Tips for historical and genealogical research in York County Maine

Ruth Landon did a tremendous amount of deed research for many years.  She did not publish but the Kennebunkport Historical Society has her notebooks.  They are alphabetical binders by name containing her notes on early settlers.  I'm sure she has a section in one of her notebooks on  Merrill.  

Ruth Landon and another historian Adelaide Day transcribed the town books and created subject indexes.  These are the same records available on microfilm through LDS but the index makes the transcripts much more useful.
Historian Julien Howard had the Proprietor's Book microfilmed and two copies were printed, one for the Historical Society and one for the Town Office.  Unfortunately, the Kennebunkport Propietor's book, which covers the 18th Century, is not indexed and it is hard to read but full of juicy details.
Another manuscript I would consult for that time period is Kennebunk River Lots, at the Historical Society.  The Merrills owned a mill at Goff Brook, Abels lot is nearby and John had a Garrison near the mill.  Their lots would appear in the Kennebunk River Lots.  Gideon's house appears on the 1856 York County Atlas map as I Wells. (Isaacher Wells)  I Wells also appears on the 1872 Atlas Map of Kennebunkport which is much easier to read.  If you follow the road coming north from the village, staying left at the fork in the road Isaacher Wells' house is on the right side of the road just a little ways in.  Follow that road to the end and take a right and you will find the Merrill Cemetery.  It does not appear on the map but its approximate location is where the ch in school appears on the 1872 map.  
Researching a deed in York County is pretty easy from 1960-the present.
Start with the town appraisal database to learn the street address of the house or the owners name, when they bought it and to see a picture of the house.
Then go to the York County Registry of Deeds and sign up for a free account 
Read the deeds associated with the names you found on the appraisal database until you find the correct deed.  It will refer to a previous deed.  Deeds are online only back as far as 1960 but you can go to the York County Registry of Deeds in the Alfred Courthouse Alfred, Maine to see the rest, all the way back to the earliest deeds.  NEHGS also sells a CD of early deeds and Wills  I believe you will find Abel and John's deeds but Gideon would have been too young.  has a database of Wills  The registry of Probate is upstairs at the Alfred Courthouse.  It is a treasure trove of information. 
There is an unpublished manuscript about 12-15 volumes long called Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Families compiled by William S. Thompson and typed in 1910.  Only two copies of this manuscript exist to my knowledge.  The original is at the Maine Historical Society and the copy is at the Kennebunkport Historical Society.  Both Societies will look things up for you for a fee.
Go to to purchase Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Vital records on CD.  These people have completed the Herculean task of transcribing church, town and Thompson records.  The $20 they charge cannot begin to compensate for the effort put forth.  As always all humans are fallible so check other sources too.
Clarie Nickerson transcribed vital records.  I do not believe her research was published when she was alive but the historical Society has birth, marriage and death records.  I bought a copy of all of Clarie's vital records transcripts on EBay from Maureen Burnham Calnan a few years ago.  I don't see it on her website tonight but maybe if you asked...  No index.  Listed by date.  Births 1856-1912, Deaths 1856-1940, marriages 1819-1891
Marriage records for the State of Maine 1892-1996 are online at
Death records for the State of Maine 1960-1996 are at
Harold Clarke Durrell was a descendant of the Kennebunkport Durrells and a summer resident in Kennebunkport.  He also happened to be the editor of the NEHGR for a number of years.  During his day he published the Records of the First Church of Christ Register around 1953.  These are early records, 1771-1815; baptisms, 1771-1815; marriages 1771-1815; owners of the covenant, 1771-1813.  You will find about 30 Merrill records.  The easiest way to access these is through the New England Historic Genealogical Society website if you have a membership  If you do not have a membership go to the Springvale Library.  They have a complete set of the register and the indexes.  
John Eldridge Frost collected cemetery inscriptions for all of York County.  The 4 volume set is available at most libraries in York County Or if you are independently wealthy  Clarie Nickerson also transcribed cemetery records and they sometimes don't agree with Frost's records so I like to check both.  Clarie's cemetery book is at the Kennebunkport Historical Society.
Court records are very informative.  Many Maine libraries have the six volume set of Province and Court Records of Maine which cover the time period 1636-1727.  You can also search early court indexes at
Andrew Walker, who was Kennebunk's town clerk during the mid-19th century kept a diary.  He had something to say about everything and everybody in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport during the 19th century.  His diaries are fully indexed and are available to look at in the reference room at the Kennebunk Free Library. has York County Directory for 1907 
 Google Books and Internet Archive are great places to search for old books about Maine.  Many volumes of the Collections of the Maine Historical Society are fully scanned and are available to download or search through these two fabulous services.  It's hard to keep up with everything they have because more books are being added every day but my running list is at
Some interesting books I have found relating to Maine and local history  at Google Books are
Some interesting books relating to Maine and local history I have found at Internet Archive
The Graves Library in Kennebunkport has early twentieth century summer newspapers about Kennebunkport and southern Maine.  The MacArthur Library in Biddeford has the Biddeford Journal on microfilm going back to the 1880s.  Much of the Kennebunkport news was reported in this paper.  The Kennebunk Free Library has microfilm of the Star back to 1877 and The Wave also back to the 1870s.  Both have lots of Kennebunkport news.  Dyer Library in Saco has a good newspaper microfilm collection.  Portland Public Library has a wonderful newspaper microfilm collection.  A list of who has what papers can be downloaded at
Newspapers are a wonderful source for contemporary perspectives.  Archives of Americana has the richest collection of very old publications.  These can be accessed through many larger libraries.  The Godfrey Library offers access to some fabulous newspaper resources.  They offer two databases that I use all the time for York County research, Nineteenth Century Newspapers and Newspaper Archives.   The secret of finding things in old newspaper databases or on Google for that matter is in where you put the "  "s.  I keep a list of Maine Newspapers online at  Most of the newspaper databases are not free but ask your library if they offer free access, go to the library and sign in to the service then open my newspaper list in a separate window and you can get right in.
Directories at the Kennebunkport Historical Society
Dissolving Views 1840 An article from local summer newspaper, Sea Shell, August 1, 1913, describing Kennebunkport as it was in the 1840s as remembered by older local citizens.   

Sketch of Kennebunk Port 1850 This is an article from The Portland Transcript in 1850 describing Shipbuilding, beaches, pleasure boating, churches etc.  I found this newspaper article for $8 at Dewolfe and Wood when I was writing the story on D&S Ward.  In it I learned that in 1850, a year before the brothers had purchased the land below the So Congregational Church, they already had a large steam mill and were actively engaged in shipbuilding.

1861, 1871 and 1891 Maine Register Lists names of Postmaster, Selectmen, Physicians, Clergymen, Merchants, Manufacturers etc. for that year

1872 Kennebunkport Directory from York County Atlas

Leading Business 1888 Detailed description of businesses and businessmen of Kennebunkport and Kennebunk and a historical sketch of each town.

1905 York County Register

1907 Kennebunk and Kennebunkport Directory Includes every head of household in 1907, listed alphabetically with the name of the street they live on.  Also describes all businesses, professional people and associations.

1919 Who's Who of Kennebunkport Kennebunk Beach Cape Porpoise and Beachwood Mostly cottagers.  Lists people alphabetically includes winter address. Some photos

All of the State Registers are also available at the Springvale Library.

Ships Built on the Kennebunk River by Seth Bryant is a great little book.  It lists who built the ships who was the Captain and who were the owners.  I have seen it occasionally on EBay.