- Judicial Records - Judicial records are a rich primary source of economic and social history, in addition to the obvious legal content. The Archives maintains three types of court records (dockets, records, and casefiles).
- Land Office - Deeds and Related Materials, 1749-1949; Field Notes, 1803-1890; maps prepared by the Massachusetts and Maine Land Offices, or accumulated by those agencies and the Maine Forestry Department represent various surveys and lottings of boundary lines undertaken since the Eighteenth Century.
- Legislature - Originals of legislative petitions, bills, resolves, messages, and reports since 1820 are maintained in this collection.
- Military - Military Records to Statehood in 1820, Civil War Records, Revolutionary War Land Grants and Pension Applications.
- Town History - Covering most communities in existence at the time the records were created, these include demographic and vital records, governmental records, military records and social and economic records.
Judicial records are a rich primary source of economic and social history, in addition to the obvious legal content. The case files of the old Circuit Court of Common Pleas, for example, reveal much about the daily live, circumstances, occupations and concerns of citizens. Specific information about wages, salaries, business practices and other economic data is frequently found in the records of the courts; and an investigation of the case files of a single term of court may provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the inhabitants of Maine in a particular time and place.
The Archives maintains three types of court records (dockets, records, and casefiles) from all sixteen counties, beginning in 1636.
Judicial records generally consist of bound Docket Volumes, bound Record Volumes and Case Files, all of which document court actions during each term or session of the courts at all levels.
- Docket Volume - for the appropriate court and term which will provide the assigned docket number for the case.
- Record Volume - summary history and disposition of the case.
- Case File - the same docket number will identify related materials such as depositions and other evidence.
Over the years there has been no absolute uniformity in the filing and docketing practices of the Clerks of Court who are responsible for maintaining these records.
The decisions of the inferior courts and courts of general jurisdiction are not published in the collected volumes of court reports of the State. Such decisions may be reviewed upon appeal by the Supreme Judicial Court; and the decisions of this court are authoritative precedents that are binding upon the lower courts of the State. The fact, however, that a case was not appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court and reported in its published decisions, in no way suggests that the controversy was unimportant, nor that the records which document it are without research value.
Records of the Maine Land Office
The following selected list summarizes the principle series contained in the records of the Maine Land Office.
Deeds and Related Materials, 1749-1949
- Massachusetts Deeds, 1794-1828
- Records of Deeds of Confirmation, 1841-1843
- Treaty Deeds, 1868-1879 (Maine lands confirmed under the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842)
- Records of Deeds, 1828-1940
- Deeds of Land Sold for Taxes, 1848-1854; 1909-1945
- Records of Land and Settlers' Certificates, 1842-1884
- "Miscellaneous" Records of Deeds, 1798-1949
- Revolutionary War Land Grants, 1830's
Field Notes, 1803-1890
The field notes give information about boundary lines, forest growth, topography, distances, and related information about the areas surveyed. They frequently contain information about hardships or unusual occurrances encountered during the survey.
The maps prepared by the Massachusetts and Maine Land Offices, or accumulated by those agencies and the Maine Forestry Department represent various surveys and lottings of boundary lines undertaken since the Eighteenth Century. From time to time, the Maine Legislature authorized funds for the copying of early maps of Maine held by Massachusetts for the benefit of the Land Office. Other maps included in this series were prepared by various private concerns and acquired by the Forestry Department. A comprehensive index to the maps is arranged by the various counties of the State; and thereunder by town, township or plantation.
Originals of legislative petitions, bills, resolves, messages, and reports since 1820 are maintained in this collection.
Legislative materials exist in a variety of forms: bills, acts, resolves, and legislative records. The Archives retains both the "original papers" and the printed "legislative documents." In addition, various reports, messages and studies may be found among the legislative business papers.
The Legislature publishes a verbatim record of the proceedings of both House and Senate, which provides an excellent source of information on the debates in each branch during the regular and special sessions of the Legislature. The Legislative Record was first published in 1897. There are no official publications of the State which fully report the debates of the Legislature prior to that date.
Records of Legislative Proceedings
The proceedings of the Senate and House of Representatives are recorded in the Journals of the respective branches of the Legislature. The journals were produced annually from 1820-1880; biennially, from 1881-1975; and annually from 1977. The journals were produced annually from 1820-1880; biennially, from 1881-1975; and annually from 1977. The journals of both houses were published and distributed from time to time by legislative authority; but this policy was neither consistent nor continuous, and finally abandoned in 1925. The earliest published journal is that of the Senate in 1854; of the House, 1855.
