Genealogical Research in Maryland
- A Brief History of Maryland
- Common Maryland Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
- Maryland Genealogical Organizations and Archives
- Additional Maryland Genealogical Resources
- Maryland Genealogical Records
- Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female Maryland Ancestors
On This Page:
Tracing your family history in Maryland can be a fascinating trip through time. Maryland was one of the original thirteen colonies, and as such there is a wealth of genealogical records to be found for the state. Tracking these records down can be an ominous task, but don’t worry, we know just where they are, and we’ll show you which records you’ll need, and help you to understand:
- What they are
- Where to find them
- How to use them
These records can be found both online and off, so we’ll introduce you to online websites, indexes and databases, as well as brick-and-mortar repositories and other institutions that will help with your research in Maryland. So that you will have a more comprehensive understanding of these records, we have provided a brief history of the “Old Line State” to illustrate what type of records may have been generated during specific time periods. That information will assist you in pinpointing times and locations on which to focus the search for your Maryland ancestors and their records.
A Brief History of Maryland
The Paleo-Indians first inhabited Maryland nearly 10,000 years ago. By the year 1,000 B.C., nearly 8,000 Native Americans comprising approximately 40 tribes lived in the area. The first European to visit the area was the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano who visited the Chesapeake Bay, which Captain John Smith called it a place perfect for man’s habitation. The first trading post was set up on Kent Island in 1631 by the fur trader William Claiborne, and the first official settlement was founded at St. Mary’s City in 1634.
Maryland began as a colony in 1632 when George Calvert, was given permission by Britain's King Charles I to start a colony in the Chesapeake area. The following year the British ships the Dove and the Ark carrying settlers who founded St. Mary's City. In 1649, Puritans fleeing religious prosecution from Great Britain founded Providence. In spite of the highly religious nature of the majority of Maryland residents, slavery was made legal in 1664, binding slaves to their owners for life.
In 1729, as Maryland began to swiftly develop its manufacturing sector, Baltimore was founded to expedite the export of goods. A series of ironworks sprung up, and Maryland also became a major exporter of tobacco and producer of flour. The Native Americans of Maryland were not as organized as tribes elsewhere, and put up little resistance to the European efforts to grab their land. Finally in 1744, the colony purchased the remainder of Native American land holdings of what would become the colony of Maryland.
Resistance to the British taxes began to take hold in the colony during the 1760’s and a Maryland chapter of the Sons of Liberty was organized. Maryland signed the Bush Declaration which called for independence from Great Britain in 1775, and when war broke out in 1776, sent its troops to join the forces of George Washington. Maryland soldiers fought in many of the major battles and contributed greatly to the American victory.
From 1783 until August of 1784, the city of Annapolis was the capital of the new America. It was there that the Treaty of Paris was signed, ending the Revolutionary War. When Maryland ratified the Constitution on April 28, 1788, it became the seventh state.
As a slave state, Maryland joined the union cause when Civil War broke out, and it was in the state that the first blood shed in the conflict took place during the Baltimore Riot in 1861. Several thousand citizens of Maryland fled to Virginia to fight for the Confederacy after the Baltimore Riot, and many who remained during and after the war continued to support slavery. Many Marylanders opposed the abolition of slavery until the state’s new constitution finally ended the practice when it was passed on October 13, 1864, though by a narrow margin of 30,174 to 29,799.
