Library & Archives

Exploring and documenting the region's heritage and properly interpreting the museum's historic buildings and artifacts would be impossible if not for Old York's archival library. With information on every aspect of York history from Native American habitation prior to European colonization through the twentieth century, the library includes more than 40,000 books, documents, photographs, maps, newspapers, church records and ephemera, as well as various public records and publications on microfilm and compact disc. Among the most significant pieces in the archival collection are the business records and personal documents of area residents. These diaries and journals, business ledgers and photographs are deep wells of informaiton and perspective serving scholars of many subjects and all levels. In the last ten years alone, more than thirty published books and articles have been written using resource materials from Old York's library.

Among the more prominent scholars to use Old York's library are Dr. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and documentary film producer Ken Burns. Dr. Ulrich is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of History at Harvard, where she specializes in early American social history, women's history and material culture. Author of the Pulitzer Prize winning A Midwife's Tale: The LIfe of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812, Dr. Ulrich conducted research for the project at Old York's library and used objects from the museum's collection in the filming of the PBS documentary. Ken Burns, director and producer of several award-winning documentary films, including the landmark PBS series The Civil War, used materials in Old York's library to conduct research for his film Mark Twain. Mark Twain spent many summers living along the York River, including the pivotal summer of 1902 when his wife was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. He was well acquainted with his neighbor, Elizabeth Perkins, and was an honored guest and featured speaker at events celebrating the 250th anniversary of the town's incorporation as York in August of that year. Old York's library provided valuable information, including personal accounts and several historic photographs, for the filming of the documentary.

Genealogical Resources

In 2008, the First Parish Cemetery surveyed the existing burial records and identified over 6,150 burials. Their website includes a full burial list and individual page for each person buried in the cemetery. This is a wonderful site to start your research and also to share your research with other genealogists! You can also submit photos, obituaries, articles, links to family websites and other information to be included in the permanent cemetery records. For more information, visit the First Parish Cemetery website at www.fpyork.info.

Research Request

Our library collections include over 300 unpublished York area genealogies and manuscripts. We also can assist you in area history. Old York volunteers will review your specific request, cursory research our records for information, copy and mail up to ten pages of material (total time spent: one hour). The cost of this research is $15.00 for the general public, and $12.00 for Old York members. We are happy to assist you in your research of York area genealogies or other historical matters.

You don't have to be Ken Burns to request research from the Museum of Old York's library and archives! Please click here for a Research Request Form. Complete the form fax it along with credit card information (MasterCard or Visa) to (207) 363-4021 or mail it to:

Museums of Old York
Library Research Request
P.O. Box 312
York, ME 03909-0312

We are sorry that we cannot respond to email research requests.

Location, Hours & Fees

The Library is located on the first floor of the Old York Administration Building at 207 York Street in the center of York Village. It is the yellow brick building next door to the Old Gaol. Parking is available on the street, at Jefferd's Tavern, or at the York Public Library. We are not a lending library nor a participant in the inter-library loan system. You are welcome to call the librarian at (207) 363-4974 on Thursday and Friday, 9:00 - 12:00, 12:30 - 4:00pm.

The Library is open to the public Thursday and Friday, 9:00 - 12:00, 12:30 - 4:00pm, and Saturday 10:00 - 2:30. Use of the Library is free to members; $5 for non-members.

Desperate Historians Seeks Information

Researchers at the Museums of Old York are baffled! We are seeking documentation of the dedication date of York’s World War One Memorial Tablet that sits in front of the cannon on Gaol Hill. We believe the event most certainly would have been recorded in a York newspaper probably between the years of 1920 to 1922. We have reviewed Town Reports, Records of the First Parish Church, Old York Chapter DAR records and Portsmouth Newspapers but the actual dedication date still remains a mystery. After more than four years of research on all of the York’s War Memorials, this one bit of information still eludes us. We hope that someone who reads this plea may have a diary, scrap book, newspaper clipping or some clue that would yield a definitive answer. To that end, we are prepared to offer a package prize to the first person who provides the evidence we seek. The prize includes:

  • A twelve inch hand carved and painted Bellamy type Eagle hand crafted by Michael Dow
  • A two volume set of History of York by Charles Banks
  • An autographed copy of the book, 350 Years As York edited by Old York librarian Virginia Spiller

Please contact the library at the Museums of Old York on any Thursday or Friday with your help!  207-363-4974 or library@oldyork.org

Thanks. Virginia Spiller & Michael Dow