pet. for permiss. to keep a cook's shop and to sell penny beer. Frances was beaten by James Phillips, the shoemaker, in 1684, and assaulted by James Robinson in 1686. Three ch. emerge from the ev. in these cases: John, in ct. with an unnamed girl in 1686, taxed 1688, liv. in Newcastle with w. Mary in 1711. Lists 65(2), 94, 316, 318a, 319. Frances, 'one of the daus.,' unm. in 1684. Andrew, pulled Phillips away from his mo. in the 1684 battle.
Though published some 75 years ago, the quality of the Dictionary is still evident. For the earliest families, its place has been supplanted by the Great Migration Project, but it is a measure of its continuing worth that the authors of that series often defer to the Dictionary, and are required to make corrections only infrequently. Anyone with ancestors present in northern New England prior to 1700 should own or consult this book.

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