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  • Read All About It! Maine Newspaper Collections

    Russell C. Farnham, CG

    The United States Newspaper Program (USNP) is an ongoing cooperative national effort among the states and the federal government to locate, catalog, and preserve on microfilm newspapers published in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present.  Funding is by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with technical assistance by the Library of Congress. 

    The USNP has supported projects in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Each project is conducted by a single organization within a state or territory, usually the state’s largest newspaper repository.  Staff then will inventory holdings in public libraries, county courthouses, newspaper offices, historical museums, college and university libraries, archives, and historical societies.  Catalog records are entered into a national database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), that are accessible through more than 15,000 dedicated computer terminals worldwide. Microfilm copies of newspapers produced under this program are available to researchers anywhere in the country through interlibrary loan. 

    Within Maine, this project is being overseen by Janet Roberts, project coordinator of the Maine Newspaper Project (MNP) for the Maine State Library, who is focused on finding collections throughout the state that will be integrated into this system.  The Maine project team has completed its inventory work, and preliminary overview information on newspaper titles and holdings for each county has been sent to every library, historical society, and museum in that county.  MNP hopes to be able to place this information on a searchable database on the Internet in the near future.

    Newspapers are universally recognized as a valuable tool to genealogists, who often find themselves stymied in the search for information of elusive ancestors.  Obituaries often provide answers.  Finding an obituary in an old newspaper is usually not a difficult chore if the researcher knows the date and place of death, and is able to access the paper.  It is often necessary to review many reels of unindexed film, if the newspaper is even available on film.  Of secondary interest is the desire to learn more about lifestyles of the past. Possibly a major event or newsworthy subject is the interest.  Whatever it may be, the newspaper can provide the genealogist with detailed information that will permit a more realistic picture of the times that our ancestor lived in.  

    That is the easy part.  Then the researcher must determine what newspapers survived and where newspaper collections can be found in order to conduct a search. Fortunately, various Maine repositories decided long ago to begin collecting newspapers, or to siphon data out of these papers that would be useful to genealogists. There is no single source or document that provides the Maine genealogist a broad view of the newspaper resources in the state.  It is not the intent to offer in this article anything resembling an all-inclusive look at such a list or document, but rather to highlight the core newspaper collections in the state of Maine.  These collections can be found at the Maine State Library (MSL) in Augusta, the Fogler Library at the University of Maine in Orono, and in Portland, the Portland Public Library, and Maine Historical Society. 

    Maine State Library
    State House Station # 64
    Augusta, Maine 04333

    Most of the older paper copies of newspapers at the MSL are stored off-site, so they need to be ordered a day in advance of a planned visit. The MSL has an extensive microfilm collection, but genealogists are encouraged to contact the library by phone to determine if the paper being sought is available. Requests must be very specific, i.e., “Kennebec Journal of February 21, 1876.”  

    Fogler Library
    University of Maine
    5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
    Orono, ME 04469
    (207) 581-1661

    A listing of the core collection available at the Fogler Library can be found in the Special Collections page of their website. Once the Special Collections page has been accessed look to the lower right side of the page for a link titled “Maine Newspapers.” From this page you will see two links at the top of the page that permit the researcher to view the newspapers either by “title” or “location of publisher” of the paper. The most common usage of interest to the genealogist is the “location of publisher” option, as most genealogists (myself included) have little or no idea which paper was putting out the news 100 or 150 years ago.  But we most definitely are tuned in to the “location” of our research problem! 

    By clicking on this option, a listing of the newspapers appears, sorted alphabetically by town or city, which also shows the dates (by year of publication) that are available at the library.  The list shows, for instance, twenty-one papers available in the city of Augusta, ranging from specialized interest papers (Maine State Labor News) and religious newspapers (Gospel Banner and Maine Christian Pilot) to traditional newspapers such as the Kennebec Journal and the Kennebec Weekly Journal. Most of the Augusta newspapers are not on microfilm, so access to the original copies must be ordered at the Fogler Library a week in advance through the Special Collections Department (email them at spc@umit.maine.eduor call at the number above). The earliest Journal newspapers available commence from 1825 (Kennebec Weekly Journal), with scattered issues. A more complete collection of the Kennebec Journal is found from 1870 to the present. 

