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.” Various types of records are created throughout the probate process. These may include, wills, bonds, petitions, accounts, inventories, administrations, orders, 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 probate records and the probate process 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:
The probate records include wills, depositions, administrations, guardianships, inventories, and accounts.
- 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.) A digital version is available on 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.
- Melnyk, Marcia D. Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research, 4th ed. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999. (FHL 974 D27g.)This is an excellent guide to Maine towns and counties, location of public records, and genealogical societies.
- Henry Campbell Black, Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1979), 1081, "probate."