Maryland Land Records

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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
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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

Maryland is a State-Land State.

The Maryland State Archives has land patents (from 1634) with indexes; quitrents (yearly payments to Lord Baltimore, similar to property taxes), 1749'61 (incomplete); rent rolls (the record of these payments), 1639'1776 (incomplete); debt books (yearly compilations by Lord Baltimore's agent, giving the name of each tract and the amount owed), 1735'73; certificates of survey, 1705 to date; and warrants and assignments, 1634'1842. A separate index covers private and proprietary manors as found in the patent records. See Elizabeth Hartsook and Gust Skordas, Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland (1946; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968, 1989).

Beverly W. Bond's 'The Quitrent System in Maryland,' Maryland Historical Magazine 5 (1910): 350-65 describes the system whereby a rent was paid on land to the proprietor, and in volumes 19-26 of the same journal were published some rent rolls. Other rent rolls are in the Calvert Papers at the Maryland Historical Society, and some have been published for Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Dorchester, Kent, Prince George's, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester counties.

Other background information is found in Clarence P. Gould, The Land System in Maryland, 1720'1765 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1913); Paul H. Giddens, 'Land Policies and Administration in Colonial Maryland, 1753'1769,' Maryland Historical Magazine 28 (1933): 142-71; and Canville D. Benson, 'Notes on the Preparation of Conveyances by Laymen in the Colony of Maryland,' Maryland Historical Magazine 60 (1965): 428-38.

Prior to 1683, land was granted to those who transported settlers to the colony. The names of such immigrants found in the land patents (1633'80) are listed in Gust Skordas, ed., The Early Settlers of Maryland (1968; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002).

Other early land records have been published in separate volumes or in journals. For the names of Revolutionary soldiers to whom land in Allegany County was granted in 1781, see J. Thomas Scharf's History of Western Maryland, 2 vols. (1882; reprint, Baltimore: Regional Publishing Co., 1968). The names given to tracts by their original owners are important because most have been retained and are a way of tracing a piece of property. The Maryland State Archives has an index to tract names, and Donna Valley Russell's 'Finding Land Tracts,' Western Maryland Genealogy 3 (1987): 26-29 provides helpful background on the subject.

Deeds, mortgages, and bills of sale are recorded in the county circuit court, where standard indexes are also available. Mortgages were often recorded separately in later years. Microfilms of all county land records are available at the Maryland State Archives, which also has the original record books and indexes of many counties. At some courthouses there are microfilms of earlier records that have been transferred to the Maryland State Archives. A law enacted in 1784 required that abstracts of county deeds be sent to Annapolis. The extant records pertain mostly to counties whose early land records were destroyed, such as Calvert and Saint Mary's.

Early deeds could be recorded in both county courts and Provincial and General courts. Indexes to the latter for 1658 to 1815, by name of person or tract, are available at the state archives. Among the published abstracts of land records are those for the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Prince George's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester.