The Maine Tourism Council has announced that “Originality” will be the theme of its marketing campaign this year, according to a front page story in the BDN on Feb. 1. The council and Maine businesses also want to build on the fact that last year, “day-trippers” accounted for $1.2 billion in direct expenditures, and Canadians spent some $500 million here.
Tourism Director Carolann Ouellette talked about the emotional connection to Maine as key to luring tourists, adding that “there’s a lot of room for finding yourself.”
Indeed, there is. I have long wished that tourism boards and chambers of commerce, restaurants, motels, stores, libraries and museums would give more attention to those who come from other states and countries, and even Mainers who make day trips as they pursue “finding yourself” through family history research and genealogy.
My experience shows that family historians spending money in Greater Bangor this summer will include genealogists from the Machias area, for example, who will purchase food and lodging as they devote a day at Bangor Public Library and a day at University of Maine’s Fogler Library in Orono to fill in holes on their pedigree charts. Both libraries have books and other resources not available elsewhere in the state.
There will be visitors such as the couple from Minnesota I found reading old newspapers and other sources on microfilm at BPL, which boasts a genealogical collection known well beyond the borders of Maine. Other tourists might include the man who just wrote the BDN about looking for information on his father’s service at Dow Air Force Base.
Some families may come home to Maine only occasionally, looking to persuade a cousin of some sort to give them a personalized tour of the cemeteries where ancestors are buried. I gave such a tour years ago to some of my Bennett cousins from California whose grandfather had moved from Maine to Washington state.
The photos, memories and family history they took back may well be the seeds that bloom into their children’s desire to make their own trips to Maine with their families.
And we all know of Canadians who venture south or west to learn more about their relatives — some who came from Maine, others who moved to Maine at some point.
Speaking of Canada, here’s hoping that Maine tourism and local businesses will benefit as much as genealogists do when an expected 50,000 people attend more than 100 family reunions during World Acadian Congress 2014 for two weeks that August in northern Maine, northeastern Quebec and northwestern New Brunswick. (World Acadian Congress 2014 is now using a new Web address at http://cma2014.com/rencontres-de-familles-prog)
You know — northern Maine? Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Portage Lake, Frenchville, St. Agatha, Madawaska and Van Buren and others have signed on as host towns for many of the scheduled reunions of people with Acadian and French-Canadian roots.
Before or after their reunions, many of these visitors will allot an extra day or two to use the one-of-a-kind genealogy resources at the Acadian Archives at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and at Madawaska Public Library, both outstanding facilities.
Some of them will stay a little longer to study Franco-American resources at Bangor Public Library, Fogler Library in Orono, Maine State Library in Augusta and the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society in Lewiston-Auburn. Those who share traditional New England roots will want to take in special collections at BPL, Fogler, Ellsworth Public Library, the library at Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Belfast and Gardiner libraries and Maine Historical Society in Portland.
Some towns and cities have genealogical information on the Internet, a great way to help entice tourists by letting them know, “Yes, your people were here.”
Three different websites in Bangor have recorded burials of thousands of people in the Queen City. They are:
• Roman Catholic burials at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Ohio Street, partial listing, portlanddiocese.net/genealogy_main.php.
Keep in mind, too, that the 150th anniversary of the Civil War will spur many people with Maine forebears to come looking for information and burial places of their Civil War ancestors. No doubt some of these visitors will want to visit Civil War monuments, which are varied and plentiful throughout the state.
Through 2015, especially, those prompted by the anniversary to wonder about Maine in the Civil War may arrive here with an individualized list of memorials they want to see, thanks to the state’s Civil War Monument listing at maine.gov/civilwar/monuments.html.
And I hope that everyone with interest in Maine’s role during the Civil War will keep up with Brian Swartz’s BDN series Maine At War at http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/. In addition, you may read Swartz’s Jan. 29 story from The Weekly on Orono Historical Society’s need for a metalworker experienced in zinc to repair its Civil War monument at http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/29/living/orono-seeks-metalworker-experienced-with-zinc/.
Lastly, keep an eye out for tourists and local visitors to what I call “Genealogy in Granite,” veterans’ monuments such as the Maine Korean War Memorial at Mount Hope Cemetery, and the Maine Vietnam Memorial and Bangor World War II Memorial at Cole Land Transportation Museum, 405 Perry Road. All three list Maine or Bangor veterans killed in those wars. Towns such as Abbot and Carmel have erected monuments listing everyone with war service from those towns.
Orono Public Library and Adult Education will sponsor a free genealogy workshop 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the library. Betsy Paradis, reference librarian at Belfast Free Library, will present “Basics of Online Genealogy Research” to help participants get started in building a family tree.
Please preregister for this program by calling the library at 866-5060 or Orono Adult Education at 866-4119. The library in Belfast has a wonderful local history collection, and Betsy Paradis is one of that library’s treasures.
Next week: “Open Research Night” at Bangor Public Library, and what’s new with Revolutionary War Patriot Hannah Weston.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.