- Important Dates in Maryland History
- 1608 - Captain John Smith explores the Chesapeake Bay
- 1631 - English trading post established on Kent Island
- 1632 - Maryland Charter granted to Cecilius Calvert by King Charles I
- 1633 - 1634 - Ark and Dove arrive at St. Clements Island; St. Mary's City founded
- 1664 - Slavery allowed by law in Maryland
- 1695 - Annapolis becomes the capital of Maryland
- 1729 - Baltimore founded
- 1783 - Annapolis became the nation's capital from November 1783 until August
- 1784 - Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris in Annapolis
- 1788 - Maryland becomes the seventh state
- 1813 - British raid Havre de Grace during the War of 1812
- 1861 - First bloodshed of Civil War occurs in Baltimore
- 1862 - Confederate forces defeated at Antietam
- 1864 - Maryland abolishes slavery
- 1867 - Present Maryland Constitution adopted
Famous Battles Fought in Maryland
The Battle of Portland Harbor was the only Civil War that took place in Maryland, and that was a naval battle that took place off the coast of modern day Portland. Over 80,000 men from however Maryland fought for the Union side in the Civil War. Likewise there were no Revolutionary War land battles fought there, but three was a naval battle fought known as the Burning of Falmouth. The Battle at Moore's Brook was fought in Maryland during King Philip’s War
These battle accounts that do exist can be very effective in uncovering the military records of your ancestor. They can tell you what regiments fought in which battles, and often include the names and ranks of many officers and enlisted men.
Common Maryland Genealogical Issues and Resources to Overcome Them
Boundary Changes: Boundary changes are a common obstacle when researching Maryland ancestors. You could be searching for an ancestor’s record in one county when in fact it is stored in a different one due to historical county boundary changes. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries can help you to overcome that problem. It provides a chronological listing of every boundary change that has occurred in the history of Maryland.
Name Changes: Surname changes, variations, and misspellings can complicate genealogical research. It is important to check all spelling variations. Soundex, a program that indexes names by sound, is a useful first step, but you can't rely on it completely as some name variations result in different Soundex codes. The surnames could be different, but the first name may be different too. You can also find records filed under initials, middle names, and nicknames as well, so you will need to get creative with surname variations and spellings in order to cover all the possibilities. For help with surname variations read our instructional article on How to Use Soundex.
Maryland Genealogical Organizations and Archives
Genealogical resources include not only records, but the organizations that house them, or can direct you to them. These institutions include: Archives, Libraries, Genealogical Societies, Family History Centers, Universities, Churches, and Museums.
- Following are links to their websites, and a summary of the records.
- State Historical Society of Maryland (State Archives) - land records, military records, family histories
600 East Locust
Des Moines, Maryland 50319
- National Archives at Kansas City - naturalization records, Native American records, census records, and immigration records
400 West Pershing Road
Kansas City, MO 64108.
- University of Maryland Digital Library – manuscripts, historic newspapers, historical maps, ethnic and women’s histories
Maryland Genealogical and Historical Societies
Genealogical and historical societies have access to extensive catalogues of genealogical data. They are also able to offer expert guidance for genealogical researchers. Many members are professional genealogists who are most willing to share their expertise in finding ancestors.
Maryland Genealogical Society – census, vital records, religious records, city directories, military records, family histories
6000 Douglas Ave.
P.O. Box 7735
Des Moines, IA 50322
Old Fort Genealogical Society – cemetery records, township maps, old settlers list
Ft Madison Public Library
1920 Ave E
Ft Madison, IA 52627
Additional Maryland Genealogical Resources
Maryland Mailing Lists
Mailing lists are internet based facilities that use email to distribute a single message to all who subscribe to it. When information on a particular surname, new records, or any other important genealogy information related to the mailing list topic becomes available, the subscribers are alerted to it. Joining a mailing list is an excellent way to stay up to date on Maryland genealogy research topics. Rootsweb have an extensive listing of Maryland Mailing Lists on a variety of topics.
Maryland Message Boards
A message board is another internet based facility where people can post questions about a specific genealogy topic and have it answered by other genealogists. If you have questions about a surname, record type, or research topic, you can post your question and other researchers and genealogists will help you with the answer. Be sure to check back regularly, as the answers are not emailed to you. The message boards at the Maryland Genealogy Forum are completely free to use.
