Maine History and Research Overview

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Maine is both the largest New England state and the most sparsely populated. In 1622, England’s King Charles I gave John Mason and Sir Fernando Gorges land encompassing part of modern Maine and New Hampshire. Gorges established the region’s first Colonial government. He sold his land to Massachusetts in 1677, which it belonged to until 1820.

Emigrants from Massachusetts Bay established the first permanent communities along Maine’s coast, while the French inhabited the area near the Penobscot River. Colonial conflicts between the French, English and native populations resulted in Massachusetts declaring war on all American Indians in Maine in 1703. After the French and Indian War (1754-1763) France had to give up its claim to the region. Although early settlers were primarily English, French Canadians, Scots-Irish, Acadians, and African-Americans all populated the area along with the native people.

Maine became a state in 1820 under the Missouri Compromise: Missouri entered the Union as a slave state; Maine became a free state. Boundary disputes with Canada in 1839 resulted in the Aroostook War, which was eventually settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Farming, fishing, logging, shipbuilding, and fur trading supported Maine for much of its early history. But employment opportunities changed in the 1800s: Steamship production began at Maine’s shipyards, followed by battleships. Textile mills attracted women from all over, while urban dwellers escaped the cities to enjoy the state’s natural charms — creating the tourism industry that is still thriving today.

(click to enlarge)
Maine state map with county outlines


  • The Massachusetts State Archives and Massachusetts Historical Society contain early records for Maine, which was a part of their state for more than 100 years.
  • Conduct most of your Maine research on the state level. Working in town records can be disappointing.
  • The Maine State Archives and the Maine Historical Society are the best places to begin your Maine research.


  • Federal census: 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930
  • Federal mortality schedules: 1850, 1860, 1870,1880
  • Special census of Civil War Union veterans and widows: 1890
  • State census: 1837 (fragments for Bangor, Portland, Eliot and unincorporated towns)


  • Agencies of the State Government, 1820-1971 from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives)
  • Ancient Dominions of Maine: Embracing the Earliest Facts by R.K. Sewall (Heritage Books, 1998)
  • Bibliographical Reference List of Manuscripts Relating to the History of Maine by Elizabeth Ring (Higginson Books, 1992)
  • Bibliography of the State of Maine, 2 vols., (Picton Press, 1985)
  • A Bibliography of the State of Maine from the Earliest Period to 1891, 2 vols., by Joseph Williamson (Thurston Print, 1896)
  • Brief Biographies, Maine: A Biographical Dictionary of Who’s Who in Maine, Vol. 1 by Theodore Roosevelt Hodgkins (Lewiston Journal, 1926-1927)
  • Directory of Churches and Religious Organizations in Maine from the Historical Records Survey (Historical Records Survey Project, 1940)
  • English Origins of New England Families: From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Second Series, 3 vols., (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985)
  • Franco-Americans of the State of Maine, U.S.A., and Their Achievements by R.J. Lawton (H.F. Roy, 1915)
  • Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire by Sybil Noyes, Charles T. Libby, and Walter G. Davis (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996)
  • Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine, 4 vols., edited by George Thomas Little (Lewis Historical Publishing, 1909)
  • The Greenlaw Index of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2 vols., by William Prescott Greenlaw (G.K. Hall, 1979)
  • Historic Trails and Waterways of Maine by William Otis Sawtelle (Maine Development Commission, 1932)
  • A History of the Discovery of Maine by J.G. Kohl (Maine Historical Society, 1869)
  • An Index and Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax Census of 1798 edited by Michael H. Gorn (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1979)
  • The Indians of Maine and the Atlantic Provinces: A Bibliographical Guide by Roger B. Ray (Maine Historical Society, 1977)
  • Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820 by Alan Taylor (Frontier Press, 1990)
  • Maine Becomes a State: The Movement to Separate Maine from Massachusetts, 1785-1820 by Ronald F. Banks (Wesleyan University Press, 1970)
  • Maine, A Bibliography of Its History from the Committee for a New England Bibliography, edited by John D. Haskell Jr. (G.K. Hall, 1977)
  • Maine Families in 1790, 6 vols., (Picton Press, 1988-1998)
  • The Maine Frontier, 1607 to 1763 by Robert Earle Moody (University Microfilms, 1980)
  • Maine Genealogy: A Bibliography Guide, revised edition, by John Eldridge Frost (Maine Historical Society, 1985)
  • Maine Historical Sketches by Augustus F. Moulton (Printed for the State by the Lewiston Journal Printshop, 1929)
  • Maine: A History, 5 vols., edited by Louis Clinton Hatch (American Historical Society, 1919)
  • Maine & New Hampshire Settlers, 1600s-1900s (Broderbund, 2000. CD-ROM)
  • Maine Pioneer Settlements, 5 vols., by Herbert Milton Sylvester (W.B. Clark, 1909)
  • Maine Research Outline by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (online at
  • Massachusetts and Maine Families by Walter Goodwin David (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996)
  • Men of Progress: Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Leaders in Business and Professional Life in and of the State of Maine by Richard Herdon, et al. (New England Magazine, 1897)
  • Name Index to Maine Local Histories by Marie Estes (Maine Historical Society, 1985)
  • New England Families: Genealogical and Memorial, 4 vols., by William Richard Cutter (Lewis Historical Publishing, 1914)
  • New England Family Histories: States of Maine and Rhode Island by LuVerne V. Hall (Heritage Books, 2000)
  • Penobscot Pioneers, 4 vols., by Philip Howard Gray (Penobscot Press, 1992-1994)
  • The Pioneers of Maine and New Hampshire, 1623-1660 by Charles Henry Pope (Clearfield Co., 1997)
  • Public Record Repositories in Maine from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 1976)
  • Representative Men of Maine by Henry Chase (Lakeside Press, 1893)
  • Sketches of the Ecclesiastical History of the State of Maine from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time by Jonathan Greenleaf (H. Gray, 1821)

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From the Family Tree Sourcebook
Also available: the State Research Guide Book, State Research Guides CD and The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.