Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Research Resource: Maine State Library

Yesterday I visited the Maine State Library in Augusta and had a tour of the genealogy resources from the library's expert, Emily Schroeder. The library is right next door to the state capitol building, in the cultural complex that houses the library, archives, and state museum. This is convenient for those studying Maine history and genealogy, as all three are excellent resources.

The genealogy collection is on the first floor (downstairs from the main entrance to the library). The library staff is currently working to consolidate all of the genealogy and local history material into one area, along with microfilm readers. It's a very pleasant place to spend an hour or several - plenty of work tables, free WiFi, online card catalog, public access computers, and the reference desk nearby. This is important (get comfortable) because most of the genealogy materials are limited to use in the library, though town histories can be borrowed. For the visiting researcher, this means that the materials you need will be available to look at when you visit.

What resources will you find?

Too many to list here, certainly. You'll find the expected genealogy reference books and periodicals, DAR records, and passenger records, but perhaps more important to the Maine researcher, there is a significant collection of Maine family histories, county and town histories and compiled records (vital records, cemetery records, etc.). The collection also includes books for other New England states, especially Massachusetts. I was surprised by the number of resources for Eastern Canada (Quebec and Maritime provinces).

Old newspapers: The library has a large collection of the state's old newspapers on microfilm. All you have to do is request the paper and dates at the reference desk, and you will be set up with the films and a microfilm reader. You can find the complete list of newspaper holdings online.

City directories: An extensive collection of old Maine city directories - find the complete list of directory holdings online.

Online databases: While at the library, you can access Ancestry and HeritageQuest. Maine residents can obtain a state library card in a few minutes, which will allow you to access HeritageQuest from home, as well as civil war databases through AlexanderStreet/University of Chicago.

Maps: Conveniently right near the genealogy stacks and work tables, several current and historical atlases are available, including a beautiful 1888 Maine atlas. Other maps are included in the catalog. In addition, the Sanborn fire insurance maps (1878-mid-1900s) are available on microfilm for certain Maine cities and towns.

Special collections: The library's manuscript and document collections are admittedly small, due to a lack of archival (environmentally controlled) storage facilities. However, the list of special collections is available online, and a few of these may be of interest to genealogists.

MSL Online:

The library has an excellent website, where you can find more about the genealogy collection as well as directions, hours, general information, and convenient online tools - find a local Maine library, access the catalog, request a library card, or learn about Maine writers and notable Mainers. You can also stay up to date through Facebook and Twitter.

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