Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peter Warren, and a Massachusetts Birth in New Hampshire birth records


"New Hampshire, Birth Records, Early to 1900,"
index and images, FamilySearch.org,
GSU Film #1001056: accessed 5 June 2012.
Daniel Warren
1780-1866
My 4th great grandfather Daniel Warren was an early settler of the town of Warrenville (DuPage county), Illinois near Chicago. In fact, the town was named for the Warren family.  Daniel was born in Massachusetts, but I discovered a birth record for him in the New Hampshire Birth Records collection at FamilySearch.org.  

Oddly enough, the New Hampshire birth record gave his birthplace as Townsend, Massachusetts.  Why would a New Hampshire birth record list a Massachusetts town as a place of birth?  I read what I could about the database, then read more about New Hampshire and Massachusetts state boundaries, and still couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation.

Then I discovered the Town Records of Hancock, New Hampshire in a small collection of free records at Fold3.com (which used to be my favorite site, Footnote.com).  Hancock was where Daniel Warren’s Massachusetts birth had been recorded, so I searched for him there and found two really interesting documents.  The first one was a hand-transcribed copy of an earlier record from the town authorities telling the Warrens (listing the parents and children all by name) to get out of town within 14 days! (This order is recorded on pages 39 and 40 of the volume Births and Marriages 1749-1821, 1788-1793.)
The “get out of town” order still baffled me, but I had recently seen similar records from Vermont for the same time period, so I knew it wasn’t really unique.  Thanks to Google Books, I think I have an answer, and more:

According to William Willis Hayward in his book, The History of Hancock, New Hampshire, 1764-1889,

"For a town to refuse to receive newcomers on the face of the transaction seems to have been an inhospitable act.  It was, however, the custom in those years. Persons warned out were not expected to leave.  If in after years they became dependent, it simply relieved the town of their support, or at least it was supposed to do so…  Many, who afterwards were known as being among the substantial citizens of the town, were among the number thus received, simply because they brought but little wealth with them.  No disgrace is therefore attached to the fact that any person was so received."

Hayward goes on to say something incredible:

"…No man was more respected than Peter Warren.  To him we are indebted for the almost perfect manner in which our early records were preserved, and in various ways he was a valuable citizen; yet he was one of those who were warned out, and in his bold and legible handwriting is the record of the fact preserved."

My 5th great grandfather, Peter Warren, was the one who wrote the records of Hancock, New Hampshire!  No wonder the birth dates of his own children, the ones born in Massachusetts as well as the ones born in New Hampshire, were carefully recorded!


This one-paragraph summary of the Peter Warren family in the records of the town of Hancock, New Hampshire, appears to be the likely source of the New Hampshire birth record that I found on FamilySearch.org.
As I have pondered the significance of this connection (me using a digitized copy of what my 5th great grandfather painstakingly recorded with a quill pen more than 200 years ago), I feel a certain sense of responsibility to be a vigilant record-keeper myself.  Peter Warren’s efforts have blessed many lives.  His descendents became community-builders and community-leaders.  They were people of faith who valued education, freedom and opportunity.  (Those are claims I can support with the records, by the way!)

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