Maryland Newspapers and Periodicals
Many genealogy periodicals and historical newspapers contain reprinted copies of family genealogies, transcripts of family Bible records, information about local records and archives, census indexes, church records, queries, land records, obituaries, court records, cemetery records, and wills.
- Maryland newspapers and periodicals that you can search online or on-site.
- State Historical Society of Maryland (State Archives) – historic books, periodicals, historical newspapers from 1836 to present
600 East Locust
Des Moines, Maryland 50319
- University of Maryland Digital Library – miscellaneous historical newspapers
- Newspaper Archives of Plymouth County – searchable online index of historical Maryland newspapers dating from the 19th century
- GenealogyBank.com – free searchable database of Maryland newspaper archives, 1837–1900
- Library of Congress Digital Newspaper Directory – free searchable database of historical U.S. newspapers dating from 1690-present
- The Online Books Page – links to historical books and periodicals available for viewing online, dating from mid-16th century
- NewspaperArchive.com – largest online database of historical newspapers in the world.
Historical Maryland Maps and Gazetteers
Maps are an integral part of genealogical research. They help us to locate landmarks, towns, cities, parishes, states, provinces, waterways and roads and streets. They also help us to determine when and where boundary changes might have taken place, and give us a visualization of the area we’re researching in.
For locating place names, a gazetteer is the best possible resource for any genealogist. Gazetteers are also sometimes called “place name dictionaries”, and can help you to locate the area in which you need to conduct research.
Maryland City Directories
City directories are similar to telephone directories in that they list the residents of a particular area. The difference though is what is important to genealogists, and that is they pre-date telephone directories. You can find an ancestor’s information such as their street address, place of employment, occupation, or the name of their spouse. A one-stop-shop for finding city directories in Maryland is the Maryland Online Historical Directories which contains a listing of every available city and historical directory related to Maryland.
Maryland Genealogical Records
Birth, Death, Marriage and Divorce Records – Also known as vital records, birth, death, and marriage certificates are the most basic, yet most important records attached to your ancestor. The reason for their importance is that they not only place your ancestor in a specific place at a definite time, but potentially connect the individual to other relatives. Below is a list of repositories and websites where you can find Maryland vital records
Some county clerks kept vital records as early as 1838. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of these documents for many counties which can be accessed at Maryland Family History Centers. Existing originals are found in the county clerk’s office or in the Maryland Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) for that county.
Original copies of Maryland Vital Records for death, birth, marriage, and divorce may be ordered from:
Maryland Department of Public Health
Division of Vital Records
605 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, IL 62702-5097
Telephone: (217) 782-6553
The Maryland Archives has an Marylandwide Marriage Index, 1763–1900 which contains one million marriages, or two million names.
Census records are among the most important genealogical documents for placing your ancestor in a particular place at a specific time. Like BDM records, they can also lead you to other ancestors, particularly those who were living under the authority of the head of household.
Federal census records for Maryland exist from 1800 to 1990. Unfortunately the 1800 census was lost, and the 1810 census contains only a few names from Randolph County. The 1890 census was destroyed, though a few names from Mound Township in McDonough County remain.
- All other Maryland census records from 1820 to 1930
- U.S. National Archives – Federal censuses form 1790-1930
- The Free Census Project has transcribed many Maryland indexes and new material is added daily
- Access Genealogy - Maryland census records from 1820-1930
- African American Census Schedules Online – slave schedules, mortality schedules, slave-owners census
- Native Americans in Census Records (US National Archives)
Maryland Church Records
Church and synagogue records are a valuable resource, especially for baptisms, marriages, and burials that took place before 1900. You will need to at least have an idea of your ancestor’s religious denomination, and in most cases you will have to visit a brick and mortar establishment to view them.
Most church records are kept by the individual church, although in some denominations, records are placed in a regional archive or maintained at the diocesan level. Local Historical Societies are sometimes the repository for the state’s older church records. Below are links archives that maintain church records, as well as a few databases that can be viewed online.
