Maryland Church Records

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Maryland Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
Maryland Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Although Maryland was established as a refuge for Roman Catholics from England (under the Act of Toleration, 1649 to 1654), most early settlers were Protestant. Members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) were in the Chesapeake Bay area as early as 1657. The Anglican/Episcopal Church was established as the official church in 1692 and continued as such until 1776.

The 1759 Maryland land tax return reveals the proportions of land, county-by-county, owned by Catholics in contrast to land owned by Protestants. The highest percentages of Catholic landholdings were in Charles, Prince George's, and St. Mary's counties. The lowest percentages of Catholic landholdings were in Calvert, Cecil, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester counties. Most land in those counties was owned by Protestants.[1]

During the 19th century, Methodism was the dominant Protestant religion in Maryland. Other large groups in Maryland were the Roman Catholic, Protestant Episcopal/Anglican, and Presbyterian churches.[2]

Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]

To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:

Finding the Records[edit | edit source]

Look for online records.[edit | edit source],, and can be searched free of charge at your local family history center or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Caution sign.png

Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:

  1. Near matches: Researchers might mistakenly accept an entry very similar to their ancestor, thinking it is the only one available. Only use information that matches your ancestor in date, place, relationships, and other details.
  2. Stopping research: Researchers might assume the database proves church records do not exist. Actually the record is still out there, just not in this incomplete collection of records. Keep searching!

FamilySearch Historical Records Indexes[edit | edit source] Indexes[edit | edit source]

Catholic[edit | edit source]

Findmypast[edit | edit source]

Catholic Heritage Archive

Dutch Reformed[edit | edit source]

Episcopal[edit | edit source]

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

Presbyterian[edit | edit source]

Quaker (Society of Friends)[edit | edit source]

Look for digital copies of church records in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]

Family History Library
Salt Lake City, Utah
  • The Family History Library (FHL) has a substantial collection of original church records and transcripts on microfilm for churches in the United States.
  • Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the state, county, or town.
  • If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
  • Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
  • To find records:
a. Click on the records of United States, Maryland.
b. Click on Places within United States, Maryland and a list of counties will appear.
c. Click on your county if it appears.
d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Click on Places within United States, Maryland [COUNTY] and a list of towns will appear.
f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.

Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]

These aids generally provide lists of records that are known to exist and information on their location.

  • Kanley, Edna A., comp. Directory of Maryland Church Records. One volume in two parts. Silver Spring, Md.: Family Line Publications, 1987. FHL Book 975.2 K24k. This book gives the names and addresses of about 2,600 Maryland churches and often mentions the years that the church operated, the years that records exist, and the location of the original records or copies. WorldCat
  • Maryland church records by county

To learn about the ministers and priests who served in Maryland, see:

  • Kanely, Edna Agatha. Directory of Ministers and the Maryland Churches They Served, 1634-1990, 2 vols. Westminster, Md.: Family Line Publications, 1991. FHL Book 975.2 K2k. This book lists several thousand ministers and priests, giving birth and death dates, denomination served, and location and dates served. The source of the information is also given. WorldCat

Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]

Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.

  • Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
  • To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
  • Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
  • A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
  • If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
  • See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
  • Each denomination page offers an online address directory of local churches for that denomination.

Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.

Here you will find archive information unique to the state. Many more archives are kept by denomination. For denominational archives, go to Searching for Church Records by Denomination.

Maryland Historical Society[edit | edit source]

The Maryland Historical Society has about 200 indexed transcripts of church records and some original records for various denominations. The Society is the repository for the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and has about 70,000 items from 1676 to 1900. The Society also has the Norris Harris Church Register File. This is a card index to many of the births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and other information in the church registers of the collection.

Maryland Historical Society
Research Services/Library
201 West Monument Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-4674
Phone: 410-685-3750
Fax: 410-385-2105

Maryland State Archives[edit | edit source]

Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401

Start with the online guide Guide to Maryland Religious Institutions: Featuring the Collections of the Maryland State Archives. Many original records they hold have been digitized and are viewable on their website.

Protestant Episcopal. An almost complete set of older parish records from the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Washington (southern and western shore) and from the Diocese of Easton (eastern shore). The archives has some original records from the Diocese of Maryland and microfilm copies of parish records for most of Maryland.

Roman Catholic. A large number of microfilmed records from the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. Click here to see a list of the parishes that had their registers microfilmed.[3]

Friends (Quaker). Microfilm copies of the older records of nearly all Friends monthly meetings and some of the original records. This includes the records of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting in Homewood; Philadelphia Yearly Meetings of the Eastern Shore; and meetings under the now defunct Virginia Yearly Meeting. These are described and listed in:

  • Jacobsen, Phebe R. Quaker Records in Maryland. Annapolis, Md.: Hall of Records Commission, 1966. FHL Collection 975.2 B4ma no. 14 Page 9 contains a map showing the general location of some Maryland monthly meetings.

Other Protestants. The Baltimore and Peninsula Conferences of the United Methodist Church, and records from some Baptist, Lutheran, Evangelical, and Presbyterian churches. Many of these records are indexed.

Some denominations have collected their records into denominational repositories, others have not. The following addresses may be helpful in locating church records.

