Maine Old Cemetery Association will mark 45 years of activity next year. Some 1 million names in 6,600 Maine cemeteries have been entered in the MOCA Inscription Project database.

The work of so many volunteers over decades is doubly important when you consider the fact that many of the stones from whom information was transcribed have since broken off, disappeared, sunk into the ground or eroded to the point they are no longer readable.

I particularly like using the MOCA books at Maine State Library in Augusta, but MOCA records are also available on microfilm, in books by county and on CDs in some cases. Search for “Maine Old Cemetery Association” or “MOCA” on URSUS at

Visit the MOCA website at

During the fall meeting of the Maine Old Cemetery Association in Hiram, professional dowser Wayne Holmquist dowsed two unmarked graves by means of a pendulum.

Notice of this program in the winter newsletter of MOCA included the information that dowsing can determine more than the location of remains. Other information gleaned may include the position of the body in the grave, whether the person is an adult or child, and even the gender.

I never heard that dowsing could detect so much information.

Another program given in Hiram by teacher Jessica Felix informed those attending how students can learn about family history, the literature of epitaphs and even the art and math of designing and placing gravestones. And, as we all know, cleaning markers is a science.

I mention these topics not only to show what you can learn by attending a MOCA meeting, but to emphasize that MOCA membership is worthwhile even for those who only receive its eight-page newsletter.

Five dollars. That’s all it costs to belong to MOCA for a year. Save money by sending in $20 for a five-year membership, or $100 for a life membership to: MOCA, PO Box 641, Augusta, ME 04332-0641.

A membership also makes a great gift for a friend or relative for whom dues of various worthwhile organizations have started to add up. Or maybe you could kindle someone’s interest by offering to make him or her a new member.

The rare books, newspapers and microfilmed town records are staying put at

While Castine’s public library will continue to maintain its Castine Collection of rare books, newspapers and town records (on microfilm), it is now turning over most of its manuscripts, photographs, drawings and diaries to two other organizations in town dedicated to preserving archives and artifacts.

The Witherle Memorial Library Board of Trustees recently voted to approve the transfer of these materials into the care of the Castine Historical Society and the Wilson Museum, according to a recent press release.

Throughout 100 years in its current home, the library received donations of many significant archival papers reflecting the history of Castine. Watercolors by Noah Brooks, Perkins family letters from the 19th century, and daybooks of George Witherle, the benefactor and namesake of the library, are among the items in 15 boxes that were housed in the library’s basement and rarely used.

“We decided these important local documents would receive better care and more regular use if we gave them away,” said library Director Anne Romans, adding, “Castine is lucky to have two institutions whose mission is to do this.”

In preparation for renovating the library and expanding its services, Romans began working in 2010 with Executive Director Patty Hutchins from the Wilson Museum and Curator Paige Lilly from the Historical Society to carefully evaluate the library’s manuscript collections in an effort to decide which materials would end up where. Criteria for the choice usually depended on how the library’s items would relate to existing collections at each organization.

According to Hutchins, the process went smoothly. “Maintaining some of Castine’s most important historical documents in two different places ultimately improves the chances for material to survive through the years.”

CHS Vice President and Collections Committee chairman Jack Macdonald commented, “This step is another example of the spirit of collaboration among these organizations in Castine. We’re honored to be charged with preserving items from the library collection and making them available to the public.”

The library, as the recipient and longtime home of these materials, placed certain restrictions on the gifts. At both receiving institutions, records will refer to the transferred items as part of the Witherle Memorial Library Collection. In the unlikely event that either institution is dissolved, the library will be consulted regarding the disposition of the collections which will remain always in Castine.

For more information, contact any of the three organizations: Castine Historical Society at 326-4118 or, Wilson Museum at 326-9247 or, and Witherle Memorial Library at 326-4375 or

My hope is that those interested in the Castine materials will continue to find them accessible, and it sounds as though the three organizations plan to work together to make that possible.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email

Roxanne Moore Saucier

Family Ties columnist