Maryland Vital Records
In 1640 the Maryland Assembly provided for the recording of births, marriages, and burials by the clerk of “Every Court”; banns were to be posted three days before a marriage, but very few of these records exist. Those that do are indexed at the Maryland State Archives. When the Anglican Church became the official church of the colony in 1692, the parishes were instructed to register the births, marriages, and deaths of all residents except African Americans. Every county formed by 1770 has at least one pre-Revolution parish register, and many of these include African Americans.
The clerks of the county circuit courts were to record births and deaths beginning in 1865, but compliance was very poor. The City of Baltimore started recording births and deaths in 1875 and the counties in 1898. This arrangement of county and city recording merged into a state system in 1972. The first place to check for Maryland births (1898–1998), including those for Baltimore City (1875–1978), is the Maryland State Archives, which has microfilm of records and indexes. The state archives also has Maryland death records for 1898 to 1987 (indexes 1898–1968), with Baltimore City deaths for 1875 to 1987 (indexes 1875–1971). Birth and death records, but not corresponding indexes, are restricted—births for one hundred years and deaths for twenty years. The state archives can certify births through 1924 and deaths through 1987. County civil marriage records from 1914 through 1950 are at the state archives but are indexed only to 1930. Further information, restrictions, and fees are found online at www.mdarchives.state.md.us. Maryland births from April 1898 with City of Baltimore births from January 1875, Maryland deaths occurring less than twenty years ago, and Maryland marriages from June 1951 are also available from the Division of Vital Records, State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 6550 Reisterstown Rd. Plaza, Baltimore, MD 21215-0020. Further instructions, restrictions, fees, and downloadable forms are online at www.mdpublichealth.org/vsa/html/apps.html. The fee is currently $12 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope should be sent with each record request. Access at the Division of Vital Records is more restrictive than at the Maryland State Archives. Earlier marriages, usually from the 1770s to 1919, are either with the clerk of the circuit court where the license was issued or at the Maryland State Archives. The latter also has microfilm of most of these records, with an incomplete general index to records and licenses (1650–95, 1777–1886) for the counties of Anne Arundel, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Prince George’s, and Somerset; there is also an index to licenses for Baltimore City and County (1777–1851). Among the published marriage licenses or “marriage records” are those for the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Montgomery, Somerset, Washington, Wicomico, and Worcester. Three volumes of Maryland Marriages (1634–1820), compiled by Robert Barnes (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1975–93), were gathered from church and estate as well as public records. A similar compilation by F. Edward Wright is Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records and Supplement, 6 vols. (Silver Spring and Westminster: Family Line Publications, 1982–2001), which covers births, marriages, and deaths (1648–1825) from church and court records.
At the Maryland State Archives are microfilms of early county vital records and a card file indexing some pre-state records kept in the counties, from the 1600s for Charles, Kent, Somerset, and Talbot counties; births (1804–77) and deaths (1865–80) for Anne Arundel County; births (1898–1923) and deaths (1898–1916) for Calvert County; births (1865–73) for Kent County; and deaths (1898–1916) for Annapolis. Another state archives index covers implied marriages from court, land, and probate records (1674–1851), while other indexes cover vital records substitutes for various time periods from Bible, cemetery, and church records. Evidence of marriages found in Revolutionary War pension files was included in Newman’s Maryland Revolutionary Records (see Maryland Military Records).
Although a few separations were granted, there were no divorces in Maryland before the Revolutionary War. From that time until 1842, they were granted by the state legislature; see Mary Keysor Meyer, Divorces and Names Changed in Maryland by Act of the Legislature, 1634–1854 (1970; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972). Records of later divorces are with the clerk of the circuit court where the divorce was granted or at the state archives. Many adoption files, accessible prior to 1 June 1947, are at the state archives.
At Ancestry.com, subscribers can access the following Maryland vital record databases:
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- Maryland, Births and Christenings, 1650-1995
- Maryland, Marriages, 1666-1970
- Maryland, Deaths and Burials, 1877-1992
- Maryland Birth, Marriage, and Death Records - free up-to-date guide to accessing Maryland birth, marriage, and death records (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Includes links to FamilySearch vital record databases.