Town reports are pamphlets or books that contain detailed information for the given town, typically over a one year period. They contain various information based upon the town and year published since laws changed over time as to what was required in the reports.
The reports often include vital statistics for the year, including births, deaths and marriages. This information can sometimes not otherwise be found due to fires where the original records were stored. Even if the original certificates do exist, state and federal privacy laws may not allow open searching of the records. This makes town reports as one of the few sources open for genealogists.
Other interesting topics sometimes found in the reports:
- budget information
- details on the school (often listing teachers with their salaries and student lists)
- cemetery reports
- charity and support being given to particular residents
- road and public works
- any other town related topic that was felt worthy of being included.
Besides having the vitals for your family history research, a town report encapsulates a year of social history that is meaningful and beneficial for the genealogist. Even if great-grandpa isn’t mentioned in the town report, his neighbors and possible relatives may be listed, and the town report gives a unique glimpse into the functioning of the town that he was a part of.
Where to Find Town Reports
Town reports may take some searching to find, but it’s often worth the effort.
- Ask family members if that have any. Those that lived in the area often got a copy of the yearly reports…and many of them kept them.
- Search for websites and databases. I’ve had success on archive.org and Ancestry. Also check Cyndi’s List for links.
- You can also contact the town. Many have an archive of their annual reports. If not, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
- Check with a historical society or library from the area.
- E-Bay can be a valuable resource. Make a saved search and you might be surprised what is available over time.