The Portland Room and Archives has several resources that are useful when researching the history of a given business or industry. The Maine Register is a business directory covering the State of Maine. It is organized by county and then towns within the county. Included is a classified business index and a manufacturers’ section, which includes the names and locations of businesses as well as the names of owners or principal officers, purchasing agents and sales offices. There are also a lot of other fun facts included as well, for example, how the counties voted for governor and presidential candidates in election years, and current postage rates.
The Annual Report of the Bureau of Industrial and Labor Statistics for the State of Maine, covering 1887-1910, often contain extensive reports on industries in Maine in a given year. The 1890 edition is dedicated to agriculture and the strikes among the granite workers that year.
Another great print resource is Edward H. Elwell’s 1875 edition “The Successful Business Houses of Portland.” Organized by type of business and then business names, he gives a history of the business and goods they sell or manufacture.
Charles F. Guptill & Co. ca. 1910
from the Portland Room Photo Archives
Sometimes information about businesses can be gleaned from viewing the PPL’s Picture and Photo Collections.
The newspapers can be sources of information for this type of research. There are two indexes that can be used. The Jordan Index covers sixteen newspapers, primarily published in Portland, between 1785-1835. The Maine News Index covers the Press Herald newspapers between 1945-1992. After 1992, the newspapers can be found in the Maine Newsstand database.
Finally, check out PPL’s Digital Commons. Much of what you find here are abstracts of articles the Portland Room has in print. We have also digitized the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.
Is your house turning 100 years old? Are you curious what it looked like in years past? Who lived there? Who the neighbors were? The Portland Room and Archives have several resources that can help you answer these questions.
The Portland City Directories in the Portland Room date back to 1823, but most useful are the ones that date from 1882, as they include an alphabetical listing of streets along with the heads of household at each address. The directories also have an alphabetical listing of heads of households that include their home address, and often their work address and occupation. Once you have the head of household name, you can go to the census records [available through Ancestry.com (in-library) or HeritageQuest.com] and see who else resided with them, as well as obtain biographical information on those residents.
The Portland Room has two digitized maps, the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.
If you home is in a historic district, it may appear in the “Portland Historic Resources Inventory” compiled by Earle Shettleworth and John E. Pancoast (1975). If your house is part of this inventory, the address and name of the house is given, as well as date built, architectural style, and what it was built of. Occasionally pictures can be found, as well as the architect’s name.
24 Monroe St., in 1957
from the Portland Room photo Archives
A great source of photos are the 1924 Portland Tax Records available online through Maine Memory Network. Newspaper articles may also be a source of pictures or articles written about your house. Articles appearing in the Portland newspapers from 1945-1992 are indexed.
The Portland Room also had several books on how to trace the history of your home. So come on in and we will help you find the resources that will help you tell your house’s story.
October is American Archives Month. Portland Public Library’s Portland Room and Archives is a rich resource for researching family genealogies, house histories, historical research of businesses and industries in Maine as well as other historical topics. Each week in October the Portland Room will feature some of the resources that can be used in researching these areas.
Genealogy Research: Interested in where you are in your family tree, or in those that came before you? In addition to the genealogical databases PPL subscribes to, such as Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest, we have vital records (records of birth, marriages, and deaths) on microfilm from pre-1892 – 1955. There are also some print versions of vital records for some individual Maine towns. Ancestry.com and Heritage Quest also have census records, which are invaluable for tracing family members back in time. Resources for passenger lists are also available through Ancestry.com, but the Portland Room also has some passenger lists in print format.
The Portland City Directories are also great resources for tracing your family. In addition to listing residents, the directories are searchable by street. Sometimes the date of death appears, and often the residents’ occupations and the location of where they worked is present.
There are also town and county histories as well as some published family histories in the Portland Room. We also have indices for the burial records at the Eastern and Western cemeteries.
A final favorite is searching obituary and death notices through the microfilmed copies of the Portland newspapers.