This page will provide you with information that will help you in your genealogy and ancestry research for the state of Maine. It includes a timeline for the state, when the state began recording vital records, what US and State census records are available, a map of the counties in the state and link to page showing when counties were formed, and links to a variety of genealogy and ancestry resources for the state of Maine.
Maine, geographically the largest New England state, was part of Massachusetts as District of Maine until 1820 when it became a separate state. In 1842 the current boundary between Maine and Canada was settled.
1000 – Leif Ericson discovers the coast of North America.
1524 – Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano became the first confirmed European to explore the coast of Maine.
1604 – Frenchmen Pierre du Guast and Samuel de Champlain found the first European settlement/colony on St. Croix Island.
1607 – The British establish the Fort Popham Colony, the first english settlement in Maine, named after Judge Popham who tried Guy Fawkes and financed English expeditions to Massachusetts.
1634 – The first sawmill begins operation. Lumber will be a major part of Maine’s economy for many years to come.
1652 – Maine becomes part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1775 – Colonists capture the British ship the Margaretta off the coast of Maine.
1775 to 1783 – The American Revolution creates the United States of America. The Revolutionwas due to the British burden of taxes and total power to legislate an laws governing the American colonies.
1776 – United States Declaration of Independence
1819 – June 19 – The Massachusetts General Court passed, enabling legislation separating the District of Maine from the rest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The following month, on July 26, voters in the district approved statehood.
1820 – March 15 – Maine is admitted as the 23rd state.
1820 – Potatoes become the number one crop.
1832 – Augusta becomes the new state capital.
1842 – Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, negotiated a new boundary between Maine and Canada.
1863 – Soldiers from Maine fight at the Battle of Gettysburg under Colonel Joshua Chamberlain.
Maine has the most uneven group of vital records in all of New England. One reason is that the first settlements were dilatory in recording vital events as was the custom of other Massachusetts communities. Only five towns (Biddeford, Kittery, Kennebunkport, York, and Wells) have such seventeenth-century records. By the eighteenth century, over 200 towns picked up the habit and followed it reasonably well until Maine became a separate state in 1820. Following statehood, records were not consistently kept at first, but most towns have good records of marriage intentions, if not marriage records themselves, and some births. Few deaths are recorded in town records.
After 1864, state legislation required that town clerks forward births, deaths, and marriages to the secretary of state. There was never total compliance to this although all those that were sent before 1892 (for about eighty towns) are available at the Maine State Archives.
By 1892, the State Board of Vital Statistics was established by the legislature as the depository for returns of vital events, and mandatory recording became a reality. The Maine State Archives presently holds the original 1892’1922 birth, death, and marriage records.
See Maine Vital Records (Red Book) for more detailed information.
Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org has several collections available online. I’ve included some of them in the Links section below.
Ancestry.com has digitized images of the entire U.S. Federal Census Schedules 1790-1930 and created searchable indexes for the images. This collection can be accessed at U.S. Federal Census Collection.
Industry and Agriculture Schedules
Union Veterans Schedules
Although Maine was part of Massachusetts until the 1820 census, for research purposes the National Archives catalogs the 1790, 1800, and 1810 federal censuses under Maine. The 1800 censuses for some towns in Hancock and Kennebec indicate where the person resided before immigrating to Maine. A date of emigration is given for some people in Kennebec although this was not consistently noted for Hancock. See Walter Goodwin Davis, ‘Part of Hancock County, Maine, in 1800,’ New England Historical and Genealogical Register 105 (1951): 204-13, 276-91. All of the above census records are at the Maine State Archives on microfilm, and are widely available at other repositories and online through Internet subscription databases. York County is incomplete on the 1800 census, half of Oxford County is missing in 1810, and Houlton Plantation returns are missing for Washington County, 1820.
In 1837 a state census enumerating heads of households was taken, but only Bangor, Portland, and unincorporated towns survive on microfilm at the Maine State Archives. The Maine Historical Society Library holds the volume enumerating the town of Eliot.
At Maine County Resources (rootsweb) you can find dates counties were formed, parent county(ies), when marriage, land and probate records began.
Maine Family History Research – originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources, 3rd edition 2004.
Ancestry.com – Maine vital records databases (subscription may be required)
FamilySearch.org collections available for free online
GenealogyBuff.com – Maine Genealogy Data
MEGenWeb – Main GenWeb
Maine GenWeb – Archives
The Ancestor Hunt – Maine Birth, Marriage and Death Record links
LDS Genealogy – Maine
Maine Genealogical Society
Genealogy Trails – Maine
Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Maine
Access Genealogy – Maine
GenealogySpot – Maine
Maine Historical Society
Maine An Encyclopedia -Celebrating Mine’s Bicentennial Timeline
Timelines of History – Maine
eReference Desk – Maine History Timeline
Maine Memory Network- Maine History Timeline
DatesandEvents.org – Maine History Timeline
Ducksters – Maine State History
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