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Locate recent court cases online
Clickable Circuit Courthouse Map
One of the best ways to locate records on ancestors is to contact individual courthouses specific to the area where your ancestor lived. Circuit courts often contained divorce records, guardianship records, and other civil and community dispute cases. Contact the court clerk to learn about the records avaiable for specific counties and courthouses. Locate various circuit courthouses using the Circuit Court Map.
Clickable District Courthouse Map
Locate district courts using the District Court Map. Most courts include a toll-free number. Contact the court clerk to learn more about the records available for the specific District Court
Maryland Court Record Time Periods
Major Maryland courts that have kept records of genealogical value include the following:
1637-1805: The Provincial Court (later General Court) was a statewide court that ruled on capital crimes, land disputes, and other civil matters.
1637-1851: County courts were county-wide courts that had jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases. County courts were replaced by circuit courts.
1668-1851: The Chancery Court was a statewide court with jurisdiction over equity cases, such as divorces, name changes, mortgage foreclosures, civil damage suits, and guardianships.
1776-present: The Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state with jurisdiction over criminal, civil, and probate appeals.
1800s-present: District courts, known by several different titles prior to 1971, have jurisdiction over lesser criminal and civil cases. There are 12 judicial districts.
1851-present: Circuit courts have county-wide jurisdiction over major civil and criminal cases and appellate jurisdiction over district courts. These courts replaced the county courts.
Court Records available through the Maryland State Archives
The Maryland State Archives has all the original records and indexes of the Provincial, General, and Chancery courts. The state archives also has many of the original records and indexes of the county, circuit, and district courts and the Court of Appeals, often into the twentieth century. Some of the Provincial Court records have been published in the Archives of Maryland (see the "Public Records" section of this outline). The Maryland State Archives also has a collection of miscellaneous court papers for the years 1729 to 1904. The collection contains naturalizations, county court cases, manumissions, mortgages, depositions, bonds, voting, and other records. The Archives also has an index to this collection produced by the Historical Records Survey. See a list of the Court Records holdings available through the Maryland State Archives, and learn how to order these digital records online.
Those original county records on microfilm can be borrowed through interlibrary loan (see Papenfuse's inventory in the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline). Additional resources include:
- The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland (2 vols); Morris L., Radoff, G. Skordas and P. R. Jacoobsen, pub. 1960-1963, Annapolis, Maryland
Maryland Court Records at the Family History Library
The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah has the following records available on microform:
- General Court judgments, 1777 to 1805 (Family History Library films 013038-62).
- Provincial Court judgments, 1679 to 1778 (Family History Library films 012941-68). See the "Public Records" section of this outline for published records, 1637 to 1683.
- Court of Appeals judgments and decrees, 1788 to 1891 (Family History Library films 12999-13037)
- Some county court records.
U.S. district court dockets and U.S. circuit court case files, dockets, and minutes (which include some naturalization proceedings) from 1790 to 1911 are at the National Archives—Mid-Atlantic Region at http://www.archives.gov/midatlantic/. The minutes have been microfilmed and are available at the Family History Library (Family History Library films 940136-42).
Indirect participation in Court Cases: Depositions
Many people were called to testify in court cases and to give a deposition, or testimony of relevant events. The following books contain abstracts of many of these depositions:
- Peden, Henry C., Jr. Maryland Deponents 1634-1799. Two Volumes. Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1991. (Family History Library book 975.2 P28p and P28pa.) This series gives the name of the deponent, age when known, and source where the original record can be found.
- Hooper, Debbie. Abstracts of Chancery Court Records of Maryland, 1669-1792. Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1996. (Family History Library book 975.2 P28h)
The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists more of these records under:
MARYLAND - COURT RECORDS
MARYLAND, [COUNTY] - COURT RECORDS