Maine Probate Records
Probate is the “court procedure by which a will is proved to be valid or invalid” and encompasses “all matters and proceedings pertaining to the administration of estates, guardianships, etc.” Genealogists often refer to 'Probate Records' as "All records which relate to the disposition of an estate," whether the person died leaving a will (testate) or not (intestate).
Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, guardianships, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, depositions, decrees, and distributions. These documents are extremely valuable to genealogists and should not be neglected. In many instances, they are the only known source of relevant information such as the decedent’s date of death, names of his or her spouse, children, parents, siblings, in-laws, neighbors, associates, relatives, and their places of residence. They may also include information about adoption or guardianship of minor children and dependents.
For further information about the probate process, types of probate records, analyzing probate records, and to access a glossary of probate terms, see United States Probate Records.
Probate records of Maine are kept by the register of probate or the clerk of the probate court in each county. The records generally date from the year a county was formed. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by contacting the appropriate clerk's office. The addresses are listed in:
- Leclerc, Michael J., Editor. Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2012. This is an excellent guide to Maine towns and counties, location of public records, and genealogical societies. FHL book 974 D27g 2012
Understanding the Maine probate laws and how they changed over time can help us learn how the estate was administered, taxed, and distributed and might help to solve difficult genealogical problems.
The following are examples of books related to Maine probate laws:
- Luce, Enos T. Hand Book of Practice in the Probate Courts of the state of Maine. Containing Notes on the Execution and Probate of Wills, Duties of Executors, Administrators, Guardians and Trustees: Also Full Forms of Petitions, Orders and Decrees, with References to the Revised Statutes and Amendments Thereof; and Decisions of Our Courts. Second edition. Revised by John A. Watterman. Portland, Maine: Dresser, McLellan & Co., 1880. A digital version of this book is available online at Internet Archives.
- Southgate, Horatio. The Probate Manual: Containing Forms Adapted to the Practice of Probate Courts in the State of Maine: Also the Laws Establishing Probate Courts, Regulating Wills, the Descent, Distribution, Division, and Sale of Estates. Portland, [Me.]: Printed by Thomas Todd, 1830. At various libraries (WorldCat)
Additional information about Maine state statutes relating to probate matters can be found at law libraries.
- The New England Historic Genealogical Society located in the heart of downtown Boston, Massachusetts has early Maine probate records available on microfilm. To search their online library catalog click Here.
- The Family History Library located in Salt Lake City, Utah has many Maine probate records available on microfilm. For collection details see the Family History Library Catalog. Use the "Place Search" option to search for a specific Maine county. Then look for the topic labeled "Probate Records."
Statewide Record Collections
An excellent source of transcripts of early wills is:
- Sargent, William M. Maine Wills, 1640-1760. 1887, Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1972. (FHL 974.1 P2s 1972.); 1887 edited on FHL 6046701.) Digital versions of this book are available on Internet Archive, Google Books, and Ancestry ($).
An index to wills and other probate records from 1687 to 1800 is:
- Frost, John E. Maine Probate Abstracts. 2 volumes. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1991. (FHL 974.1 P2f.); the 1986-88 edition is on ten fiche beginning with (FHL 6332995.); The abstracts are of various types of records found in the probate courts of Maine, such as wills, administrations, estate divisions, estate accounts, guardianships, and other court actions. The abstracts are compiled into two volumes: Volume 1 (1687-1775) and Volume 2 (1775-1800). Volume 2 contains an every name index. Microfiche copies are also available at the Maine Historical Library and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
- Maineprobate.net docket search, Free; ordering copies ($)
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Maine, Aroostock County, Probate Records (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Maine, Washington County Courthouse Records (FamilySerch Historical Records)
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."
- Val. D. Greenwood, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2000), 309.