Maine Records Details and Resources

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Historical recording practices in Maine lack the completeness found in other New England states, due to a late start to civil registration and the remoteness of some towns. Only five towns (Biddeford, Kittery, Kennebunkport, York, and Wells) have vital records from the 17th century. State legislation in 1864 required town clerks to provide the state with birth, marriage and death records, but total compliance didn’t happen until 1892 with the establishment of the State Board of Vital Statistics. Marriage records from 1892 to 1996 are online Still, “as late as 1944, as many as one out of 10 births were not recorded,” says Art Dostie, research room supervisor at the Maine State Archives. “You have a 50/50 chance of finding a birth record before 1892, and only a 20 percent chance of locating a death record.” The Maine Historical Society has published compilations of births, marriages, and deaths extracted from diaries, church records, newspapers, gravestones, and vital records for 18 towns. Their library has vital records for 1892-1955 on microfilm, and has an index to the towns listed in the vital records pre-1892. Picton Press has published vital records for many Maine towns.

Deaths records are being supplemented by the cemetery transcription project of the Maine Old Cemetery Association

Start by identifying when your ancestor was in Maine, determine what type of record you need and visit the appropriate repository. The lack of centralized records means you’ll have to look for resources in a various places: Deeds and probates — wills, adoptions and guardianships — are on the county level; court documents are mostly at the Maine State Archives; and military records prior to statehood are in the Massachusetts State Archives or National Archives.

Church records require much effort to locate and use. Most are unpublished and unindexed. The Maine Historical Society has manuscript and published records for Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Quaker and Unitarian denominations.

The Maine State Archives has one of the largest collections in the state. Availability and completeness depend on the time period. The Maine Historical Society has manuscripts, indexed vital records and Bible records, as well as an online guide to genealogical holdings. Of particular note are the more than 2 million unpublished items, especially “the early records of the Kennebec Purchase, the Pejepscot Proprietors and the Pownalborough Courthouse collection.” About half the book collection and less than half the manuscript collection is cataloged online, so consult card catalogs or call to verify additional holdings.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) in Boston has many manuscripts relating to Maine families, including record of the Direct Tax of 1798. See the website for online databases relating to Maine research (membership required). Of course, because Maine was part of Massachusetts for close to 150 years, you’ll need to look outside Maine for records pre-statehood. Both the Massachusetts State Archives and Massachusetts Historical Society contain material on Maine.

Exhaust the materials at these libraries and archives before seeking records at the town level. Researching on the town level usually requires traveling through Maine’s 16 counties. And “Maine is the worst New England state for town hall fires,” says David Allen Lambert, NEHGS online genealogist. “Success is possible by creating a comprehensive ancestral sketch with the careful searching of vital records, records of the Maine Old Cemetery Association, probates, and deeds. The many other printed and manuscript sources on the state and local level will aid you in rounding out any and all Maine problems.”


  • 1790 Census of Maine from the Maine Genealogical Society (The Society, 1995)


  • he Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1776, and Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 by Peter Wilson Coldham (Broderbund, 1996. CD-ROM)
  • Immigrants to New England, 1700-1775 by Ethel Stanwood Bolton (Essex Institute, 1931)


  • Black House Papers — A Guide to Certain Microfilmed Land Records from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives)
  • Names of Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Applied for State Bounty, 1893 by Charles J. House (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967)


  • Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island Atlas of Historical County Boundaries edited by John H. Long (Simon & Schuster, 1994)
  • Counties, Cities, Towns, and Plantations of Maine from the Historical Records Survey (The Survey, 1940)
  • The Dictionary of Maine Place-Names by Phillip R. Rutherford (Bond Wheelwright Co., 1970)
  • A Gazetteer of the State of Maine: With Numerous Illustrations by George J. Varney (Heritage Books, 1991)
  • Indian Place Names of the Penobscot Valley and the Maine Coast by Fannie Hardy Eckstorm (University of Maine, 1978)
  • Maine County Subdivisions, Towns, Plantations, Unorganized Territories, and Places (Government Printing Office, 1977)
  • Maine Geographic Names: Alphabetical Finding List from US Office of Geographic Research (US Geological Survey, 1985)
  • Maine Place Names and the Peopling of its Towns by Ava Harrie Shadbourne (Bond Wheelwright Co., 1955)
  • Map Exhibiting the Principal Original Grants and Sales of Lands in the State of Maine by Moses Greenleaf (Ellsworth American, 1977)


