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A J Aiséirithe, Reference Librarian, Local History and Genealogy Section
Created: August 11, 2022
Last Updated: August 11, 2022
The largest of the New England states in area, Maine, was originally part of Massachusetts. In 1820, it became the 23rd state to join the Union. Its name comes from an ancient French province of the same name.
In the sixteenth century, the Native peoples in what is now the State of Maine belonged to several tribes, known collectively as the Wabenaki, or “People of the Dawnland.” European settlers came primarily from Britain and France and, later, from Germany and Ireland. Over the three centuries prior to statehood in 1820, governance of Maine was contested among the inhabitants and by the colonial authorities of Britain, France, and other colonial governments including Canada, New York, and Massachusetts. Alice Eichholz, writing for The Red Book, noted some of the challenges of genealogical research in Maine: “Political divisions in Maine are perhaps the most diverse in New England. There are 433 towns, twenty-two cities, thirty-six plantations, three 'Indian' voting districts, twelve unorganized but populated townships, and approximately two hundred land divisions unpopulated and identified only by township and range. Border disputes existed with Maine's neighbors to the east and north in Canada. The same piece of land an ancestor lived on might be identified differently because borders, counties, and names changed. Genealogical research in Maine is challenging principally because of the numerous governmental changes affecting the way records have been kept.”
This guide offers a selection of resources and strategies for Maine local history and genealogy research. These include the print and digital collections of the Library of Congress, as well as external repositories and web sites key to finding forebears in the Pine Tree State.
The Library of Congress has one of the world's premier collections of U.S. and foreign genealogical and local historical publications, numbering more than 50,000 compiled family histories and over 100,000 U.S. local histories. The Library's genealogy collection began as early as 1815 with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's library.