(In the first installment of this article, Denise Larson described the historical forces and settlement patterns that form the background to Maine genealogy. In the concluding installment, she offers excellent “how-to’ and “where-to” guidance concerning how to conduct Maine genealogical research.)
Great Places to Do Genealogy in Maine
Of particular note in the search for genealogical materials is the Cultural Center on State Street in Augusta, which houses the Maine State Archives, Library, and Museum.
The Maine State Archives State Archives (maine.gov)
(207-287-5795; has online databases for general search, early court cases, maps, municipal records, photographs.
The archives’ genealogy research Website (State Archives, Archives Services, Genealogy (maine.gov)) offers an index to vital statistics (birth, death, marriage) 1908-1922. Copies of certificates 1892-1922 cost $7; certified copies: $15.
Many official records are on microfilm and can be viewed in the archives’ Search Room. These include vital records 1922-1955, U.S. Census returns 1790-1930, an index of Revolutionary War land grants and pension applications, and a good collection of photographs of officers.
Prior to 1892, the towns and cities of Maine kept the local records of births, marriages, and deaths. As of 1892, the state became responsible for vital records. Municipalities were asked to provide copies of the pre-1892 records, and they are included in the Delayed Vital Records microfilm. The records of some of the noncompliant towns were later microfilmed and added to the collection but not all were included and some town records were lost through flood, fire, or mishap.
Staff members at the Maine State Archives will search within a five-year period for a record upon request and receipt of payment. The search fee is included in the cost of the copy, which is nonrefundable if a record is not found.
Copies of vital records and divorce decrees from 1923 and later are available from Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, State House Station #11, 244 Water St., Augusta, ME 04333-0011; 1-888-664-9491; 207-287-5500.
Maine State Library
The Maine State Library (207-287-5600; www.maine.gov/msl) is a treasure trove for family historians pursuing a French-Canadian connection, which at least a quarter of Mainers can claim. The library has a vast collection of répertoires, ledgers of baptisms, marriages, and burials (bapteme, mariage, et sépulture) in Quebec churches from 1621 to ca. 1800. Parishes and their districts opened, closed, and changed over the centuries, so Guide to Quebec Catholic Parishes and Published Parish Marriage Records by Jeanne Sauve White (Genealogical Publishing Company 1993 with many reprints) is essential to have on hand when accessing the répertoires. The library has a copy for in-house use only.
The library’s collection also notably includes state, county, and town histories, cemetery records with a surname index, church registers, DAR rosters and records, family histories and genealogies, passenger lists and immigration records (Maine was a prominent port of entry), and regimental histories. Massachusetts and New Hampshire are also well represented in the library’s genealogy collection, but not to the extent of Maine’s coverage, of course.
URSUS — key to the major libraries in Maine
The URSUS system includes libraries of the University of Maine, Bangor Public, Maine State, Maine State Law and Legislative Reference, and the Maine State Archives. The search tool can be accessed at University of Maine System / All Locations. The catalog data base includes books, journals, newspapers, digital collections, and special collections.
Maine State Museum
The collections of the Maine State Museum (207-287-2301; http://mainestatemuseum.org) are of pre-history, history, and natural science. The historical archives include more than 1,300 linear feet of documents and manuscripts about the lives and histories of Maine people, but there is as yet no online index with which to search the collection. Curators can be contacted at Maine.Museum@Maine.gov.
Maine Historical Society
The leading non-governmental history and genealogy venue in Maine is the Maine Historical Society in Portland (489 Congress St.; 207-774-1822; www.mainehistory.org). Founded in 1822, the society is active in collecting and preserving books, manuscripts, maps, and memorabilia about Maine. The collection does not circulate, so the materials are always at hand. There is a fee for nonmembers to use the collection.
Of interest to genealogists are the 6,000 family genealogies, an extensive obituary index, microfilm of the Maine Old Cemetery Association’s transcription records, and the research notes of many Maine genealogy greats such as Sybil and Benjamin Noyes, Charles Thorton Libby, and Walter Goodwin Davis. Lineage-book collections include those of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Mayflower descendants. Its vital records collection includes those of Maine, Massachusetts (to 1850), Connecticut (to 1850), and Rhode Island (to 1850). Military records include those of Maine, Massachusetts (1775-1865), and Connecticut (1775-1865). Newspapers on microfilm are of the Portland area (1785-1968) and selected towns.
Genealogical Publishing Company has produced a reprint of Davis’s Massachusetts and Maine Families in the Ancestry of Walter Goodwin Davis in alphabetical order by surname. Davis was considered Maine’s foremost genealogist during the first half of the twentieth century; and this work is no mere family history for it provides the researcher with excellent accounts of many of Maine’s pioneering families.
The five part Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire by Sybil Noyes, Charles T. Libby, and the same Mr. Davis is now available in one volume from Genealogical Publishing Company. It supplies data on virtually all families established in Maine and New Hampshire prior to 1699.
Michael J. O’Brien documents some of the Irish immigrants to Maine in The Irish in America: Immigration, Land, Probate, Administrations, Birth, Marriage and Burial Records of the Irish in America in and about the Eighteenth Century (Genealogical Publishing Company).
Finally, for guidance in locating French-Canadian immigrants to Maine, Genealogy at a Glance: French-Canadian Genealogy Research (Genealogical Publishing Company) by Denise R. Larson offers historical background notes and pointers on where to look for census returns, vital records, and other documentation. LINK 3286. Her more recent Massachusetts installment in the Genealogy at a Glance series provides information on Maine’s origins as part of that state.