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Records of Births and Deaths Before Statewide Registration
A few counties recorded births and deaths before 1720 in the county land records of Maryland. The information has been indexed and is available at the Maryland State Archives. The Family History Library has film copies of the county land records.
From 1865 to 1899 some county clerks and the Secretary of the Senate maintained birth and death records. These records are incomplete, and the exact dates of the records vary from county to county. These records are available at the Maryland State Archives. You can see one of two sources for lists of birth and death records kept during these years:
Meyer, Mary Keysor. Genealogical Research in Maryland: A Guide. Baltimore, Malryland: Maryland Historical Society, 1992. (Family History Library book 975.2 D27m 1992.) Pages 16 to 17 have a list of birth and death records.
Radoff, Morris Leon. The County Courthouses and Records of Maryland: Part Two: The Records. Annapolis, Maryland: Hall of Records Commission, 1963. (Family History Library book 975.2 B4ma no. 13; fiche 6054101 parts 4-6 and fiche 6054105).
An important source of death information taken from court books from 1718 to 1777 is:
Bell, Annie Walker Burns. Maryland Record of Deaths. Annapolis, Maryland: A. Bell, 1936. (Family History Library film 924445 item 2).
Statewide Registration of Births and Deaths
The counties started recording births and deaths in 1898. Baltimore City, Maryland began recording births and deaths in 1875. These records and accompanying indexes are at the Division of Vital Records or Maryland State Archives.
Birth records over 100 years old are available through the Maryland State Archives. Birth records from 1925 to the present are available through the Department of Mental Health & Hygiene. Contact them at www.dhmh.state.md.us/lifeevents/birth&deathcert.htm
Birth records within the last 100 years may be obtained only by the individual named on the certificate or a parent, legal guardian, or authorized representative. Authorized representatives must submit a court order or a notarized statement signed by either parent or the person named on the certificate.
Records of deaths within the last 20 years are restricted to surviving relatives or authorized representatives.
The Maryland State Archives has microfilm copies of the records and most of the indexes. For genealogical purposes, you can obtain the information in the restricted records from the Archives. The Family History Library does not have copies of these records.
Official (certified) copies of all birth and death records since 1968 (since 1875 for Baltimore City) can be requested. Contact the National Archives at msa.md/gov/mas/refserv/html/vitalrec.html for current fees.
Division of Vital Records
P.O. Box 68760
6550 Reistertown Road
Reistertown Road Plaza
Baltimore, MD 21215-0020
Telephone: 800-832-3277 or 410-764-3038
For a fee the State of Maryland Archives will provide:
- Copies of death records through 1991 (through 1994 for Baltimore City, Maryland). The archives will certify county death records if requested.
- Extracts (unofficial transcripts) of restricted birth and death records for genealogical purposes. The card index to births gives the birth date of the child and his race, sex, and names of parents.
- Copies of restricted death records for surviving relatives of the deceased.
- Copies of restricted birth records if you provide evidence that the person named in the birth record is dead.
The Maryland State Archives provides four online death indexes for its selected death records at: mdvitalrec.net/cfm/dsp_search.cfm
Beginning in 1640 the Maryland General Assembly required the clergy to post marriage banns and keep registers of marriages. Since 1777, county clerks have been required to issue marriage licenses and, since 1865, to keep ministers' returns.
For copies of marriage records from 1777 through 1950, write to the Maryland State Archives. There are no restrictions on who may obtain copies of the records. The Maryland State Archives has the following indexes, which are open to the public:
- Card indexes of marriages from 1650 to 1695 and from 1777 to 1886.
- A series of card indexes to Baltimore City, Maryland marriage records for 1777 to 1851.
- A statewide soundex index to the records of 1914 to 1930. (There is no statewide index of marriage records from 1941 to 1951.)
The Family History Library has microfilm copies from the Maryland State Archives of the early marriage records to the 1850s but does not have microfilm copies of the indexes.
You can also write to the county clerk or the Baltimore City, Maryland clerk for marriage records. The records from 1777 to the present are open to the public without restrictions. However, these offices do not have the statewide indexes that are available at the Maryland State Archives. They often have only microfilm copies of the early records. Or you can contact the Division of Vital Records for marriage records after 1950. Visit the Maryland Archives’ website at www.msa.md.gov for a complete listing of marriage indexes available for various jurisdictions from 1640 to the present.
Examples of some available published sources of Maryland marriage records are:
Barnes, Robert William. Maryland Marriages. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1975, 1978, 1993. (Family History Library book 975.2 K2bar covers 1634-1777, Family History Library book 975.2 K2ba covers 1778-1800 and Family History Library book 975.2 K2baa covers 1801-1820.) These volumes contain marriages 1634 to 1777 and marriages 1778 to 1800.
Bell, Annie Walker Burns. Maryland Marriage Records. 23 Volumes N.p., 1938-9. (Family History Library book 975.2 V25b; films 873768-75; fiche 6046950.) These volumes give marriage information found in pre-1800 wills, deeds, and court records.
Marriage Records: Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, 1624-1915. Orem, Utah: Automated Archives, 1998. (Family History Library CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 4; does not circulate to Family History Centers.) This source indexes marriage records from 1624 to 1915 and lists spouse and marriage date and place.
Marriage Index: Maryland, 1655-1850. [Novato, California]: Brøderbund Software, 1996. (Family History Library CD-ROM no. 9 pt. 224.) Does not circulate to Family History Centers. Index to about 250,000 original marriage records. Shows spouse and marriage date and place.
Summary of online searchable Maryland Marriages contains a list of online marriage databases that can be searched.
The Maryland legislature had jurisdiction over divorce proceedings until prohibited by the Maryland Constitution of 1851. An 1842 law gave divorce authority to the chancery court and the county courts. During the colonial years in Maryland divorce was not commonly granted. Some early divorce records have been published in:
Meyer, Mary K. Divorces and Names Changed in Maryland: By Act of the Legislature, 1634-1867. Mt. Airy, Maryland: Pipe Creek Publications, Inc. 1991. (Family History Library book 975.2 V28m (1634-1854) and Family History Library book 975.2 V2ma (1684-1867)).
Since 1853, divorce records have been kept by the clerk of the circuit court in the county where the divorce was granted. Baltimore records are kept by the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Baltimore City. Many records from Baltimore City and metropolitan counties have been transferred to the Maryland State Archives.
Since 1991, divorce records have been sent to the Division of Vital Records.
To find birth, marriage, death, and divorce records in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog, search:
MARYLAND - VITAL RECORDS
MARYLAND, [COUNTY] - VITAL RECORDS
MARYLAND, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - VITAL RECORDS