Maine Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Maine court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.
Maine Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.
Maine Court Records
Maine has had many different courts since the 1600s, when its original settlements were established. Jurisdictions have been changed multiple times. The FHL has a detailed listing of early records on microfilm. Those records can also be found in a 6 volume collection called Province and Court Records of Maine.
The Maine State Archives is home to all of the York County original court records. Records for Cumberland and Lincoln Counties, formed in 1760, as well as Washington County, formed in 1789, were under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. Microfilmed versions of those records are not available. The Maine State Archives holds the court records that still exist from 1929 and earlier, with the exception of the records for Lincoln. The Maine State Archives continues to compile more court records for years later than 1929 as well. The Wiscasset courthouse holds the court records for Lincoln County.
The Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature (1692-1780) was the court of appeals for Maine until Maine gained its statehood. It was also the original court for murder trials and some other court cases. Those records are called the “Suffolk Files” and are indexed at the Massachusetts State Archives. After 1780, the supreme judicial court took over. Maine county records for that court system through 1793 can be found at the Massachusetts State Archives.
Maine Court Records, 1696-1854(search.ancestry.com) This database is an index to early court records from the state of Maine. The records come from the York County Court of Common Pleas (1696-1760), the Kennebec County Supreme Court (1799-1854), and the Washington County District Court (1839-46). Information provided in the index includes the court name, month and year of session, the cause of action, a reference to the location of the actual record, the name of the plaintiff or defendant, and his residence. The index was created by and obtained from the Maine State Archives.
Royal grants from England gave Maine its status as a New England province. Then, in 1677, the area below the Kennebec River was purchased by the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1691, the area east of the Kennebec River also became part of Massachusetts. As in Massachusetts, town proprietor grants were created for Maine. Maine deeds that predate 1737 have all been published in York Deeds, 1642-1737. That is an eighteen-volume collection, which is available at many of the major libraries in the state.
Any unorganized parts of Maine were surveyed by the Committee for the Sale of Eastern Lands when the Revolutionary War ended, in 1783. The purpose was to sell the land to pay for some of the war costs. War grants, street grants, patents, tax sales, and lotteries were all used as a way of selling land in Maine. The Massachusetts State Archives holds all of the original Eastern Lands records. Volumes 4 through 8 of the Maine Historical and Genealogical Recorder also contain those records.
The Maine Land Office took over where the Massachusetts Committee for the Sale of Eastern Lands left off in 1824 and continued to dispense public lands until 1891, even after Maine and Massachusetts separated. Deeds starting from 1974 (listed as deeds for Massachusetts) are located at the Maine State Archives, along with field notes, maps and other records. The Maine State Archives also has a “Land Office Records in the Maine State Archives” brochure and Revolutionary War veteran land grant applications on file.
Maine Will Abstracts, 1640-1760(search.ancestry.com) Compiled in the late nineteenth century, this database is a collection of will records for residents of Maine Province between 1640 and 1760. Taken from the York County Clerk’s Office, it contains nearly 500 wills, and the names of about 2000 persons. Originally printed by the Maine Historical Society, page numbers refer to the registry book kept by the county clerk. For Ancestry.com patrons seeking information regarding early New England ancestors, this can be a useful database.
Although Maine took part in the 1798 U.S. Direct Tax, some of those records no longer exist. The records that do remain include renters, land owners, acreage, dwellings, title boundaries, land boundaries, taxes due, and value. By combining that information with the existing 1800 census records, many gaps can be filled, since parts of both records are missing. The Maine State Archives and the New England Historic Genealogical Society located in Boston both have copies of the surviving 1798 U.S. Direct Tax records on file.
The 1837 Surplus Tax Census, which covered Portland, Bangor, and unincorporated areas, is at the Maine State Archives. There are also other tax records for Maine, both pre-statehood and post-statehood. However, they have not been cataloged in any one specific survey. Early nineteenth century records may be found as part of town meeting records. Town offices may hold tax lists from later years. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research
Portland, Maine was a fairly busy port of entry for immigrants to Maine. Passenger list indexes for 1893 to 1954 for Portland are available at the National Archives-Northeast Region. However, many immigrants came to Maine via New Brunswick or Boston. So, several current Maine residents can trace their roots back to those ports. See Also Guide to U.S. Immigration Records Research
Maine, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1990(familysearch.org) Naturalization records and digitized indexes acquired from Androscoggin, Cumberland, Franklin, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Oxford, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Sagadahoc, Waldo, Washington, and York counties.
Maine contains 16 counties. Each county is the local level of government within its borders. Counties function in various ways, including providing land records, probate practices, administrative frameworks, construction, and road maintenance. Most parts of Maine use town government practices, including boards of selectmen and town meetings. However, there are more than 20 city charters in the state and many of the towns and cities have managers.
The links in the table below link to county and city government offices and is limited to government-maintained websites. If you know of a Maine county that has an official government web site but is not linked, or if the link is in error, please contact us so we may edit our database. Maine State Government is located in Augusta.