About Volume I of the Congregational Church of Amherst, New Hampshire Records
Jackie Marshall, Genealogy Chair, Historical Society of Amherst, NH
About the Transcription of Baptisms of Children from Volume I
Our problems began with trying to locate any specific child’s baptism record in the original Amherst Congregational Church Volume I. There are no page numbers at all! The events were not always listed in chronological order. On some pages the year was not even recorded. Handwriting varies from difficult to illegible, and ink has faded or been smeared. Daniel Secomb clearly felt that Rev. Daniel Wilkins’ record keeping skills were lacking, or perhaps early records were lost (Secomb 290-291). For a church that was organized in 1741, there don’t appear to be complete baptism records until 1774 - thirty-three years later.
Luckily we located a manuscript by an unknown compiler titled: Records of the Congregational Church, Amherst, New Hampshire. It is a semi-chronological index of Volume I of the First Congregational Church of Amherst. The first section separates events (baptisms, church memberships, etc.) into categories, then by year of event. (Events were not always separate in the actual church records.) The second section contains an every-name alphabetical index of the first section. The page numbers given are for section one, not for the original Church Volume I, which has no page numbers. Exact dates of children’s baptisms were not included in this work. We are grateful for this index and feel that our work does not replace it as much as continue the effort to understand our early church records. We have been able to correct some errors. Unfortunately this kind of work is by nature imperfect, and we are probably inadvertently creating errors of our own.
Because of the lack of page numbers we have used spaces to show page breaks in the original volume. The beginning of the top line of script is noted in brackets at the top of each section.
This is not necessarily a ‘true’ transcription. Following the example of the previous index, only baptisms of children have been recorded. There are occasionally adult baptisms and adults who “owned the covenant” interspersed that we did not copy. Spelling is always an issue in our time; it wasn’t as important in earlier days. This transcription does not always use the original spelling, but follows the example of the first index and uses spelling identifiable to our time. Most names are spelled as Daniel Secomb spelled them in his book, History of the Town of Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire.
We are pleased to add the birth and death record transcriptions of the Amherst Congregational Church Volume I. These records are listed at the end of the volume without page numbers. They are very simple notations and it is often difficult to recognize who the person was since the full name was not always given. Women were often identified as “Widow [married surname]” and nothing else. Children as “child of [father’s name].” Full dates were not given either, they were grouped by year and we have listed them in the order given in the record.
Volume I, First Congregational Church of Amherst, Hillsborough Co., New Hampshire; Church Records, Reel #1, Item #1; (Andover, MA: Northeast Document Conservation Center, Jun 1996); film location Amherst Town Library