Legislative Papers and Documents
The Legislative Document series consists primarily of the bills and resolves introduced during a particular session; but also may include such materials as reports, amendments and redrafts of legislation. The Legislative Documents for the sessions from 1833 to 1867 are included in the collected public documents of the State. References to the Legislative Documents collected in the Maine Public Documents will be found in the Index to Maine Public Documents, 1834-1867, printed in the Thirty-Second Report of the Librarian of the Maine State Library, for the Years 1905 and 1906, and in Hasse's Index of Economic Material in Documents of the States of the United States. The Legislative Documents for each Legislature were separately collected and indexed from 1868 to 1929. Those collected in the Legislative Documents series from 1947 to date will be found indexed in the Register of All Bills and Resolves published by legislative authority. Typed indexes to the Legislative Documents for 1933-1945 are available at the State Law Library.
The so-called " original papers" are the original drafts of the acts and resolves which were passed by the Legislature, together with related papers and documents. The papers themselves are an invaluable source of information, and are well worth examining if the subject of research involves a particular act or resolve passed by the Legislature.
The so-called " Legislative Graveyard" consists of bills that failed of enactment and various reports and communications. Part of these records were indexed by the Secretary of the Senate when they were originally filed; and copies of the indexes to the files were printed in the Senate Journals for various sessions between 1865-1876. At one time Sprague's Journal of Maine History published exerpts from the files under the title Maine's Legislative Graveyard - From Bills, Acts, Resolves, and Memorials, Discarded by Maine Legislatures since 1820. The files of individual legislators accumulated by the Office of Legislative Research which contain the drafts of legislation prepared by that office are routinely transferred to the Maine State Archives at the end of each biennium for research use. The confidentiality of individual legislator files in the Office of Legislative Research is protected by statute during the biennium in which they are created; and information from the files may not be disclosed by the Office except with the express authorization of the particular legislator.
Reports, Communications, Messages
Another important source which should not be overlooked are the various reports, communications and messages, both of the Governors and otherwise, published in the session laws from 1840 on, and between 1820-1840 in the printed pamphlets of resolves. The published revisions also include such informative material as the Note by the Commissioner on the Sources of Land Titles in Maine in the Revised Statutes of 1883, and the brief history of the first five revisions contained in the Commissioner's Prefatory Note to the 1903 revision. The reports of the various Commissioners to revise the general and public laws of the State should be consulted if there is difficulty in tracing the source of some particular statute, since the earlier revisions were, in fact, a great deal more substantive, and various changes were enacted by the revisions generally upon the basis of the recommendations made in these reports. Bibliographies which list Maine Session laws and revisions are noted in the History of Statutory Law in the State of Maine appearing in Volume 1 of the Maine Revised Statutes Annotated (1964).
Opinion of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General
The Senate, House of Representatives and Governor are empowered under the Constitution to ask the Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court "to give their opinion upon solemn occasions." A reference set is maintained by the Attorney General of all opinions issued by that office which includes copies of those opinions not published in the biennial reports or which have been rendered since the discontinuance of the biennial report in 1972. Copies of the opinions are also available for consultation at the State Law Library.
Legislative Studies and Research
Research into the diverse problems undertaken by the Legislature or by its authority are generally made available in the form of written reports made available to the public through the State Law Library, Joint Standing Committees or Legislative Staff Offices. These reports and other non-current records are generally transferred to the Maine State Archives by the legislative service agencies as part of the records of the Legislature and are available for research use.
Researchers who are interested in Nineteenth Century military history as it affected citizens at the State and local level, and in Maine's participation in national military affairs, will find extensive resources available to them at the Maine State Archives. Here are some of the most prominent record series relating to this subject.
Accounts, Correspondence, Photos, Chamberlain Letters, Muster Rolls
Military Records to Statehood in 1820
- Prior to Maine Statehood - consult the Archives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Boston
- War of 1812 - Maine Militia Rolls and Rolls of Maine men serving in the U.S. Regular Army
- 1810-1817 - Annual Inspection Returns, Orders and Schedules
- 1835 and 1838 - Revolutionary War Land Grants and Pension Applications
Office of the Adjutant General, 1820-1900
- Records of General Orders and of Special Orders and the Official Correspondence of the Office of the Adjutant General
- 1820-1861 - Militia rolls and rosters - In addition to providing insight into the peacetime administration of the State militia, these records also reveal Maine's response to the border troubles that led to the Aroostook War of 1839; to the Mexican War, 1846-1848; to the Civil War and to the Spanish-American War of 1898. Files relating to Spanish-American War veterans are also available; although proof of such service must be obtained from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
Other Records Relating to Military History
Acts and Resolves - The accompanying papers to the original Acts and Resolves of the Maine Legislature, together with records of legislation that failed of enactment.