    Eighteen Bangor newspapers are listed under a variety of names, some of which (as with any paper) may be the same paper, but under new owners or management and with a new name. Only a small number of issues of some papers are available. As expected, the deepest newspaper collections are from the metropolitan areas.  In Augusta it was the Kennebec Journal and the Kennebec Weekly Journal.  The library has the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier on microfilm from 1836 to 1900 and the Bangor Daily News from 1900 to the present. The Bangor Commercial offers an opportunity for a further look into the late nineteenth century (1872-1956), although it may lack human-interest stories owing to its title. These newspapers can also be found at the Bangor Public Library (see below for more information). This highlights an important point: do not give up if the paper you seek is not at a certain location—you may find it at a different repository. There may be other institutions that extracted information from the same common source. Small local libraries and historical or genealogical societies should not be overlooked as they often have select issues of paper copies, or have compiled their own abstracts (indices) of local residents for their archival collections.  

    The following list represents selected towns and city newspapers that are included in the collection at the Fogler Library, showing the earliest date any newspaper from these locations is available. This may only consist of a single issue or the collection may jump to a later date. For instance, you may only find a single issue of a Kennebunk newspaper in 1802 before jumping ten years to 1812.  Typically, researchers will wish to access the Fogler Library website (or contact library staff), to determine the precise issues available.  As in any situation, it is wise to do your homework before traveling to the library.

    Town Earliest date of newspaper 
    Alfred 1915
    Auburn 1880
    Augusta 1825
    Bangor 1836
    Bar Harbor 1881
    Bath 1820
    Belfast 1820
    Biddeford 1860
    Brunswick 1820
    Calais 1832
    Camden 1869
    Caribou 1880
    Castine 1809
    Clinton 1879
    Damariscotta 1860
    Dover-Foxcroft 1828
    Eastport 1819
    Ellsworth 1851
    Farmington 1840
    Gardiner 1826
    Hallowell 1810
    Houlton 1860
    Kennebunk 1802
    Lewiston 1847
    Machias 1823
    Norridgewock 1844
    Norway 1824
    Old Town 1875
    Paris 1827
    Pittsfield 1882
    Portland  1798
    Presque Isle 1857
    Rockland 1852
    Rumford  1893
    Saco 1845
    Sanford 1923
    Skowhegan 1842
    South Paris 1833
    Thomaston 1832
    Waldoboro  1873
    Waterville 1849
    Westbrook 1901
    Wilton 1881
    Wiscasset 1859
    York 1901

    In addition to these original newspapers, the Fogler Library also keeps numerous published resources containing abstracted information of death notices, marriages, and divorces.  The published books do not contain copies of obituaries. 

    Published books on the subject are:  

    • Abstracts of Death Notices 1833-1852 and Miscellaneous News Items from the Maine Farmer 1833-1924, David C. Young and Benjamin Lewis Keene (Heritage Books, Bowie, MD 1997). 
    • Death Notices from Freewill Baptist Publications, 1811-1851, David C. Young and Robert L. Taylor, (Heritage Books, 1985).
    • Machias Marriages and Deaths 1853-1891 compiled from the Machias Union and Machias Republican.  Typescript, Clarence Albert Day, n.d. at the Porter Memorial Library, Machias, and Maine State Library, Augusta.
    • Marriage and Divorce Records from Freewill Baptist Publications 1819-1851, David C. Young and Elizabeth Keene Young (Heritage Books, 1994).
    • Marriage Notices from The Maine Farmer, Elizabeth Keene Young and Benjamin Lewis Keene (Heritage Books, 1995).   
    • Index to Portland (ME) Newspapers 1785-1835, William B. Jordan, Jr., (Heritage Books, 1994).
    • Vital Records from Maine Newspapers, 1785-1820, David C. Young and Elizabeth Keene Young (Heritage Books, 1993).
    • Vital Records from the Eastport Sentinel of Eastport, Maine 1818-1900, Kenneth L. Willey, compiler, (Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1996).

