Of all of the New England states, Maine’s records are the most random and disorganized. Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that vital record recording wasn’t really customary in the 1600s. So, only some records for Wells, York, Biddeford, Kennebunkport and Kittery for around that time exist. During the 1700s, more than 200 towns in the state were recording vital records fairly well. However, Maine gained statehood in 1820 and then vital records were not kept as consistently for a while. Nevertheless, some births and most marriages were recorded. However, there are not a lot of well-documented death records for around that time period for the state of Maine.
Vital records (marriage, death, and birth records) were required by law to be sent to the secretary of state’s office after 1864. Not all towns complied with that law. However, the Maine State Archives is home to quite a few records covering around 80 towns for the time period prior to 1892.
The State Board of Vital Statistics was created by 1892. The legislature required that all vital events around the state be recorded and stored there. That was when mandatory vital record recording was really enforced and clearly established. Records from 1892 to 1922 for births, marriages and deaths are all housed at the Maine State Archives. It is possible to get certified copies of any of those records. Also housed at the Maine State Archives are the microfilms of the 1922 to 1955 marriage records, the groom’s index for 1956 to the present day, the bride’s index for 1892 to the present day and the 1955 to present-day death records. The Office of Data Research and Vital Statistics at the Maine Department of Human Services can provide certified copies of any vital records after 1922.
Many of the records from before 1892 are available on microfilm at other Maine repositories. The New England Historical Genealogical Society and the FHL (Family History Library) also have many of those records on file. Marriage record indexes are available online for 1892 to 1996, except for the records spanning the years of 1967 to 1976. Death record indexes for 1960 to 1996 are also available online. Both the marriage and the death indexes can be found on the website for the Maine State Archives. Some death records up until 1970 and some additional microfilm reels up through 1955 are also available at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The Office of Data Research ad Vital Statistics regularly sends updated records to the Maine State Archives. So, while the FHL has some records on file, the records at the Maine State archives are more complete and up to date.
In 1828, the legislature passed a mandate saying that all marriages had to be recorded by each county in Maine. The Maine State archives has some of those records on file, but they haven’t all been fully examined and compiled yet. Also, even though that mandate was passed, counties did not always adhere to it. The Maine State Archives regularly updates and distributes the best list of vital records for Maine, which is called the Microfilm List of Maine Town and Census Records (1980). Soon, the Maine State Archives will be surveying all town records in the state, thanks to a National Historic Records Commission grant.
Some of the vital records for Maine can be found in published formats. For example, vital records for eighteen Maine towns from years before 1892 were compiled and published by the Maine Historical Society. That publication included records obtained from many different sources, including Bibles, gravestones, church records, newspapers, town clerk records, family records and more. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register also published York town records from 1681 to 1891 in serials from 1955 to 1969.