State Courthouse Records
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Maryland Government records cover a broad range of genealogy subject areas that can help you as part of your research, such as land ownership, courts, taxes, and naturalization’s. Given that Maryland court records cover such a wide selection of topics, they could aid you in many different ways. As an example, they could aid you in finding ancestors’ residences, identify occupations, locate financial information, determine citizenship status, or shed light on relationships between individuals. The whole thing relies upon on the type of court records that the ancestors” names show up in. For Definitions of all court terms see the Genealogy Encyclopedia.

Maryland Courthouse records change extensively from county to county in both level of quality and volume. You will find different kinds of court records that are most likely to possess information related for your genealogical research below.

State Court Records
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Maryland Court Records

Early proprietary records in Maryland were kept by the Calvert family. Many of them have been recovered over the years, but some are still missing. The earliest royal papers and proprietary records are from 1637 to 1785. They can be found in Calendar of Maryland State Papers No. 1 The Black Books. Many provincial and general court records and indexes spanning the years of 1658 to 1805 are housed at the Maryland State Archives. Records of the chancery court, also known as the equity court, from 1668 to 1851 can also be found there. Maryland Historical Magazine 23 (1928): 101- 54, 197-242, 293-343 contains depositions from the years of 1668 to 1789.

Many other early court records have been indexed and published over the years. One example is 2 volumes of 1637 to 1780s county and provincial records held by the Archives of Maryland. Those records are now available online as were. Certain court records from Caroline, Charles, Somerset, Carroll, and Montgomery counties have also been published.

The counties still hold many of the court records from the 1900s, but the state archives holds most of the earlier court records. Estate records, wills, and related documents are held by the Orphans’ Court clerk’s office. The commissioner’s office holds the road surveys and tax records. However, copies of many of the records just listed can also be found at the Maryland State Archives. See Also Research In Court Records.

State Land Records
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Maryland Land Records

Land patents from 1834 and their indexes can be found at the Maryland State Archives. An index of proprietary and private manors is also located in the patent records there. Other useful indexes at the Maryland State Archives relating to land in the state are:

Quitrents (Annual Payments to Lord Baltimore, Similar to Property Taxes), 1749 to 1761 (Incomplete), Rent Rolls (Record of The Payments to Lord Baltimore), 1639 to 1776 (Incomplete), Debt Books (Yearly Compilations by Lord Baltimore’s Agent, Listing Names of Each Land Tract and Amounts Owed), 1735 to 1773, Certificates of Survey, 1705 to Date, Warrants and Assignments, 1634 to 1842

The system whereby proprietors received rent payments for land is outlined in “The Quitrent System in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine 5 (1910): 350-65. Some rent rolls were also published in volumes 19-26 of that journal. The Maryland Historical Society holds the Calvery Papers, which include some rent rolls. Some of those rolls for the following counties have been published: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Dorchester, Kent, Prince George’s, Somerset, Talbot, Worcester.

People who brought settlers to Maryland Colony were granted land up until 1683. Land patents contain names of many of those immigrants.

Many journals and other publications have published early Maryland land records. Many pieces of property in Maryland can be traced by their tract names, which have often been kept the same throughout the years. An index of those tract names can be found at the Maryland State Archives.

The county circuit court clerk’s office in each county may hold records of bills of sale, deeds, and mortgages. Indexes for many of those records can also be found in those offices. Researchers should note that separate mortgage records may be available for later years. The Maryland State Archives has microfilm rolls of all land records that were taken at the county level. Original indexes and record books may also be found there. Earlier records may be found on microfilm in some courthouses, but many of them are housed at the Maryland State Archives, instead. In 1794, a law was passed that required county deeds to be abstracted and those abstracts to be stored in Annapolis. Most of the records that still exist relate to counties where earlier land records were lost, including Saint Mary’s County and Calvert County.

Provincial and General courts recorded early deeds, as did county courts. Indexes of Provincial and General court records for the years of 1658 to 1815 can be found at the Maryland State Archives.