The Family History Library contains many church records from a variety of denominations on microfilm.
The Maryland Archives collected some early Maryland church records that are now held by the Maryland Library.
Central Repositories for Denominational Records
Most of the records of individual denominations are kept in central repositories.
- Major congregational archives for Maryland
American Baptist Historical Society
1106 South Goodman Street
Rochester, NY 14620
Phone: (716) 473-1740
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Early, for Mormons in Maryland Wards and Branches can be found on microfilm at the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City. The film numbers can be searched online at the Family History Library Catalog
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA Archives)
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago IL 60631-4198
Phone: (800) 638-3522 or (773) 380-2700
Fax: (773) 380-1465
Maryland Mennonite Historical and Genealogical Society
675 State Route 116
Metamora, IL 61548-7732
Phone: (309) 367-2551
Maryland Great Rivers Annual Conference
United Methodist Church Historical Society
1211 North Park Street
Bloomington, Maryland 61701
Phone: (309) 828-5092, ext. 227
- Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary
2121 Sheridan Road
Evanston, Maryland 60201
Phone: (847) 866-3909
- Roman Catholic
Archives of the Archdiocese of Chicago
Joseph Cardinal Bernadine Archive and Record Center
Attn: Assistant Research Archivist
711 West Monroe
Chicago, Maryland 60661
Phone: (312) 831-0711
- Diocese of Belleville
222 South Third Street
Belleville, IL 62220
Phone: (618) 277-8181
- Diocese of Joliet
425 Summit St.
Joliet, IL 60435
Phone: (815) 722-6606
- Catholic Diocese of Peoria
419 NE Madison Avenue
Peoria, IL 61603
Phone: (309) 671-1568
- Diocese of Rockford
555 Colman Center Drive
P.O. Box 7044
Rockford, IL 61108
- Diocese of Springfield
Catholic Pastoral Center
1615 West Washington St.
P.O. Box 3187
Springfield, Maryland 62708-3187
Phone: (217) 698-8500
Maryland Military Records
More than 40 million Americans have participated in some time of war service since America was colonized. The chance of finding your ancestor amongst those records is exceptionally high. Military records can even reveal individuals who never actually served, such as those who registered for the two World Wars but were never called to duty.
- Websites and archives that contain Maryland military records.
- Maryland Archives – Indian War records, Civil War records, Mexican War records, Spanish American War records, War of 1812 Veterans index, muster rolls, and Roll of Honor
Margret Cross Norton Building
Springfield, IL 62756
NB: The Maryland Archives responds only by mail to inquiries, so any telephone, fax, or e-mail inquiries must be accompanied by a mailing address.
- U.S. National Archives – WWI Draft registration cards, casualties lists, WWI and WWII service records, Korean War records, Vietnam War records, Civil War and Spanish-American War records, and casualties lists.
- US Department of Veterans Affairs Nationwide Gravesite Locator – includes information on veterans and their family members buried in veterans and military cemeteries having a government grave marker.
- United States Index to Indian Wars Pension Files, 1892-1926 – military pension records of soldiers who fought in the Indian Wars between 1817 and 1898
- United States Registers of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914 - index of men who enlisted in the United States Army, 1798-1914.
- United States Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 - index to Mexican War pension files for service between 1846 and 1848
- Civil War Soldiers Service Records - Service records for both Union and Confederate soldiers indexed by soldier's name, rank, and unit.
Maryland Cemetery Records
As convenient as it is to search cemetery records online, keep in mind that there are a few disadvantages over visiting a cemetery in person. They are:
- Tombstone information is not always accurately transcribed
- The arrangement of the graves in a cemetery can be crucial as family members are often buried next to each other or in the same grave. This arrangement is not always preserved in the alphabetical indexes that are found online.
