Renew for access

Every September I know it’s time to renew my Genealogical Researcher Card with the state of Maine. 

For those new to genealogy, you need to know that Maine law prohibits access to births until they are over 75 years old, deaths until over 25 years old, and marriage records until over 50 years old. Records in these time periods are only open to those with a legitimate interest or genealogists who have the researcher card. With the card you can order non-certified copies from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (more below). The card also allows you to request non-certified records from local town or city clerks but you must pay for your copy. The card doesn’t guarantee access to the original books. These may be closed depending on issues such as their condition. The town or city clerk is the authority on whether you can have access or not.

How do you get a card? You need to contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention at (207)-287-3771 located at 220 Capitol Street, 11 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0011 to secure a copy of the application. The form spells out the requirements. You must provide proof of identity and proof of current membership in an approved genealogical society such as the Maine Genealogical Society. You can obtain information on acceptable societies from the State office. A new wrinkle is that you must have your signature notarized. Last but not least you have to enclose a check for $50. Once you receive your card you may order up to three non-certified vital records a week from the state. Since the charge is normally $10 each this is a real bargain if you’re doing lots of research.

I can’t stress the value of these cards. I found information online that a woman was a daughter of a distant cousin. When I secured her birth record I found that while she had the same surname she was the daughter of another man altogether. I always recommend verifying information found online. With the researcher card it was easy to obtain the truth. 

Personal Note: My husband, Marlene Groves, and I have just completed transcribing the marriage returns of Piscataquis County for the Maine Genealogical Society. If you’re interested in a copy you can order it from the MGS website, www.maineroots.org. The books are acid-free and hardcover. If you’re a member of MGS the cost is $30; if not it’s $40. In both cases there are shipping and state tax costs. The book will be delivered in October.

Transcriptions of original records can save your eyes and your patience since many old vital books are difficult to read, especially if you’re not comfortable reading old handwriting. The nice thing about transcribed records is that they are indexed which isn’t the case with most microfilms or digital copies. MGS offers a long list of transcribed records for many Maine towns. Consider joining MGS to partake of discounts.

Columnist Nancy Battick of Dover-Foxcroft has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft.  Nancy holds an MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. Reader emails are welcome at nbattick@roadrunner.com.

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