The records of the Maine Land Office contain information about the Aroostook War; most particularly the Diary and Letterbook of William Parrot, the Land Agent in charge of the civil force in Aroostook County during the dispute. See also The Record of Provender for Men Going to Aroostook County; and Copies of Letters and Papers Relating to the Aroostook Volunteers and the Governor.
Researchers should also consult the published Annual and Biennial Reports of the Adjutant General of Maine for the general background of the records of the Office.
While references to Maine communities appear throughout our records, the following cover most communities in existence at the time the records were created. Access to these records is available through our Research Room.
Demographic and Vital Records
- Federal Population Censuses 1790-1930
- Enumeration taken every tenth year (ending in "0"). Censuses before 1850 list only the head-of-household by name. From 1850 onward, all members of the household are listed.
- Mortality Census Schedules 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880
- A listing, taken at the time of the census, of all people in the town or city who died within the last twelve months.
- Early Vital Records
- About 700 microfilm rolls of town and city births, marriages, marriage intentions, and deaths copied from clerks' record books are available for visiting researchers. Records were kept with varying thoroughness from town to town. These records are now available digitally through Family Search by searching the name of the town in the catalog.
- 1837 Revenue-Sharing Census
- It covers Bangor, Portland and the unincorporated townships of that time only, and includes the name of the head of the house, and the number of other people living there.
- Settlers Certificates
- Certificates of land ownership given by the Maine Land Office to settlers in many northern Maine towns and unincorporated townships. Indexed by name and town.
- Maine Land Office Deeds
- Original conveyances of land from the state to settlers. (Note: this does not include later sales of the land from individual to individual. Such records will be found in the county Registries of Deeds).
- Election Returns
- They detail how the towns and cities voted in state and federal elections, referenda and constitutional amendments since 1820. Some gaps occur in the nineteenth century.
- 1864 Poll List
- Listing by town of all eligible voters of that year.
- Scattered Early Town Records.
- On microfilm in our Research Room.
- Private and Special Laws
- These include town incorporations, town line changes.
- Legislative "Graveyard"
- Bills that were not enacted, reports, communications, and petitions. An immense source of historical information. Indexed from 1820-1865.
- Governor and Executive Council Records 1820-1976
- Financial disbursements, confirmations of appointments, pardons and many transactions relating to local government. Indexed 1820-1840.
- Assessors Returns
- Reports by town assessors for a variety of reasons and years, including: State Valuation (1820), Domestic Cattle (1860), Agricultural Statistics (1862), and Insane and Idiotic Persons (1878). Indexed by town.
- State Agencies
- The Departments of Transportation, Public Utilities, Attorney General, and others have frequent business with towns and cities. Research in these materials can be very time-consuming.
Military and Veterans
- Revolutionary War Land Bounties
- These awards for veterans or their widows are indexed by name.
- Civil War
- Town correspondence with the Adjutant General's Office.
- 1862 medical examinations of recruits (some indexed by town, regiment, or name).
- Quotas and Credits. 1862-1865. The number of men required from each town as a result of the draft and the names of everyone credited to that town.
- Suppliers Correspondence. Businesses in the town offering to sell goods and materials to the Adjutant General's Office for conducting the war.
- Post-Civil War Bounty Claims. Made to the state by towns for reimbursement of bounties paid to recruits.
- 1890 Census of veterans or their widows by town. Indexed by name.
- World War I Soldiers Index. By town.
- Town Cemetery Indexes for veterans.
- Grave registration projects for veterans of various conflicts.
Social and Economic Conditions
- Census Returns (1850, 1860, 1870, 1880)
- The Agricultural Census reports include information on farm acreage, livestock and crops grown. The Industrial Census lists manufacturing businesses in town, with information on the number of people employed, wages, raw materials used and amount of goods produced.
- County Court Records
- A small percentage of these records are indexed by town of the plaintiff or defendant.
- Mid-twentieth Century Photographs
- These photos from the Department of Economic Development, the George French Collection, and other sources are indexed by town/city.
- Great Depression Era Photographs
- Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
- From the Maine Land Office and other sources, indexed by town.
- Lists of recipients and type of aid given by town. Late nineteenth to early twentieth century.
- 1859 State Vessel Valuation
- Listing by town and name of vessel, tonnage, age, etc.
- Various reports by town regarding commodities such as fish, pot and pearl ash, liquor, etc.