    The Portland Public Library
    5 Monument Sq
    Portland, ME 04101

    The Portland Public Library keeps a “Maine News Index” of articles that appear in the following newspapers and magazines (none of which are focused solely on obituaries).  The index was started in 1945, and can be searched by business name, individual’s name, and subject. It also includes an abstract of the article.  The index for 1945-1992 is in a card catalog, with 1993 to the present on computer. 


    Dates Available

    Casco Bay Weekly

    1988 to present

    Down East

    1954 to present

    Island Journal

    1984 to present

    Maine Sunday Telegram

    1945 to present

    Portland Chronicle


    Portland Evening Express


    Portland Independent


    Portland Monthly

    1986 to present

    Portland Press Herald

    1945 to present

    Portland Sunday Telegram

    Successor to Maine Sunday Telegram

    Salt Magazine

    1974 to present

    Southern Maine Business Digest


    There is also a broad collection of approximately 186 different Maine newspapers at the library, the majority of which are from Portland.  While there are far too many newspapers to show here, the PPL collection ranges from the early issues of the first newspaper in Maine, the Falmouth Gazette (1788), to recent issues of current Portland newspapers.  Many newspapers are on microfilm, as shown below, and none are indexed.  Newspapers for towns beyond Portland at the PPL are as follows:


    The Age 1861-1863
    Kennebec Journal weekly 1870-1887
    Kennebec Journal, daily 1833-1884
    Maine Republican Trunk, 1957
    National Democrat, daily 1879
    Maine Farmer, weekly 1839-1840; 1914; 1920-1923

    Republican Journal, weekly 1829

    Gazette of Maine, 1810

    Cape Elizabeth
    Coast Watch, 1895-1915

    Yankee Farmer
    New England Cultivator, 1835-36

    Daily Patriot, 1863

    American Advocate, 1818-1820

    Maine Democrat, monthly 1957-1958

    Ossippee Valley Herald, weekly 1908-1913

    World in a Nutshell 1833

    Freeman’s Friend, 1807-1810

    Chronicle-Gazette, weekly 1900-1903
    Globe-Star, weekly, 1893-1903
    Star, weekly, 1894


    Seaside Oracle, 1871, 1874, 1876-1877. 

    Portland Library Newspapers On Microfilm


    Dates Available Frequency/Remarks

    Cumberland Gazette



    Eastern Argus



    Eastern Argus



    Eastern Herald


    weekly and semi-weekly

    Falmouth Gazette


    weekly and semi-weekly

    Maine Sunday Telegram



    Oriental Trumpet


    an old film

    Portland Advertiser



    Portland Advertiser



    Portland Daily Press

    1862-1878 (33 reels)

    daily, paper copy to 1921

    Portland Evening Express

    1930 to date


    Portland Evening News



    Portland Gazette



    Portland Pleasure Boat



    Portland Press Herald



    Portland Sunday Telegram

    1920-1929; 1944-1948


    Portland Sunday Times



    Portland Transcript


    1837-1899 on microfilm

    Topsham Maine Times

    1968 +



    Bangor Public Library
    145 Harlow St.
    Bangor, Maine 04401

    This library has an extensive unindexed collection of newspapers on microfilm. The following papers have been indexed:


    Dates Available Remarks

    Bangor Daily News

    1900 to date

    3 x 5 card file

    Bangor Commercial

    1875 to date

    ditto, but with few names of use to genealogists.

