Background Sources for Maryland

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This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
Maryland sil.png
the Maryland Family History Research series.
History of Maryland
Maryland Vital Records
Census Records for Maryland
Background Sources for Maryland
Maryland Maps
Maryland Land Records
Maryland Probate Records
Maryland Court Records
Maryland Tax Records
Maryland Cemetery Records
Maryland Church Records
Maryland Military Records
Maryland Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Maryland Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Maryland Immigration
Maryland Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Maryland
Maryland County Resources
Map of Maryland

J. Thomas Scharf, History of Maryland, 3 vols. (1879; reprint with new index, Hatboro, Pa.: Tradition Press, 1967), is one of the major standard histories of the state. More modern and excellent works include Suzanne Ellery Greene Chappelle and others, Maryland: A History of Its People (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986); and Robert J. Brugger, Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634'1980 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1988). Hester Dorsey Richardson, Side-Lights on Maryland History With Sketches of Some Families, 2 vols. (1913), was reprinted in one volume by Tidewater Publishing of Cambridge, Maryland, 1967.

Matthew Page Andrews's Tercentenary History of Maryland, 4 vols. (Chicago and Baltimore: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1925), is really one volume of history and three of 'mug book' biographies of twentieth-century Marylanders. Other 'mug book' compilations, all of which must be used with caution, are Portrait and Biographical Record of the Eastern Shore of Maryland (New York: Chapman, 1898); Men of Mark in Maryland, 4 vols. (Washington, D.C.: B.F. Johnson, Inc., 1907'12); Genealogical and Memorial Encyclopedia of the State of Maryland, 2 vols., edited by Richard H. Spencer (New York: The American Historical Society, 1919).

Other useful works include Richard Walsh and William Lloyd Fox, eds., Maryland: A History, 1632'1974 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1974); Clayton C. Hall, The Lords of Baltimore and the Maryland Palatinate (Baltimore: J. Murphy Co., 1902); and Harry Wright Newman, The Flowering of the Maryland Palatinate: An Intimate and Objective History of the Province of Maryland to the Overthrow of the Proprietary Rule in 1654 (1961; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985). Newman also wrote on the manor system: Seigniory in Early Maryland (Washington, D.C.: Descendants of Lords of the Maryland Manors, 1949).

While seemingly limited in coverage, A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635'1789, by Edward C. Papenfuse and others, 2 vols. (Annapolis, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979'85) is quite useful since it covers a lot of persons and families not found in other published works.

Two excellent works detailing large groups of persons are Grace L. Tracey and John P. Dern, Pioneers of Old Monocacy: The Early Settlement of Frederick County, Maryland, 1721'1743 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987), and Robert W. Barnes, Baltimore County Families, 1659'1759 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989), the latter of which also contains a very useful bibliography. Not to be overlooked is Peter Wilson Coldham's Settlers of Maryland, 1679'1783, consolidated ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2002). Local histories for Maryland's twenty-three counties have been published (see pages 4-5). Many books and articles have also been written on the histories of Maryland's cities and towns.


For excellent background reading, see the chapter on Maryland by John Frederick Dorman, FASG, in Milton Rubincam, ed., Genealogical Research: Methods and Sources, vol. 1, rev. ed. (Washington, D.C.: The American Society of Genealogists, 1980), 271-80. Also helpful is A Guide to Genealogical Research in Maryland, 5th ed., by Henry C. Peden, Jr. (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2001). An inexpensive guide is George K. Schweitzer's Maryland Genealogical Research (Knoxville, Tenn.: the author, 1991).

Marion K. Kaminkow, Maryland A to Z: A Topographical Dictionary (Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1985) has a useful bibliography for the state and for each county. Henry Gannett, A Gazetteer of Maryland and Delaware, 2 vols. (1904; reprint in one vol., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1979), and Mary Keysor Meyer, Genealogical Research in Maryland: A Guide, 3d ed. (Baltimore: The Maryland Historical Society, 1983) are also useful.

Eleanor P. Passano, An Index to the Source Records of Maryland: Genealogical, biographical, historical (1940; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984) indexes 20,000 Maryland surnames in published and manuscript works, as well as various types of record sources, located in the Maryland Historical Society, Library of Congress, Library of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Johns Hopkins University, and the Library of the Diocese of Maryland in Baltimore (now at the George Peabody Library). Richard J. Cox and Larry E. Sullivan, eds., Guide to the Research Collections of the Maryland Historical Society (Baltimore: The Maryland Historical Society, 1981) is available from the society (see also the work by Pedley under Manuscripts).

An online guide to state and county records can be found on the website of the Maryland State Archives at Several guides to genealogical research in specific counties have been published, such as for Carroll, Howard, Montgomery, and Washington counties, and those by Donna Valley Russell for Allegany, Frederick, and Garrett counties.