Vital Records Of The Town of Keene, New Hampshire

Compiled from the Town Records,
First Church & Family Records,
the Original Fisher Record & the Newspapers

Frank H. Whitcomb, City Clerk
Authorized by vote of the City Council, 1 Jun 1905

[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]


  • Births...........................................1742-1877
  • Marriages........................................1753-1854
  • Deaths...........................................1742-1881

This publication is the first of a series of printed records of vital statistics of the town of Keene. It is expected that others will be issued in order to make all the records of a similar character available for public use to the year 1888, when the city began to print them in the annual reports. These should be preserved with reference to binding the whole series, later, in a single volume, which, together with the annual reports from the year 1888, will form a very complete work of its kind.

The law requiring a return of births, marriages and deaths to be made to the state was enacted in 1849, the first returns being made for the year 1850. For that year the town of Keene made a return of marriages only. From 1851 to 1857, inclusive, the state has no records whatever from Keene. In 1858 a return of births, marriages and deaths was made. From 1859 to 1867, inclusive, marriage returns were, made from Keene, but no births or deaths. In 1868 a return of marriages and deaths was made. From 1869 to 1877, inclusive, marriages only were returned. Since 1877 such records as were received of births, marriages and deaths were recorded in the city records (since about 1882 in indexed record books) and returned to the state. Under the law passed at the last session of the Legislature, clerks will be required to make returns of all records of births, marriages and deaths in possession of the town that have not heretofore been reported to the state.

The city councils have deemed it wise to furnish these records in a convenient form, for several reasons. It must be remembered that the time-worn records in the vault of the city clerk's office, whose ink is rapidly fading, will soon become illegible. Several pages of the original Fisher records have already disappeared, the remaining leaves have become loosened, and are likely at any time to become lost. Many lines can only be deciphered under a powerful glass. These records are of invaluable service to historians and genealogists and ought never to be allowed to perish. Once in print the record of these facts will be indestructible.

After the publication of the vital statistics it would be comparatively safe to send all the old and badly worn town records to be cleansed, rebound and covered, page by page, with overlays of transparent silk as is done in such cases, thus permanently preserving the old volumes.


This volume comprises the marriage records of the town of Keene from its incorporation in 1753 to the year 1854. From 1753 to 1812 they were recorded in what is now known in other city publications as Vol. O Records of Town Meetings. Since 1812 they have been kept in separate volumes devoted to marriage records only. The remaining marriage records include the contents of the first two volumes of separate records. They are arranged in chronological tables, to which has been added an alphabetical index, including the name of the bride and groom who are parties to the marriage.

To find a marriage record one need only to turn to a name in the index, and finding the year of the marriage following the name, use it as a guide to the chronological table of records.


The birth records are arranged, as far as possible, under the name of the father and mother, in regular order, and are self-indexed on the margin, by the hanging-head, alphabetically. These birth records cover the contents of the first two record books of the town of Keene, which were set apart for such statistics. To these have been added a thousand, more or less, of those born in Keene, whose names and birth dates have been taken from family records.

In all cases of children, where the name of the town is omitted, the birth is presumed to have occurred in Keene unless otherwise stated; but in the case of parents it is not intended to convey that information, yet in many instances, correct knowledge in this respect has been communicated in the text. The birth records are intended to comprise all the births of the town of Keene, and of the first four years under the municipal government, or, in other words, from 1753 to 1878, when the continuous records of births begin.

The following abbreviations have been used:
  • b............... born.
  • bap............. baptized.
  • d............... died; also day or days.
  • dau............. daughter.
  • f............... female.
  • m............... married; also month or months.
  • m.r............ from marriage record.
  • p............... posthumous.
  • s............... son.
  • unm............. unmarried.
  • y............... year or years.
The birthplace of a child is presumed to be Keene unless otherwise stated.


