Maine Vital Records
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
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. Certified copies of records for that time period can be obtained there. The archives also has the birth, death, and marriage records on microfilm (1922–55) with a helpful bride’s index (1892-present), groom’s index (1956-present), and death index (1955-present). Certified copies of all vital records after 1922 may be obtained from the Maine Department of Human Services, Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, 11 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
A number of other repositories in Maine (see http://www.maine.gov/sos/arc/research/otherres.html) hold microfilm copies of the pre-1892 records, as do the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (see page 13). Online indexes are available for marriages (1892–1996, excluding 1967–76) and deaths (1960–96) on the Maine State Archives website at http://www.maine.gov/sos/arc/, at www.ancestry.com, and at www.mainegenealogy.net.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society, additionally, has microfilm copies of some additional reels through 1955, and death records through 1970. The FHL, too, has some microfilm of post-1892 records, but they are not as current as those at the Maine State Archives, which are updated regularly from the Office of Data Research and Vital Statistics files.
Marriages for the early statehood period were sometimes recorded at the county level, as mandated by the legislature in 1828. Such records have not yet been fully assessed, although some are on microfilm at Maine State Archives. The most complete listing of available Maine vital records continues to be the updated Microfilm List of Maine Town and Census Records (1980), distributed by the Maine State Archives. Recently funded by a grant from the National Historic Records Commission, the Maine State Archives will be broadening its scope to survey all of Maine’s town records. In the Town Resources section at the end of this chapter, details from the most recent update are included to guide the researcher in finding vital records.
In 2010 the Maine legislature restricted access to birth, death and marriage certificates for 100 years after the event. Prior the expiration of the 100 year period, only person with a "direct and legitimate interest" will be provided access to the records. The law did provide exception for genealogical researchers who purchase a Researcher Card. A summary of the law change can be found at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/phs/odrvs/vital-records/new-law.html.
A few of Maine’s vital records have been published. A project undertaken by the Maine Historical Society issued printings of all pre-1892 vital records for eighteen towns, which included sources outside the town clerk’s office—diaries, church records, newspapers, gravestone information, family records, Bibles, and private records. Transcripts of town records for York 1681–1891 were published serially in New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1955–69).
At Ancestry.com, subscribers can access the following Maine vital records databases:
- Maine Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Maine birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.