  • An Alphabetical Index of Revolutionary Pensioners Living in Maine by Charles A. Flagg (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967)
  • The American Civil War: the Service Records of Atlantic Canadians with the State of Maine Volunteers, 2 vols., by Daniel F. Johnson (D.F. Johnson, 1995)
  • Aroostook War: Historical Sketch and Roster of Commissioned Officers and Enlisted Men (Kennebec Journal Print, 1904)
  • Dubros Times: Depositions of Revolutionary War Veterans from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives)
  • Maine in the Civil War: A Bibliographical Guide compiled by William B. Jordan (Maine Historical Society, 1976)
  • Military Records and Related Sources from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 2000)
  • Names of Soldiers of the American Revolution Who Applied for State Bounty under the Resolves of March 17, 1835, March 24, 1836, and March 20, 1838, as Appears of Record in Land Office compiled by Charles L. House (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967)
  • Red Diamond Regiment: The 17th Maine Infantry, 1862-1865 by William B. Jordan (Frontier Press, 1995)
  • Soldiers, Sailors, and Patriots of the Revolutionary War, Maine by Carleton E. Fisher (National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1982)


  • History of the Court System of the State of Maine by David Q. Whittier (Maine State Archives, ca. 1980)
  • Maine Probate Abstracts. Vol. 1, 1687-1775; vol. 2, 1775-1800 by John Eldridge Frost (Picton Press, 1991)
  • Maine Wills, 1640-1760 by William M. Sargent (Clearfield Co., 1996)
  • Province and Court Records of Maine, 6 vols., edited by Charles T. Libby, Robert E. Moody, and Neal W. Allen (Maine Historical Society, 1928-1975)
  • York County, Maine Wills Abstracts 1801-1858, 2 vols., from the Maine Genealogical Society (Picton Press, 1997)


  • n Index and Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax Census of 1798 by Michael H. Gorn (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1979)
  • Massachusetts and Maine Direct Tax Census of 1798 from the US Secretary of the Treasury (New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1978)
  • The Massachusetts Tax Valuation List of 1771 edited by Betty Hobbs Pruitt (G.K. Hall, 1978)


  • Cemetery Inscriptions and Odd Information of Various Towns in the State of Maine edited by Charles D. Townsend (Aceto Bookmen, 1995)
  • Index to Maine Deaths, 1960-1996 from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 2002)
  • Index to Maine Marriages, 1892-1966, 1976-1996 from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 2002)
  • The Maine Historical and Genealogical Recorder, 9 vols., (S.M. Watson, 1884-98)
  • Maine Marriages 1892-1966: A Complete List edited by Lewis Bunker Rohrbach (Picton Press, 1996. CD-ROM)
  • Maine Old Cemetery Association Cemetery Inscription Project: Series One, Two and Three by Katherine W. Trickey (Northeast Reprographics, 1982)
  • Maine Town Microfilm List: Town and Vital Records, and Census Reports from the Maine State Archives
  • Vital Records (Births, Marriages, Deaths) Before 1892 and Vital Records from 1892-1922 from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 2002)
  • Vital Records, 1923-Present from the Maine State Archives (Maine State Archives, 2002)
  • Vital Records from Maine Newspapers 1785-1820, 2 vols., by David C. Young and Elizabeth Keene Young (Heritage Books, 1993)

Return to the main Maine page

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