For many of those climbing their family tree, vital records may seem the most important resource, or, if they are lucky, a carefully kept Bible record or family record.

I certainly value those highly, but there is a special place in my heart for the U.S. census, which has been taken every 10 years since 1790. Beginning in 1850, the census gives us the name of everyone in the household on the date of the census.

Starting in 1880, and continuing in 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 and 1940, the census lists how each person is related to the head of the household. That is so important to family researchers, especially those of us who can remember getting off track because we could only make assumptions about relationships in the 1850-1870 censuses.

Censuses 1850-1940 list the state or country where each person was born, and those conducted 1880-1930 also list the place of birth for each person’s mother and father. The 1940 census, in my opinion, took a step backward by not asking the birthplaces for each person’s mother and father.

I’ve been researching census records for 35 years, and I am eager to learn more at the Maine Genealogical Society workshop on Saturday, April 13, at the Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive.

The presenter will be Helen Shaw of Rockport, a certified genealogist who is state president of MGS and affiliated with several lineage, genealogical and historical organizations. The schedule is:

— 8-9 a.m. Registration.

— 9 a.m. Introduction to the Census.

— 10:45 a.m. Finding Your People in the Census.

— Noon. Luncheon buffet.

— 1:15 p.m. Federal Non-Population and Special Censuses.

— 2:45 p.m. Census Analysis.

Shaw has given several talks at various conferences regarding the U.S. census and the many hidden clues to be found there. She also has taught courses covering not only census records but other aspects of genealogical research.

Case studies will be used to show how to formulate and test hypotheses based on information in census records. The talk will start with two simple problems and move to more complex cases, one of which uses pre-1850 censuses.

The cost for this workshop is $30 for MGS members, $40 for nonmembers, with lunch included. Send check to Maine Genealogical Society, c/o Celeste Hyer, 69 Loop Road, Otisfield 04270-6456.

If you are not a member, but would like to join MGS and receive the discount on registration, add $25 for MGS dues to the workshop cost of $30 for a total of $55. Doing so will bring you the MGS quarterly journal and quarterly newsletter for one year, as well as the opportunity to purchase special publications at discount.

If you would like to register for the workshop online, visit and click on “conference” for information.

On another subject, Helen Shaw also is the legislative liaison for the Maine Old Cemetery, which worked with state Sen. Thomas Saviello, R-Wilton, to submit LD 274, An Act to Preserve and Protect Ancient Burying Grounds and Burial Grounds in Which Veterans are Buried.

The bill was referred to the Committee on State and Local Government. This bill makes two substantial changes to current cemetery law, Shaw explains:

1. It separates ancient burying grounds — cemeteries on private property established before 1880 — from public burying grounds and does not require a veteran to be buried there before a municipality has the authority to care for it.

2. The very specific definition of veteran was removed such that a municipality must care for all veterans’ graves, not just those of veterans who served in time of war.

LD 274 was co-sponsored by Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport; Rep. David Cotta, R-China; and Rep. Russell Black, R-Wilton, and was strongly supported at the public hearing on Feb. 27, Shaw said. At the March 11 work session, the committee voted to amend LD 274 by adding wording on “Good condition and repair” from the report filed by the Stakeholder Group for the Development of a Plan for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans’ Graves to the public cemetery portion of the bill.

Discussion at the work session focused on the potential cost to municipalities and the bill was voted as “ought to pass” with one dissenting vote. Thus the bill will come to the House and Senate floor for discussion and votes.

“A campaign now needs to be waged to encourage the public to contact their legislators, asking them to vote in support of this bill,” Shaw said. “The one dissenting vote was because of a perception that the bill would add a financial burden to the towns. Anecdotal information from several towns and veterans groups which care for cemeteries indicates that towns already care for the graves of all veterans … thus there should be no increased cost because of the change stipulated in LD 274.

“Statistics from Knox County indicate that several towns already care for all cemeteries within their boundaries, or that associations, churches, and families care for all the cemeteries,” Shaw said. “Thus there should be no increase cost to towns in that respect. The only time there would be an increased cost is if a family or association became unable to care for its cemetery and turned that responsibility over to the town. Again, anecdotal information indicates that this has happened in the past and towns have been able to absorb the cost without an increase in taxes.”

For information, contact Shaw at She also is interested in hearing about the number of cemeteries in various towns and who cares for them.

The Washington County Historical and Genealogical Society will meet at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at 60 Center St., Machias.

The Penobscot County Genealogical Society will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at Bangor Public Library, 145 Harlow St., Bangor. Al Banfield will speak on “Researching the Westward Movement of Family Ancestors.”

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