If Virginia is for lovers, as the bumper stickers would have us believe, is Maine for writers? As I was doing some background research for the new Maine vital records (births, marriages, deaths) that just went live on Ancestry, it got me wondering what was up with all the poets and other literary types who hail from the state. Maybe Stephen King was just trying to tap into the zeitgeist when he moved there.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is no doubt the granddaddy of all Maine literati. He was born in 1807, so he falls under the pre-1892 records in these databases. Statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths for Maine started in 1892. To fill in some of the blanks prior to that time, in 1920 the state asked towns to provide them with copies of their old records. About 20 percent of the municipalities complied, so coverage for these early records is spotty. They look like this:
It’s probably no surprise that somebody went to the pains to make sure HWL was included.
Edna Vincent Millay—she added the “Saint” later—made the new state registrations in 1892:
Sarah Orne Jewett was one of the few writers I came across who stayed put. She was born and died in South Berwick, Maine:
I was a little disappointed to find no birth record for Edwin Arlington Robinson, though perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Apparently, his mother had been expecting a little girl and had no names picked out for a son, so he wasn’t named until six months after his birth, while the family was on holiday. But there are also famous movie directors (John Ford was born John Feeney), Civil War heroes (Joshua Chamberlain), and college presidents (Oliver O. Howard), and with more than two million birth, marriage, and death records in the collection, there’s a good chance you’ll find traces of your own downeast family celebrities among the other luminaries from the Pine Tree State.