Posted by Paul Rawlins on December 16, 2010 in Collections

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.


  1. BEE

    If you prefer to work in “old search”, DON”T click on the above births, marriages, deaths) or it will open in “new search”.
    When I tried to find “return to old search”, it wasn’t in the upper right hand corner until I went back to a “home page”.
    Looks like that’s what happens when you click on anything in “Recent Genealogy Databases” – as far am I’m concerned, not good!!

  2. BEE

    I just tried it, and you are right, Andy…..I have no idea how or why it opened in “new search” when I tried it earlier, because I definitely was using “old search”, but I’m glad that I was able to find my way back!

  3. Jade

    Most birth, marriage and death records for the 17th and 18th and early 19th centuries were recorded in the Towns and in church records.

    The newly added databases do not include more than a teensy smattering of items from Town records.

    A huge number of Maine Town records’ images have been published on CD by a publisher in Rockland, ME.

  4. Carol A. H.

    #6 Jade:

    Would you please post more information on that CD regarding Maine town record images? Thanks.


  5. Jade

    Carol, your #7: I and many others would not like to have these blogs include commercial messages. They are removed by the blog administrator. The Town records are on ~many~ CDs; some individual Town records are on 3 or more. You can find the publisher by an internet search for “Press” and Rockland.

  6. Jan Murphy

    Re: Ancestry’s announcements and Jade’s rebuttal in #6 — I don’t find it helpful to have only raw numbers of how many records exist or statements that this is just a “teeny smattering”. Members who want more information about what vital records exist state-wide can find a detailed description at the Maine State Archives:

  7. Carol A. H.

    Thanks to Jan #11, and Andy #12, for the Maine site information.

    I have been using this new database and have found new sources to add to my Maine people of that time period, and getting some new parent’s names to give me new lines to research. Maiden names!!!

    I’m not finding every one of course, but enough so far to say it will be a good source for me. I have Maine-iacs back to forever. Finally, a new database to help me!

  8. Soon to be added to literary greats is my brother David Hanna, who although was born on the way to Florida in Georgia (crazy isn’t it), he did spend his formative years in Round Pond, Maine.

    Keep any eye out for his name in book stores – David Hanna – that is.

Comments are closed.