Maryland Court Records
This entry was originally written by Roger D. Joslyn, CG, FUGA, FGBS, FASG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
In many cases, efforts to recover the early proprietary records of Maryland, which were privately kept by the Calvert family, have been successful, although some material has disappeared. The earliest surviving proprietary and royal papers for the period 1637 to 1785 were published in Calendar of Maryland State Papers No. 1 The Black Books (1943; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1967). At the Maryland State Archives are various records of and indexes to the provincial and general court (1658'1805) and the chancery (equity) court (1668'1851). An index to depositions from a variety of sources (1668'1789) was published in the Maryland Historical Magazine 23 (1928): 101-54, 197-242, 293-343. Other early court and related records have been published and indexed, such as provincial and county records from 1637 to the 1780s in seventy-two volumes of The Archives of Maryland, now online at the state archives' website. For the colonial period, see Debbie Hooper, Abstracts of Chancery Court Records of Maryland, 1669'1782 (Westminster, Md.: Family Line Publications, 1996). One interesting sample of information from county court records is Millard Millburn Rice, ed., This Was the Life: Excerpts from the Judgment Records of Frederick County, Maryland, 1748'1765 (1979; reprint, Baltimore: Clearfield Co., 2002). Some court records have been published for the counties of Caroline, Carroll, Charles, Montgomery, and Somerset.
Many twentieth-century court records are still in the counties, with earlier records or copies in the state archives. In the Orphans' Court, the clerk of which is the register of wills, are wills and other estate records. Taxes and road surveys are in the commissioner's office. A wonderful guide to the county court records in the counties and the Maryland State Archives (original documents, record books, and microfilm) is Morris L. Radoff, Gust Skordas, and Phebe R. Jacobsen, The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland, Part II: The Records (Annapolis, Md.: The Hall of Records Commission, 1963). Following a discussion of each type of record, a county-by-county listing covers what is available. Courthouse fires and other losses of records are mentioned. The guide also has pictures of the various types of indexing systems found throughout the counties. It should be noted, however, that much material has been transferred from the counties to the state archives since the publication of the work, and updated information should be sought in Annapolis.
A database entitled Maryland Calendar of Wills is available at Ancestry.com.