The necrology of this volume contains a valuable collection of facts, arranged, as far as possible, under the name of the father, or husband, indexed like the births, on the margin by means of the hanging-head, alphabetically. Prior to the year 1885 nearly all the records of deaths in Keene, for the 121 years under a town government that were accessible to the public were contained in a book entitled, "Records of the Town of Keene, Lib. 2, containing in the fore part Births; in the latter part Deaths; in alphabetical order, as per the Top of each page."

It is evident that Liber 2 was started in the year 1784 (the town clerk going about from house to house for the family records) by Ichabod Fisher, from Wrentham, Mass., the first merchant in Keene, whose store was the small yellow house on the south side of West street, nearly opposite the end of School street, which remained standing till April 29, 1880, when this so long familiar landmark was taken down. Mr. Fisher was town clerk of Keene from 1766 to 1786, a period of twenty years, and kept a record of deaths. Ichabod Fisher died on Nov. 21, 1809, "aged 81 years to a day." The records were continued by succeeding town clerks, in Liber 2, town records.

A separate record of deaths was also kept in chronological order by Ichabod Fisher's son, Dea. Thomas Fisher, who was born on Sept. 15, 1758, from the year 1778 to the date of his death, which occurred on Dec. 3, 1834. This chronological record was continued till 1842, subsequently partly copied by Charles Sturtevant and then continued till the year 1859. From 1859 to 1866, Dea. Hosea Foster and Joshua D. Colony kept annual lists, which were used by City Clerk Samuel Nims in connection with the Sturtevant copy of the Fisher record. City Clerk Nims copied the last named record and lists, in 1885, receiving the Sturtevant copy from the late Joseph R. Beal, and these records have been frequently consulted for public purposes.

The present city clerk has received the original Thomas Fisher record for safe keeping, and has spent many extra hours during several months in compiling the death records of the town, carefully comparing the same with the original Fisher book, and the First church record, in which he has fortunately found that Dr. Z. S. Barstow kept the death records of the town from the date of his coming to Keene in 1818, to the year 1858, a period of forty years. From the original Fisher and the Barstow records many names and other important items, ages, causes of death, and statistics giving the total number of deaths in Keene for a long term of years, have been supplied. Hiram Blake, Esq., has also contributed to the collection of the material, which the city clerk has in his possession for comparison with the old town records and the later additions made from the Sturtevant copy of the Fisher record. Mr. Blake's contribution is entitled "Dr. Barstow's Necrology." This necrology has been in Mr. Blake's possession for twenty-five years, having been passed to him by the late William S. Briggs for safe keeping. The document is in Mr. Barstow's handwriting and covers five years, from 1848 to 1853, inclusive, and five years from 1862 to 1867, inclusive, furnishing the lists for 1866 and 1867, the latter two nowhere appearing upon the town records of deaths. Mrs. Joseph M. Hyland has also kindly loaned her scrap book to the city clerk, in which she kept the printed notices of the deaths for the years 1870, 1871, 1872. These lists brought the records of deaths very nearly to the date of the change in town government, 1874. For the missing years the newspapers have been consulted and the present record brought down to April, 1881, when the city began to keep the same in books with a convenient index, devoted exclusively to the city necrology.

The thanks of the compiler are due to Rev. Josiah L. Seward, D.D., for the free use of his valuable collection of birth records covering those of Sullivan families connected in some way with the town of Keene; to Hiram Blake, Esq., for his valuable contribution of the Barstow Necrology; to Charles C. Sturtevant, for the use of the First Church records for a long time; and to all who have responded in many ways and by encouraging assistance made the presentation of these pages possible.

It is expected that the publication of this work will discover many omissions in the town records, and it is hoped that interest in the matter of preserving family lists will be revived, and lead the descendants of old Keene families to bring in unrecorded statistics for preservation.

The following abbreviations have been employed in the death records:
  • d....................died; also day or days.
  • m....................month or months.
  • p....................plate (coffin).
  • y....................year or years.
The place of death is presumed to be Keene unless otherwise stated.

FRANK H. WHITCOMB, City Clerk. Keene, N. H., June, 1905.

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