New Boston Historical Society
New Boston, New Hampshire
The Registry of Deeds is no longer the Hillsborough County Court House.
A Visit to the Registry of DeedsIf you ask the Historical Society "Who owned my home before me?" we sometimes find an answer in our files, but more often we'll say, "You need to visit the Registry of Deeds in Nashua!" This web page will tell you what to expect when you visit the Registry.
Did you know that there are ten counties in New Hampshire? Of the ten counties, Hillsborough is by far the most populous; 30% of all Granite Staters live in this county! Each county has its own Registry of Deeds, where records of property transfers ("deeds") are filed. The Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds is at 19 Temple Street in the city of Nashua, which is one of our two county seats. (The other is Manchester; I don't know why our county has two county seats.)
You probably have a copy of the deed from when you bought your house. It describes your property (as the purchaser, you're the "Grantee") and from whom you bought it (the "Grantor"). You begin your research with this latest deed and work backwards in time, looking for the previous deed in which whoever sold your house to you bought that house themselves.
For example, I visited the Registry with my wife Lisa and the Historical Society's vice president Mary Atai, and we searched for deeds related to Mary's 150-year-old house. We started our search using one of the Registry's computers, but when we looked for deeds dated before 1966, we went to paper copies which are filed in large books.
The books are heavy!
November 3, 1870. Amos B. Goodhue sells to Sarah L. Mansfield for $4,500 "A certain farm or tract of land with the buildings thereon situated." The 91 acres were bounded by properties of Lamson (now Wellswood Farm), Marden, Neville (who owned the mill that is now Molly's Restaurant) and McNeil.As we went back in time, however, our search became more difficult. The older deeds were not computerized, and they did not have information about preceding deeds. We had to take down from the shelves the heavy volumes that are ten-year indexes of deeds, sorted by the last name of Grantors or Grantees, and look for entries for "Mansfield" or "Goodhue" with New Boston identifiers. We had to make some intelligent guesses, as various property owners had subdivided their land among their heirs or combined different parcels. It was helpful that Mary knew who some of her 19th-century neighbors were, so we could look at a deed and determine if it was for the right property.
November 25, 1816. Joseph A. Goodhue of New Boston sells to John Goodhue (of the same New Boston) "a tract of land being part of lot No. Sixty Six in the second Division of lots in said Town, containing fifty one acres be the same more or less" for $1,600.We'd brought to the Registry a list of houses we wanted to research; we left after three hours having completed only one search! This is hard work, but we had fun, especially when we looked through the oldest books from c.1800 with their handwritten descriptions of properties and people. You will have fun, too - if you are able to visit the Registry of Deeds when it is open. Their hours do not include evenings or weekends. However they do make their computerized records available on-line so that you may search for deeds dated 1966 or later.
The on-line search does not work with mobile devices like smartphones or iPads. (It wouldn't work with the Firefox browser on my home PC, and my Chrome browser grumbled about Java insecurity every time I started a new search.) You launch the search application from here: on-line search. I did not find it intuitive to use.
Sample on-line search from my home PC
I found the on-line search from home easier to use after I visited the Registry in Nashua, and you will need to go to the Registry to find deeds dated before 1966. For more information about the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, including hours and directions, visit their website at nhdeeds.com.
Happy hunting! -- Dan R.