This guide provides an overview of genealogy and local history resources for Houlton and Hodgdon, neighboring towns in Aroostook County, Maine. It is intended for beginning to intermediate genealogists and local historians researching ancestors that lived in these towns, and for anyone interested in the history of Aroostook County.
Aroostook is the northernmost county in the state of Maine. It is bordered by New Brunswick to the east and northeast and by Quebec to the northwest. As a border frontier, Aroostook has a rich history and culture, including a strong Acadian cultural presence. Many residents are fluent in both English and Acadian French.
Houlton is the county seat. Hodgdon is directly south of Houlton, and the two have been historically linked, with the primarily agricultural town of Hodgdon relying on the business center in Houlton.
Birth, death, and marriage records are known collectively as "vital records" because they document major life events. These usually take the form of birth and death certificates and marriage licenses or certificates.
This database contains images of birth, marriage, and death returns for the years 1670-1921. Records are organized by surname and date, and indexed by name. The collection is divided into three parts: vital records prior to 1892, vital records from 1892-1921, and delayed returns for births, marriages, and deaths 1670-1891. The Family Search Wiki page for Maine Vital Records provides more information and guidance for searching this collection.
This database was the result of a grant-funded project by Cary Library, a public library in Houlton, Maine. It contains 21,000+ unique birth, marriage, and death records from town records and gravestone transcriptions for Houlton and surrounding communities.
Records from the Maine State Archives, available on Ancestry.com and Ancestry Library Edition (requires a subscription or access through a local library). Collection notes state that comprehensive records are only available for years 1892-1922. Records include child’s name, date of birth, place of birth, and mother and father’s names.
An index of Houlton marriages compiled by a resident, available through Cary Library.
MOCA was started in 1968 as a volunteer-led organization to preserve the historic cemeteries of Maine. The Maine Inscription Project is comprised of transcriptions of tombstones in hundreds of Maine cemeteries. Copies of the MIP on microfilm can be found at many libraries throughout the country, including New York Public Library. MOCA’s website also has a list of transcribed cemeteries that are not yet available in any repository. For a fee of $7/year, members can access searchable transcriptions in PDF format.
Left: The McIntyre family, Houlton, ca. 1900. Collection of Maine Historical Society, via Maine Memory Network.
Right: Charles Stewart, personal collection of the author.
Before the state we now call Maine was created, the region was home to Native peoples for thousands of years. The Wabanaki Confederacy is made up of five principal nations: the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki, and Penobscot. The native land of the Wabanki peoples includes most of present-day Maine as well as New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island, and some of Quebec.
Researching Native American ancestry presents unique challenges. While this guide wishes to acknowledge the Wabanaki people and their presence in Maine, and ask researchers of settler ancestors of European descent to consider these ancestors' relationships to Native peoples and lands, it will not provide detailed resources for Native American genealogy research. Those researching Native ancestors may look to the following resources for guidance:
Additional resources for learning more about the Wabanaki people:
A digital exhibit by Maine Memory Network that includes photographs, maps, artifacts, and other primary source materials.
From 2013 to 2015 the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) collected statements from nearly 150 individuals and focus groups examining the child welfare practices of the state in relation to Native peoples. Many of these statements have been made available online by Bowdoin College as PDF transcripts, audio and video recordings. As the collection description states, these interviews and statements "provide a window into the realities of the relationship between Wabanaki people and the state of Maine."
Census records are a rich source of information about your ancestors and their communities. You can use the census to find out what your ancestor did for a living, how many children they had, and much more. The federal census is taken every ten years, but states may take their own local censuses at other times. The most recent census available for genealogy research is the 1940 federal census.
A section of the 1900 federal census for for Hodgdon, Maine. Enumeration District 0025, page 5. Family History Library film 1240589.
U.S. Federal Census records from years 1790-1940 are made freely and publicly available by the U.S. National Archives (NARA). Maine federal census records are also available and searchable through Family Search and Ancestry.
Roots Web lists all known censuses conducted in the state of Maine, including the special state census of 1837.
The majority of 19th century immigrants to Maine crossed the border from Canada, in addition to Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Potato Famine. Smaller numbers of immigrants followed from Sweden, Finland, Italy, China, and Russia. Learn more about the history of immigration to Maine here.
An index compiled from many sources documenting the immigration of over 4 million people to the United States and Canada from 1500-1900.
Many people migrated to Maine from Canada. This collection has records of both citizen and non-citizen residents of Maine who crossed the Canadian border between 1894 and 1954.
In June of 1940, all foreign-born residents of Maine were required to register with their local town office. Over 30,000 people registered. This collection includes both aggregated data from the registrations as well as the registrations themselves in the form of the full registration forms and index cards.
The Stewart/Rollins family and relatives in front of their home in Maine. Mary Rollins was born in New Brunswick, Canada and later
crossed the border to settle in Hodgdon with her family. Photo from the author's personal collection.
The names and dates collected from vital and census records form the skeleton of your family's history. But what was daily life like for you ancestors? What did Hodgdon and Houlton look like when they lived there, and who were their neighbors? You can use collections of primary source materials such as digitized newspapers (see the box on the right side of this guide for suggestions), photograph collections, atlases, and oral histories to flesh out the details of your family's story in Aroostook County.
Maggie Finnigan's pasture, East Hodgdon (1890). Collection of Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum,
This grant-funded project contains interviews with residents of many towns of Aroostook County, including thirteen interviews with Houlton residents. Full recordings, a contributor index, and a general index by topic are all available through Cary Library. Most interview subjects were in old age at the time the recordings were made, and the interviews contain a wealth of information about life in Aroostook County around the turn of the 20th century. Transcripts are not currently available.
The Library of Congress has several fire insurance maps for Houlton. These maps provide detailed building information, including construction materials and details and identification of businesses. You can use Sanborn maps in combination with the census to find an ancestor's home or place of work. Digitized maps are available for Houlton for October 1894, November 1889, and September 1884.
This atlas of Aroostook County from 1877 show land ownership boundaries, labeled with names of owners.
Detail from Aroostook County Atlas, 1877, p. 31 Hodgdon. Collection of Maine State Archives, via Digital Maine.
Through partnerships with Maine cultural heritage institutions, Digital Maine Repository has amassed a collection of thousands of digitized documents and objects including maps, church records, local histories, genealogy research, town reports, and images.
Maine Memory Network is a project of the Maine Historical Society that provides access to historical items and photographs from over 270 organizations in the state of Maine. Collections can be searched or browsed by subject, town, and contributor. The Advanced Search function allows you to filter results by county and town/locality, media type, date range, and property information. Some collections that will be of interest to those studying Houlton and Hodgdon history are:
On Facebook: @HoultonMuseumContains hundreds of photos and objects from the 19th and 20th centuries, primarily of the town of Houlton. Notable collections include the Houlton German Prisoners of War collection of photos of Camp Houlton, a WWII POW camp.
Cary Library is the public library of Houlton, Maine. It houses the Genealogy Room and the Maine Collection, which contains nonfiction accounts, books, and records dealing with Maine's culture, history and geography. Digitized items include letters, some Civil War era military documents, and postcards.