Thursday, January 17, 2013

Learning in and about Belfast

Belfast Library, present day
Yesterday I attended a presentation at the Belfast public library: "Exploring Davis St. Families: An Introduction to Genealogy Research," presented by Betsy Paradis, the special collections librarian. This program was part of a monthly series arranged by the local chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society.

Sitting in the historic library building and visiting the town of Belfast inspired a post about the history of Belfast and resources for research.

Belfast is technically a city, but with a population of just 6,600, it feels like a small town. Its sits by the water, quiet Main street lined with brick buildings, and the city is noted for its beautiful old sea captains' homes and architecture. It's clear the town was prosperous in its shipbuilding days.

Belfast was settled in 1770 by Scots-Irish moving from New Hampshire. The settlers left during the Revolution for fear of British attacks but returned afterward and re-established the town. The harbor on Penobscot Bay and abundant timber led to a thriving shipbuilding industry and maritime commerce. In the 1860s, the town was connected to the Central Maine Railroad, which boosted local businesses. In the 1900s, the maritime industry declined and was replaced by factories and processing plants. More recently, the town has been revitalized as both a tourist destination and a hometown with a flair for arts and culture.
Main Street, Belfast, 1921 (Source:

Research Resources:

Belfast Historical Society and Museum:
Free monthly programs and presentations, April-October, also available ONLINE (check out the archive of past programs!). Museum open during the summer or by appointment.

Belfast Free Library:
The special collections area on the third floor includes old newspapers on microfilm, family histories, historical records, photos, maps, and school yearbooks. View complete list of holdings.

Penobscot Marine Museum:
A terrific museum of Maine maritime history, located "next door" in the town of Searsport. The museum includes ten historic buildings, photo archives, historic boats, marine art, and a shop. If you can't visit in person, try the virtual exhibits for lots of historic photos. The museum also offers Penobscot Bay History Online, featuring history of the area and a searchable collection of old photos, documents, and maps, and three journals chronicling sea voyages from Belfast. These websites could keep you busy for hours. The museum itself is open primarily in the summer months.

Railroad History: The Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad

Belfast genealogy resources on
Online maps and records of births, marriages, deaths, town reports, voter lists, and more.

Belfast historical photos on Maine Memory Network

Search Belfast newspaper archives (1820-1838): GenealogyBank

Free online books:

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