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Overheard in GenForum: Henry Sunbury 1783, William Sunbury 1785
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

November 23, 2000
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: I am looking for the following Sunbury family members who were born in Warren N. H.. Henry Sunbury 18 Dec 1783, William Sunbury 14 June 1785, Elizabeth Sunbury, 7 Nov 1787. Their father was Henry Sunbury (Sonnenberg) Their mother was Catherine Whitman -- Robert

A: New England research is both easy and difficult. The records abound, which makes most people think it is easy. However, because the records abound, it is easy to take a wrong turn or begin to follow an incorrect family line.

One of the difficult aspects of New England research is the fact that most of the records are on the town level. For some researchers, this is the hurdle, discovering the town. In your case, this is not an issue as you already have the town.

New England records are on the town level, requiring the researcher to narrow their search to a specific town.

A Surname Approach

One of the ways to research your SUNBURY family is the surname approach. This is the way that most researchers begin. They post queries, much like you have done, with the information on the family. Their research is also accomplished on the surname level, looking at databases with families, such as the's Search for Family.

Such a search will include not only the CDs that offers, but also Internet Web sites. Even your posting on the GenForum bulletin boards appeared when a search of Henry Sunbury was done.

Such a search will also reveal the entries found on the World Family Tree CD-ROMs. You may have some of these CD-ROMs already, and Family Tree Maker now offers online access through a subscription to these family trees.

While this page did not have much more, it does mention a sibling to Henry that you did not include in your message. You may want to check the family of David Hodge that was compiled by Allan Gilbertson. You can find contact information and additional genealogy on his home page.

A Locality Approach

After you have exhausted the surname approach, though I encourage you to do this at the same time, you will want to also search records based on the locality. The first stop online besides the bulletin boards, where you have posted, would be the databases at to see what they offer in the way of records specific to the area you are searching. Also keep in mind that if they do not have the records right now, it is possible that they will add them in the near future. is adding three new databases a day.

Another stop when it comes to your locality research is the Family History Library. Through the Family History Library Catalog at your local Family History Center (FHC), you can borrow microfilmed and microfiched records to your local FHC.

When working in New England, the first stop should always be the town records. The town records include more than just the operations of the town. They also include the births, marriages, and deaths that took place in the town. They also include the earmarks, those are the marks that were used to identify ownership of animals - what we call brands now.

For the town of Warren, the town records covering the years 1763 through 1876 have been microfilmed. The town of Warren was created on 14 July 1763 when a grant was given to John Paige and others. The town was named after Admiral Sir Peter Warren of the British Navy. Remember, at the time, New Hampshire was still a British Colony.

Don't Overlook History

Town histories should also be consulted. They often include history of the early settlers that detail where the people came from and how they arrived at the new town. These clues are invaluable to your research. There are three town histories you should investigate.

  • Little, William. The History of Warren: A Mountain Hamlet, Located among the White Hills of New Hampshire. Manchester, New Hampshire: William E. Moore, 1870).
  • Bixby, Roland. History of Warren. Published in 1986.
  • Whitcher, Edward L. History of Warren, New Hampshire. This is a manuscript that is available on microfilm through the Family History Library.

In Conclusion

In addition to these records, you may want to check the statewide index to vital records for New Hampshire. This may suggest some additional children, or the death dates for Henry and Catherine. It may offer insight into where the family came from before arriving in Warren.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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