Maine Court Records
Major Maine courts that kept records of genealogical value were established as follows:
1699-1839: Inferior courts of common pleas had jurisdiction over civil matters. These were replaced by the district courts.
1839-1852: District courts were district-wide courts with jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal actions. These were replaced by the supreme judicial court.
1782-present: Supreme judicial court is the highest court of appeal. In 1852 the supreme judicial court assumed the powers and duties of the district courts, but the state remained divided into three judicial districts: western, eastern, and middle.
1699-1831: Court of general sessions had jurisdiction over minor civil and criminal cases. This became the county commissioners' courts in 1831. These courts were replaced by district courts in 1961.
1868-present: Superior courts were established by individual counties in various years. By 1929 a superior court had been established in each county. They have jurisdiction over felonies and civil cases.
1821-1961: Justices of the peace handled minor civil matters. When justices moved or died, their records were usually transferred to the clerk of courts.
Other courts in Maine include the town, municipal, and police courts.
Many of Maine's early court records from 1636 to 1727 are published in:
Libby, Charles T., Robert E. Moody, and Neal W. Allen, Editor. Province and Court Records of Maine. Six Volumes. Portland, Maine: Maine Historical Society, 1928-1975. (Family History Library book 974.1 P2p; vols. 1-5; film 982043; on 31 fiche 6046855).
The Family History Library has few Maine court records. Most are available at the Maine State Archives, which is gathering all pre-1930 county and state court records and microfilming some of these records.
Because Maine was under Massachusetts' jurisdiction until 1819, some additional court records for York, Cumberland, Lincoln, Hancock, and Washington counties are found with Suffolk County, Massachusetts, court files. The court files from 1734 to 1797 are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under MASSACHUSETTS, SUFFOLK - COURT RECORDS. An index to the court files for the Maine counties of York, Cumberland, Lincoln, Hancock, and Washington for the years 1734 through 1797 is included in:
Massachusetts, County Court (Suffolk County). County Court Files, 1629-1797. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1972. Family History Library film 909878.)
An unpublished guide to the historical development of Maine's courts is David Q. Wittier, Esquire, History of the Court System of the State of Maine, available at the Maine State Archives (see Maine Archives and Libraries).