Tip – Searching Maine Court Records on FamilySearch

I love, love, love FamilySearch and I often spend time browsing unindexed collections. Having said that, sometimes I really don’t understand the reasoning behind the way some of the FamilySearch collections are organized.

I have deep Maine roots and love to hunt for genealogical tidbits on FamilySearch. Recently, I was interested in viewing the court records for Kennebec County, Maine.

I did a catalog search and found three collections for Kennebec County court records. So far, so good. I chose the judicial court records, as they had the widest year span.

Even better when I found that the records have been digitized. This is a surprise I love! However, I was even more surprised by the next screen. The collection is actually named Maine, State Archive Collections, 1718-1957 and after I clicked through to the digital index, this is what I noticed:

Another County Link!

Why in the world is there a “Maine, Kennebec County” live link embedded in the list of Kennebec County town links? The place where it sits is in ABC order as if “county” was the name of a town.

More importantly, are there actually more records behind that link and is this unique to Kennebec or do other counties have the same odd link?

The last question is the simplest to answer – all the counties have this link. Therefore, I decided to switch to Washington County, as I am much more familiar with those county records.

Washington County Link

Yep, there is Washington “County” in ABC order right after the town of Cooper. By now this was a total BSO (bright, shiny object) so, of course, I clicked.

Hmm. Court records. I thought I was already in the court records. Of course, I clicked again.

What a Surprise!

Wow! This is only the top portion of the screen and it’s a long scroll down to the bottom. Look at the years in these records – beginning in 1790 and ending at the bottom of the screen that you can’t see in 1929.

There are just plain case file numbers, there are Court of Common Pleas case files, District Court records and Supreme Judicial Court records.

Next, I wondered what was behind the town links, so I tried Charlotte: World War I military records!

I tried another town – Meddybemps:

Again, World War I military records. It was the same for each of the towns I explored. What also really surprised me is that Calais is one of the bigger towns in the county, but this collection doesn’t have a town link for its records.

What are in all these files? The case files that are numbered contain items like warrants to bring someone to court and the actual papers of court cases. The Court of Common Pleas heard civil cases while the Supreme Judicial Court heard criminal cases. The District Court records cover only 1839-1852 and appear to contain civil lawsuits. The District Court records do have a short name index at the beginning of the files.

It doesn’t look like any of the other files are indexed, so there is a LOT of digging required to find gold here.

If you have Maine roots, you’ll definitely want to spend some time browsing through the county records – just be aware that they are buried in the C section of the towns!

Personally, I think FamilySearch should reorganize these records so that ALL the county records are grouped at the beginning and the town records in one ABC list after the county records.

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