    Bethel Historical Society
    Bethel Regional History Center
    10-14 Broad Street, P.O. Box 12
    Bethel, ME 04217-0012
    207-824-2908 / 800-824-2910

    In the late 1970s, the Bethel Historical Society began a project to extract vital records and other information from local newspapers. For instance, a selected index to the Oxford Democrat for the years 1833-1892 was created on 3 x 5 cards, which have since been retyped into notebooks.  Although this special index contains many names, they are not connected to birth, death, or marriage notices that appeared in the paper. Nevertheless, the index has proven to be of great value to historians and genealogists. In addition to this index, there is another large card file of vital records extracted from numerous western Maine papers for selected years.  The following is a general list of the newspapers and extracts that can be found at the Bethel Regional History Center:


    Index Dates


    Bethel Citizen



    Bethel Courier


    births, deaths and marriages

    Bethel News


    births and marriages, deaths (1895-1908)

    Farmington The Chronicle


    births, deaths, and marriages

    Farmington Chronicle


    births, 1857-1886; 1888-1911;


    deaths and marriages: 1857-1881, 1883-1886, 1888-1893, 1897-1903, 1908, 1910-1911

    Franklin Patriot


    births, deaths and marriages

    Franklin Register


    births, deaths and marriages

    Norway/Oxford County Advertiser

    23 Jun 1882-1884

    births, deaths and marriages

    Oxford Observer


    deaths and marriages

    Oxford Democrat


    births 1863-1867, 1899-1907;
    deaths 1833-1867, 1899-1907;
    marriages 1845-1867, 1899-1907

    Rumford Citizen


    births, deaths and marriages

    Sandy River Yeoman


    births, deaths and marriages

    Because of its small staff, the Bethel Historical Society is generally unable to respond to detailed requests for genealogical and/or historical information by mail.  However, for a prepaid non-refundable fee of $10 per hour (maximum $30 per request), members of the research library committee will search for specific information in appropriate catalogs, card files, genealogies, town histories, published vital records, and directories.  They are unable to search in manuscript material or unindexed publications.  For each hour of contracted research, up to ten photocopies are provided (additional copies will be 25 cents per sheet) of pertinent material with notice of sources consulted, etc.  In a letter (no e-mails), indicate clearly what information is being sought, and sources already checked.  Include a business size SASE with the remittance (payable to the "Bethel Historical Society") and send to the Society at P.O. Box 12, Bethel, ME 04217.  Requests are usually answered within four to six weeks.

    Sagadahoc History & Genealogy Room
    Patten Free Library
    33 Summer St.
    Bath, Maine 04530

    This library keeps a searchable index in three-ring binders of the following Bath newspapers:


    Dates Available


    American Sentinel



    Bath Anvil



    Bath Enterprise



    Bath Independent



    Daily Northern Tribune



    Daily Sentinel & Times



    Daily Times



    Daily Tribune



    Eastern Times



    Lincoln Telegraph


    Maine Inquirer



    Maine Times


    The Times Record



    Abbott Memorial Library
    One Church St.
    Dexter, ME 04930

    The Abbott Memorial Library at Dexter features a searchable obituary database on their website . The obituaries are extracted from the Eastern Gazette, but are not limited to the Dexter area. You may view obituaries by date (1858-2000), by last name, or perform a search. Places of birth or death on this site are not restricted to Dexter or Maine, but one of the events must have occurred in Maine. For instance, there are individuals who were born in California, but died in Maine or born in Maine, but died in Massachusetts, making this a very useful site. 

    New England Old Newspaper Index Project of Maine

    Apparently this worthwhile project has been put on the backburner.  However, their web page contains useful information of various Maine newspaper collections (some of it duplicated here) and information about collections beyond Maine. 

    The Maine Historical Society
    489 Congress St
    Portland, ME 04101

    The MHS is a major source for genealogical research, and it has an extensive newspaper collection among their vast holdings. A large number of papers are available on microfilm, and most, if not all, paper copies are kept off-site in a controlled environment.  There is no inventory of the newspaper collection.  However, a 3 x 5 card file is available in the reading room containing an inclusive list of newspapers in their collection, by name of the paper, town, and year.  An index of selected obituaries of prominent individuals from 1900-1950 is available.  In the 1950s, and up until 1963, the card file was expanded to include an index of names compiled from  “clippings.” 

    As in any case when looking for newspapers, it is important that researchers be very specific when making inquiries.  It is important to specify the name of the paper you are seeking, the town, and the date, when phoning in advance of a visit.   

New England Historic Genealogical Society
99 - 101 Newbury Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02116, USA

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