- Databases that can be searched online for Maryland Cemetery records
- Maryland Tombstone Transcription Project - death and burial records
- African American Cemeteries Online – African American, slave, and Native American cemetery records
- Access Genealogy – huge database of Maryland cemetery record transcriptions
- Find a Grave – over 100 million grave records can be searched on this site. Search can be conducted by name, location, or cemetery name.
- Interment.net - A free online database containing approximately 4 million cemetery records from around the world.
- Billion Graves – as the name implies, you can search a billion records including headstone photos, transcriptions, cemetery records, and grave locations.
Obituaries can reveal a wealth about our ancestor and other relatives. You can search our Maryland Newspaper Obituaries Listings from hundreds of Maryland newspapers online for free.
Maryland Wills and Probate Records
The documents found in a probate packet may include a complete inventory of a person’s estate, newspaper entries, witness testimony, a copy of a will, list of debtors and creditors, names of executors or trustees, names of heirs. They can not only tell you about the ancestor you’re currently researching, but lead to other ancestors. Most of these records must be accessed at a county court or clerk’s office, but some can be found online as well. You can obtain copies of the original probate records by writing to the county clerk.
Since 1964, the circuit court in each county has custody of the earlier court records including those of the former Cook County Superior Court and a few other Chicago area courts. They can be found at:
Clerk of Circuit CourtArchives Room 1113
Richard J. Daley Center
50 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602
Telephone: 312- 603-6601
The Maryland Regional Archives has a huge database of court and county records for the entire state of Maryland
Family Search – has an online collection of probate records, which includes will, indexes, dating from 1819-1970
Maryland Immigration and Naturalization Records
The naturalization process generated many types of records, including petitions, declarations of intention, and oaths of allegiance. These records can provide family historians with information such as a person's birth date and place of birth, immigration year, marital status, spouse information, occupation, witnesses' names and addresses, and more.
US National Archives – Immigration and Naturalization records for the entire United States
Family Search has two searchable online indexes, the Maryland, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979, and the Maryland, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950
Maryland Native American Records
- Best resources for tracing native Maryland ancestry.
Missing Matriarchs – Resources for Researching Female Maryland Ancestors
Looking for female ancestors requires an adjustment of how we view traditional records sources. A woman’s identity was often under that of her husband, and often individual records for them can be difficult to locate. The following resources are effective in locating female ancestors in Maryland where traditional records may not reveal them.
- Women of Maryland, Lee Agger (Ganner Books, 1982)
- Massachusetts and Maryland Families, Walter Goodwin Davis (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996)
- Maryland Families in 1790, 5 Vols. Ruth Gray (Picton Press, 1988-96)
- Name Index to Maryland Local Histories, Marie Estes (Maryland Historical Society, 1985)
- Pioneers of Maryland and New Hampshire, Charles Henry pope Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996)
Selected Resources for Maryland Women’s History
University of Maryland, Farmington Library
111 South Street
Farmington, Maryland 04938
Maryland Historical Society
489 Congress St.
Portland, ME 04101
Common Maryland Surnames
The following surnames are among the most common in Maryland and are also being currently researched by other genealogists. If you find your surname here, there is a chance that some research has already been performed on your ancestor.