Many county land records have been abstracted and published. Some of those published records were from each of the following counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Prince George’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, Worcester

Most Americans purchased at the very least some land prior to the 20th century, generating personal land records a reference or resource for genealogists. As a result, virtually every researcher, regardless of whether a expert professional or weekend enthusiast, has needed land records to document the existence, association, or movement of an individual or ancestral family. Deeds, legal records for transferring land or property from one individual to another, are the most used of the land records, and can provide a reputable method of keeping track of ancestors when no other record might be discovered. Deeds are usually relatively easy to uncover and often offer you a wealth of details. See Also Guide to U.S. Land Records Research

State Probate Records
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Maryland Probate Records

The Prerogative Court took estate records prior to 1777. So, those records are still fairly intact, even though many county records have been lost through the years due to fires and other causes. Available estate records include the following:

Wills, Inventories, Accounts, Balances of Final Distribution, Testamentary Proceedings

The Maryland State Archives has indexes available for those files, which may also include other related documents.

Probate records were recorded by the Orphans’ Court in each county from 1777 onward. Courthouse will indexes have been published for each of these counties:

Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Prince George’s, Saint Mary’s, Somerset, Washington

There are also several published county will abstracts available. They exist for the following counties: Anne Arundel, Caroline, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Kent, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, Saint Mary’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, Washington

Annie Walker Burn compiled the Baltimore County records, which are in 20 volumes and span the years of 1783 to 1845. However, they may not be entirely accurate. So, researchers should check the them against the originals. Wills from 1666 to 1760 for Baltimore County were published by Leslie and Neil Keddie (Salisbury, Md.: Family Tree Bookshop, 2002). Many journals also feature will abstracts. One of them is Western Maryland Genealogy, which published will abstracts from Frederick County. Another publication, the Carrollonian (1984), published an index for records from Carroll County. Guardianship bonds, inventories, distributions, and administrations for various counties have also been published in various places over the years.

Some original books of records and wills can still be found in possession of the counties. However, the Maryland State Archives now holds most of them, as well as microfilmed copies of them. Some counties also have microfilmed records available. See Also Guide to U.S. Probate Records Research

Further Reading

  • Index of Maryland Colonial Wills, 1634–1777, 3 vols. (1933; reprint in one vol. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986)
  • The Maryland Calendar of Wills, 8 vols. (1904–28; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968) – wills through 1777
  • Abstracts of Maryland Wills (Books 24–38, 1744–73), 15 parts (Annapolis, Md.: the author, 1938–45)
  • Maryland Colonial Abstracts: Wills, Accounts and Inventories, 1772–1777, 5 vols. (1934–39; reprint in one vol., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968)
  • Index to Inventories of Estates, 1718–1777 (Annapolis, Md.: Hall of Records Commission, 1947)
  • Abstracts of the Inventories of the Prerogative Court of Maryland (1718–77), 17 vols. (1981–88)
  • Abstracts of the Inventories and Accounts of the Prerogative Court of Maryland, 1685–1718, 11 vols. (1992–97)
  • Abstracts of the Administration Accounts of the Prerogative Court of Maryland (1718–77) (1995– 99)
  • Abstracts of the Balance Books of the Prerogative Court of Maryland (1755–77), 3 vols. (1995–97)
  • Maryland Balance Book (Madison, Md.: Dorchester Roots, 1993).

State Tax Records
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Maryland Tax Records

The 1783 Maryland tax assessment and its index are housed at the Maryland State Archives. It is a good substitute for records that aren’t found in the censuses of 1776 and 1778. The index of the 1783 list includes two sections. One is organized according to the names of the land tracts, while the other is organized by the property owners’ names. Both are also available to researchers online.

The proprietary papers, which date back to the 1630s, hold Maryland’s oldest tax records. Certain publications have published some of those records over the years. St. Anne’s Parish, which was located in Anne Arundel County, has a tax list at the Maryland State Archives for the years of 1764 to 1766. The Maryland State Archives also holds the following direct tax records from:

Anne Arundel County (Indexed), Baltimore County and City, Caroline County, Charles County, Harford County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Saint Mary’s County, Somerset County, Talbot County

Carroll, Baltimore, and Somerset counties also have separate volumes of published U.S. Direct Tax lists from 1798 available. See Also Guide to U.S. Tax Records Research