Many a genealogist has become discouraged by the thought of having to purchase vital records for every ancestor in order to get the information — or subscribing to a genealogy database.
A recent query to me about what information is available without necessarily purchasing a certificate for everything makes me think the topic is worth reviewing.
Birth, marriage and death records have been centralized in Augusta since 1892.
You can look at 1892-1955 vital records free on microfilm in several places in Maine:
ä Augusta, Maine State Archives, next door to the Capitol, usually open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
ä Orono, University of Maine Fogler Library. Get microfilm in microforms room on first floor and take to microfilm reading room. Open seven days a week when school is in session, check hours at 581-1664. Evenings and weekends are a good time to go because parking is less of an issue.
ä Searsport, Penobscot Marine Museum.
ä Presque Isle, University of Maine at Presque Isle Library.
ä Portland, Maine Historical Society.
ä Portland, Portland Public Library.
The clearest microfilms are at the Maine State Archives. Those in other libraries vary in quality, since they are copies, but often you will find readable ones.
I love having the vital records microfilms available at Fogler Library in Orono (as well as U.S. Census records for Maine, 1790-1880 and 1900-1930).
Let’s talk prices. Yes, a certified copy of a birth, marriage or death record is $15, whether you get it from the town, from the Maine State Archives or from the Bureau of Vital Records in Augusta. Make sure you ask for a copy of the record, not an abstract, which has less information.
Examples of when you would need certified copies are applying to a lineage society such as the Daughters of the American Revolution or the Society of Mayflower Descendants, or filing for insurance benefits after a relative has died.
A copy of a vital record which is not certified, but which the staff finds for you, is $7.
The way to save money is to find the record yourself on microfilm.
Towns do not have to let you go through their vital records, and the Bureau of Vital Records in Augusta does not let you search for yourself.
But you can look at the 1892-1955 records yourself at the libraries listed above.
ä Fogler Library in Orono has reader-printers for the microfilm that allow you to look up your record and print it off free. There are numerous activities and resources that are available to the public free at the University of Maine.
ä Maine State Archives in Augusta has readers where you can look up your record on microfilm, then put it on a reader-printer and make a copy for 50 cents.
No doubt some of the other libraries mentioned have reader printers that make copies inexpensively.
These records on microfilm are organized by surname, by year, and by event.
So you could take the 1892-1907 microfilm reel that has Smith in it, then pick out your year, say 1900, then find births, marriages and then deaths for Smith.
Online, the Maine Death Index for 1960-1996 can be found at www.maine.gov/sos/arc. It gives you the name, date and town of death.
The Maine Marriage Index for 1982-1966 and 1977-1996 is on the same Web page. It includes names of bride and groom, town of residence for each, and date of marriage. If the bride is divorced or widowed, you may find her listed twice, under both her maiden name and her previous maiden name.
For pre-1892 records, the Maine State Archives has “delayed returns” from some towns.
Also, many towns have had their pre-1892 vital records published. These include “Vital Records of Bangor, Maine Volume 1: Birth Records,” and “Vital Records of Bangor, Maine Volume 2: Death Records,” both compiled by Michelle E. Thomas and published by Picton Press.
Next week we’ll talk about some of the early town vital records which have been published and may be available in libraries.
The Wassebec Genealogy Society will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14, for a business meeting and program with a speaker on the LDS Family Centers in the conference room at Mayo Regional Hospital, Main Road, Dover-Foxcroft.
The Family Centers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are a wonderful resource, and this meeting will benefit new genealogists as well as those who have experience.
Meetings are open to the public. Genealogy is a wonderful hobby and members would be happy to help get you started on the adventure of tracing your families roots. For more information, contact Tootie Bennett evenings at 876-3073.
Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, 04402; or e-mail queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.