Augusta, Maine, Maine Genealogy

Maine Genealogy Resources, Part II

Editor’s Note: The following is the second part of Denise R. Larson’s articles on Maine genealogy resources. In Maine Genealogy Resources Part I, Ms. Larson described the historical forces and settlement patterns that form the background to Maine genealogy. Denise Larson is the author of Maine, Genealogy at a Glance: French-Canadian Genealogy Research. Her contribution to the Genealogy at a Glance series is particularly helpful when searching for French-Canadian immigrants, and offers historical background notes and pointers on where to look for census returns, vital records, and other documentation.

In the concluding installment on Maine genealogy, Ms. Larson offers excellent practical advice on the how and where to conduct Maine genealogical research, as well as additional publications that will assist you on this search. 

Great places to do Maine Genealogy

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.

Maine State Archives

The Maine State Archives (207-287-5795) has online databases for general search, early court cases, maps, municipal records, photographs.

The archives’ genealogy research website offers an index to vital statistics (birth, death, marriage) 1908-1922. Copies of certificates are available from 1892-1922 at the cost of $10 per copy; certified copies are $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.

Genealogical Publishing and Broderbund collaborated on Early Maine and New Hampshire Settlers, a CD that displays images of pages from fourteen publications and offers a single electronic name index that allows users to search all volumes, which include biographies, the 1790 census, gravestone inscriptions, pensioners of the American Revolution, probate records, vital records, and wills. Continue reading…

Maine Genealogy

Maine Genealogy Resources, Part I

Editor’s Note: The following article, “Maine Genealogy Resources,” is by Denise R. Larson. Ms. Larson is the acclaimed author of Companions of Champlain, which provides a concise historical overview of the founding of Quebec and French-Canadian culture. She has also authored other posts on this blog including the informative “Genealogy Isn’t Just Finding Dead People” about how to find “lost” relatives in your family history.

In this article, Ms. Larson discusses some of the treasures found in Maine genealogy collections, as well as early migration into the state. Part II of this piece will include the resources and repositories most beneficial for Maine genealogy and genealogical research, and will be available on the blog next week. 

Maine Genealogy Resources

Just as the Smithsonian is said to be the nation’s attic, Maine is New England’s attic. Among Maine’s many treasures and whatnots are several early nineteenth-century embroidery samplers that are more than elaborate fruits and flowers surrounding a carefully stitched alphabet. The fine silk threads sewn into the linen of these special samplers sketch family genealogies. In the collection of the Maine State Library in Augusta include pedigree samplers for the Cooper, Twombly, Pool, and Swan families.

Watercolorists also took up the subject of family lines. An 1830 watercolor depicts the Libby lineage, and one done in 1831 with pen and ink as well as watercolor was done for William and Rhoda Thompson.

Both the samplers and the watercolors can be viewed online at the Maine Memory Network, a project of the Maine Historical Society that brings together the collections of more than two hundred organizations in the state.

Of those two hundred contributors to the Maine Memory Network, many are libraries that have a history & genealogy room or special genealogical collections about local families. History holds an honored place in the hearts of Mainers. Continue reading…

"Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor," by William Halsall, 1882 at Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Resources for Mayflower Research

This article was originally posted by the late Carolyn Barkley. We’re bringing it back with minor edits in honor of the Thanksgiving season. As mentioned, the author’s own roots are tied to the Thanksgiving story, making her knowledge that much more relevant.

Thanksgiving is around the corner. In addition to the turkey and trimmings, the approaching holiday is inextricably linked to the voyage of the Mayflower and its landing at Plymouth on the coast of Massachusetts. My primary purpose is to share information about the wealth of resources available about the voyage and its passengers, but first, as a native of Massachusetts and a thirty-seven year resident of Virginia, I’m obliged to muse momentarily on the origins of the thanksgiving event.

Growing up in Massachusetts, every school child’s attention is focused on the Mayflower passengers and their feast of thanksgiving held in 1621. The New England tradition, of course, flies in the face of Virginia’s claim to the first Thanksgiving, let alone that of St. Augustine, Florida, where a Thanksgiving celebration was held in September 1565! In 1619, a group of settlers left Bristol, England, and landed three months later at the present-day site of Berkeley plantation on the James River in Virginia. The tradition is that immediately after reaching sold ground, they fell to their knees and thanked God for their safe arrival. A rivalry about whether the Virginia event in 1619 or the Massachusetts event in 1621 represents the “real” Thanksgiving continues today. Both are re-enacted annually and I would suggest that they can coexist as different types of Thanksgiving events, although neither of them is the “first” in the New World. The Massachusetts event was a harvest festival in which the settlers gave thanks for the summer’s crops and their survival through the harsh first winter. They were joined by Wampanoag Chief Massasoit and about ninety of his men who brought venison and turkey. The Virginia event was a religious service of thanksgiving at which a meager meal of bacon, peas, cornmeal cakes and cinnamon water was served. (It is interesting to note that at the time of the Mayflower’s arrival, Massachusetts was considered to be a northern part of Virginia.) Thanksgiving proclamations were made by American presidents beginning with George Washington. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln formally designated Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be held on the final Thursday of November.

Who, then, were the individuals feasting and giving thanks in Massachusetts in 1621? Continue reading…