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Portsmouth Genealogy and History Research Archives

Portsmouth, NH Genealogy
PORTSMOUTH GUIDE

We get a lot of mail from readers looking for genealogical information about this region. We just cannot supply detailed research on their ancestors, but we can lead them to professional who do. Send us email if you want to hire a historian, or check out the following resources. The Web, of course, is the ideal place to learn about your past. Here are the key archives we use locally.

 

 

Keep in mind that there are not records of every person, old house or event in the region – far from it. Documents, especially from the 1600s and 1700s,  can be spotty and spread among different archives, if they exist. Each Seacoast town has its own library and historical society. This list includes the major central archives for research in the Portsmouth, NH area. It is always a good idea to contact a research facility by email, phone or snail mail in advance of a visit to learn exactly what is available and what policies and fees may apply to use of items. All of these groups work on limited, often volunteer staff, and are busy and ineveitably underfunded. Be as specific as you can in your request. Be nice. Have fun. Good luck. . -- JDR

Portsmouth Athenaeum
9 Market Square, Portsmouth, NH
(603) 431-2538

 Before there were public libraries, membership libraries functioned much like the Athenaeum does today. Located in the heart of Market Square since 1817, this is the hub of local history activity. The public is invited to use the facilities on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoons from 1-4 pm. The Athenaeum has a large image local image collection, general local history references and an archive of unique items and manuscripts including material on the Isles of Shoals.

Portsmouth Public Library
8 Islington Street Portsmouth, NH (address will change in 2006)
(603) 427-1540

The library includes a special area for history and genealogy research with a dedicated librarian. The library has a good collection of historic local newspapers on microfilm, city directories, books by local writers and an intriguing vertical file of clippings on key topics. Special searches are usually made on Tuesdays by a knowledgeable historian. 

Strawbery Banke Museum
Marcy Street, Portsmouth
(603) 422-7524

The Thayer Cummings Library and Archives is primarily for use by museum staff, but may be accessible to the public by appointment on day per week. The research room includes volumes about local history, particularly relating to the Puddle Dock area. There are special collections, photos and a total of 6,500 research volumes. The museum web site lists the collections. The library building is located at the 1814 Shapley Town House at the beginning of Court Street (just after the Oracle House).

Whaley Library
St. John’s Lodge, No 1
351 Middle Street, Portsmouth, NH
(603) 436-3712

Constituted on June 24, 1736, St. John's is the oldest "continuously existing" Masonic Lodge in America. While the library there is focused on Masonic history, there are items of interest to researchers. The library has been traditionally open by advance appointment on Wednesdays. 

Dimond Library, Milne Special Collections
18 Library Way
University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
(603) 862-1535

Includes the Piscataqua Pioneers Collection.This heritage membership organization meets annually and maintains a collection of manuscripts and genealogical information at the university library. You can see an index by searching for "Piscataqua Pioneers" on Google or by contacting the library. The Milne Special Collections Library itself includes nearly 100,000 published items, over 300 manuscript collections, maps, and a wide range of non-print materials, including photographs and other visual media and recordings. Much more for researchers in the special collections area. 

Phillips Exeter Academy
Main Street, Exeter, NH
(603) 772-4311 

Designed by Louis Kahn the PEA Class of 1945 Library is worth a visit just to enjoy the architecture. The library includes 145,000 volumes for academy students and may be used by visitors. The special collections include 13th to 16th century illuminated manuscripts, ships logs, silent films and other items. Useful especially for those seeking info on PEA alumn and history in the basement archives.

Old York Historical Society
207 York Street, York, ME
(207) 363-4974

Contains over a thousand reference books and 300 unpublished York area genealogies and manuscripts. While the library’s holdings are mostly related to Maine, especially York County there are records of some New Hampshire towns and a set of New Hampshire State Papers are housed here. The fee for nonmembers is $5 per day. Visiting hours are on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. (For long distance research at an hourly rate send written requests, not email, c/o Librarian, Old York Historical Society, PO Box 312, York, ME 03909-0312)

Updated (c) 2006 SeacoastNH.com/ Ideaworks

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