ABE, ABERNATHY, ADAMS, AKERS, ALT, ANDREWS, APPLE/APPELL, ARNOLDS, ATHY, ATKINSON, AYERS, BABCOCK, BACHTEL, BAINES, BARKER, BARNES, BEACHY, BEALL, BEAVER, BECKMAN, BEEBE, BEEMAN, BENNETT, BIBBY, BIDDLE, BIGGS, BISHOP, BLIZZARD, BLUE, BOWDEN, BOWMAN, BRENNEMAN, BROADWATER, BROWNING, BRYAN, BUCHOLTZ, BUCY, BURKEY, CHAPMAN, CHENEY, CHRISTOPHER, CLARK, COFFEY, COMBS, COMPTON, CONNOR, CORBUS, CRAFT, CRESAP, CREUTZBURG, CRITES, CROFT, CROSS, CROWE, CUNNINGHAM, CURRENCE, CUSTER, DAVIS, DAWSON, DAYTON, DEAN, DENT, DICKEN, DOLAN, DONALDSON, DOUGLAS, DURST, DYE, EASTER, EDENHART, EISENTROUT, ELBIN, EMERICK, ERSKINE, ESHLEMAN, EVERLINE, FAKE, FAZENBAKER, FLEMING, FLETCHER, FOLEY, FOOR, FORTNEY, FULK, FULLER, GARLAND, GARLITZ, GEARY, GEATZ, GILL, GILMORE, GOOD, GOODGE, GRANT, GRAY, GREAVES, GRIERS, GRISWOLD, GROVES, GURLEY, HAMILL, HAMILTON, HAMMER, HARPER, HARRIS, HARVEY, HAST, HENDRICKSON, HENRY, HERPICH, HERSCH, HESSER, HICKLE, HIETTS, HILLEGASS, HOLT, HOOPER, HOTT, HOUSE, HUFF, HUMBERTSON, HUTCHINSON, IIAMS, JACKSON, JACOBS, JENKINS, JINKINS, JOHNSON, JORG, KALBAUGH, KALER, KEENE, KEMP, KERNICK, KESSELS, KIEHM, KIFER, KIGHT, KING, KLAVUHN, KLAWAN, KNIPPENBERG, KOOKEN, KOONTZ, LANTZ, LARGENTS, LASHLEY, LEASE, LEE, LEMON, LENHART, LEPS, LILLER, LINTHICUM, LOGSDON, LOHR, LONG, LOTTIG, LOYS, LYONS, MALONE, MANKAMYER, MCCARTY, MCCLUNE, MCCOOLS, MCCREARY, MCCROBIE, MCKENZIE, MCLAUGHLIN, MCLUCKIE, MENGES, METCALF, METHENY, MEYERS, MICHAEL, MILLER, MINEAR, MOORE, MORELAND, MOWBRAY, MUIR, MURPHY, MURRAY, MUSSELMAN, NEEDHAM, NEFF, NEHRING, NEWELL, NORTH, NORTHCRAFT, NORTON, OATES, ODELL, OFTEN, O'NEAL, ORR, PARKE, PAXTON, PEEBLES, PETERS, PHARES, PORTER, POTTER, PRICE, PRITCHARD, PYNE, RANNELLS, RAVENSCROFT, RICE, RICHARDS, RICHARDSON, RIZER, ROBERTS, ROBESON, ROBEY, ROBINETTE, ROHMAN, ROLAND, ROSS, RYAN, SASS, SAVAGE, SAYLOR, SCHARTIGER, SCHMIDT, SCHRAMM, SCHRIEVER, SCHROCK, SCRUGGS, SEAVER, SEIFARTH, SHADE, SHAFFER, SHANHOLTZER, SHARPLESS, SHAW, SHEPPARD, SHIPLEY, SHOBE, SIGLER, SIMPSON , SISLER, SLAGLE, SMITH, SMOUSE, SPEIR, SPENCER, SPICER, SPRING, STAGGS, STANTON, STEWART, STONER, STORER, STRATFORD, STREET, STRUCKMAN, SULTZER, TEMPLE, TETER, THOMAS, THORPE, TRENTON, TRENUM, TRESSLER, TREZISE, TRIMBLE, TROUTMAN, TRULY, TWIGG, VANMETER, WAGNER, WAGONER, WAGUS, WALLS, WARNICK , WAXLER, WEATHERHOLT, WEISER, WELLS, WENNER, WERNER, WESTFALL, WHALEY, WHEELER, WHETSTONE, WHITE, WHITTINGTON, WILHELM, WILLIAMS, WILLISON, WILSON, WILT, WINTERS , WITMER, WITT, WOLFE, WOTRING, WRIGHTSMAN, YOUNGBLOOD, ZIMMERMAN