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Maine Genealogy

Most of Maine’s border is shared with the nation of Canada and only borders one U. S. state, that of New Hampshire. The region’s early native Indians included the Abenaki, Passamaquoddy and Penobscots. They eventually have been moved to separate Indian lands, but remained within the area.

The Europeans arrived in 1604 with the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. The French designated the vast region as ‘Acadia.’ The English, from the Plymouth Company, started a settlement, the Popham Colony, in the Maine vicinity in 1607. It quickly proves to be too harsh a climate for the English to survive. The York Colony was the second settlement attempted in 1623 by English explorer Captain Christopher Levett, yet it failed as well. The area of Maine would eventually be part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by 1652.

Between the 1650s to the 1740s, there was continual conflict over the Maine territory between the British and the French. When the English defeated the French in the French and Indian War in 1742, then the British had full control and a final border was established between the Maine district and the French Canadian regions. Both the English and French would play a major influence culturally as it relates to Maine genealogy.

Maine remained a district of the Massachusetts colony and of the state even after the conclusion of the American revolutionary War. It would not be until March 15, 1820 before Maine became the 23rd state.

In 1800 the Maine territory had 151,700 inhabitants. In the early part of the 19th century, with Maine part of Massachusetts and so close to the English controlled Canadian lands, eventually major military battles were fought in Maine with the War of 1812. After the war, Main was ready for statehood and the population soared to 298,300 people.

The vast forests proved a large benefit for business in Maine and the development of shipbuilding. The building of more and faster wooden sailing ships became very important after the 1849 California Gold Rush. With Maine’s long Atlantic Ocean coastline, fishing continued as a major occupation. Coming from Massachusetts were owners and workers of the cotton mills that were established in the 1820s in Maine. The quarrying of slate and granite providing jobs as did shoe-making and the making of bricks. With the harsh winters and rocky ground, farming was not a major industry.

Into the 1800s, several groups of pioneers from Maine left the state for new lands further west, the areas of Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois became popular new locations. However, in studying Maine genealogy, as some were leaving, new immigrates arrived. In the 1840s, many natives of Ireland (due to the potato famine) had relocated in Canada first, but soon headed south into Maine.

With the American Civil War, Maine totally supported the preservation of the Union and sent many of its men as soldiers. After the war, in the late 1800s, a massive surge of French-Canadians came to Maine to work in the textile mill cities of Lewiston and Biddeford. By the early 20th century, especially French-Canadian females came to Maine to begin new lives. Soon approximately 30 percent of the state’s population were of French-Canadian heritage. Many of the cultural traditions of the French-Canadians remained for decades and only by the 21st century have such customs started to fade.

The newest immigrates for Maine are from the continent of Africa, mostly from Somali and Bantu. They arrived as laborers in the larger cities in southern Maine in the 1990s.

By 1900, the population of Maine was 694,400 and by 1930 it was 797,400; a slow steady increase. After World War Two a major increase of new residents, so that the state’s population now sits at 1.3 million. About 21.5 percent of the people consider themselves of English heritage, with 15 percent as Irish, 14 percent as French and 1 percent Native Indians. Roughly 45 percent of the people are of the Protestant religions and 37 percent are Roman Catholics.

Overall, it has a very high percentage of it total population of French ancestry compared to the other states. The French based population are found more in the rural and smaller towns and villages and those of English heritage more in the larger cities of Maine.

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