Church of England (Anglican, Protestant Episcopal)[edit | edit source]

Episcopal Diocese of Maryland Archives
4 East University Parkway
Baltimore, MD 21218
Telephone: 410-467-1399

Some Protestant Episcopal records are described in:

If your ancestor was a minister in Colonial Maryland, see:

  • Frederick Lewis Weis's The Colonial Clergy of Maryland, Delaware, and Georgia, is an alphabetical listing of the clergy in Delaware from 1638-1776, and includes names, dates, and places. A copy of the book is located in the FHL Collection. For a copy nearest you, check WorldCat.

For a history of the Anglican church and background information on the original thirty Anglican parishes, see:

  • Middleton, Canon Arthur Pierce. Anglican Maryland, 1692-1792. Virginia Beach, Va.: The Donning Company/Publishers, 1992. FHL Book 975.2 K2mi.

Lutheran[edit | edit source]

  • Archives hold records for closed churches. For open churches write directly to the local church.

For Western Maryland:

Tri-Synod Archives
Thiel College
75 College Avenue
Greenville, PA 16125
Phone: (724) 589-2131

For Delaware-Maryland:

A.R. Wentz Library
United Lutheran Seminary
61 Seminary Ridge
Gettysburg, PA 17325-1795

Phone: (717) 339-1313

Methodist[edit | edit source]

United Methodist Historical Society of the Balitimore-Washington Conference
Lovely Lane Museum Library
2200 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21218-5897
Telephone: 410-889-4458
Fax: 410-889-1501

  • Only has records of local churches and charges which have been discontinued. Note that records churches which have merged into continuing local churches are kept by the continuing local church.

Roman Catholic[edit | edit source]

From 1718 to 1776 Catholics and Quakers were disenfranchised, and few of their pre-Revolutionary records exist. Surviving records of Jesuit Fathers are deposited at the Archives of the Georgetown University Library. University Archivist, Lynn Conway, assists with this collection. Contact:  

Sacramental Records[edit | edit source]

Sacramental records include:

  • Baptism: dates of birth and baptism; name of child; names of parents, sponsors (godparents), and the name of priest.
  • Marriage: date of marriage; name of persons being married and where they are from; parents names; witnesses; and name of officiating priest.
  • First Communion and Confirmation: date of first communion or confirmation; name of child and officiating cleric.

Sacramental records in the Archdiocese of Baltimore are not public records. Records that are 70 years old or less are sealed to the public. No restrictions apply to records of First Communion, Confrimation, Marriage, Death, Interment or Burial.

Archdiocese of Washington, DC[edit | edit source]
Diocese of Wilmington[edit | edit source]

Diocese of Wilmington Archives
P.O. Box 2030
Greenville, DE 19899
Telephone: (302) 655-0597

The Diocese of Wilmington was established in March of 1868. Maryland’s Eastern Shore counties of Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne's, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico, and Worcester are in the Archdiocese of Wilmington, Delaware.[4]

Archdiocese of Baltimore[edit | edit source]
Baltimore Basilica

The sacramental registers microfilmed by the archdiocese are available for researchers to work with only at the Associated Archives at St. Mary's Seminary and University. The Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary and University house the archived records for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as, St. Mary's Seminary and University, and the Associated Sulpicians of the United States.;Efforts to microfilm the sacramental registers of the parishes that comprise the Archdiocese of Baltimore have been undertaken twice in the past fifty-five years. The first attempt was made in 1954 at the request of the Archbishop Francis P. Keough. The Maryland State Archives made a second attempt beginning in 1977. A majority of the parishes participated in the first microfilming project. Less than half participated in the second. Microfilm copies of the registers microfilmed by the Maryland State Archives are available for researchers to work with at the Maryland State Archives, the Maryland Historical Society, and the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary and University.

  • Click here to see a list of the parishes that had their registers microfilmed.[3]
  • For records not microfilmed, contact the local parish.
  • A number of parishes have closed. Click here for a listing of those parishes and where the records have been moved to.

Archives of Archdiocese of Baltimore Archives
5400 Roland Avenue
Baltimore, MD 22120
Telephone: 410-864-4074
Fax: 410-864-3690

  • Genealogy
  • The Maryland Historical Society has the microfilm for the following parishes in its holdings: Baltimore City – Basilica of the Assumption, St. Peter’s Pro-Cathedral, Holy Cross, Immaculate Conception, Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Alphonsus, St. Ann, St. Francis Xavier, St. James the Less, St. John German, St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary Star of the Sea, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Patrick, St. Peter the Apostle, St. Stanislaus; Outside Baltimore City – Mt. St. Mary’s/St. Mary’s of the Mountain, Emmitsburg, St. Augustine, Elkridge, St. Ignatius, Hickory, St. John the Evangelist, Frederick, St. John the Evangelist, Hydes/Long Green, St. Mary of the Mills, Laurel, St. Michael, Frostburg, St. Mary of the Annunciation, Lonaconing.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore, established November 6, 1789, originally encompassed all of the thirteen colonies. It currently comprises Baltimore City and the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, and Washington.[4]

Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]

Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:

Next, go to the Wiki article for your ancestors' denomination.[edit | edit source]

There are frequently additional, nationwide or regional archives and online collections for each denomination. Find the article for your ancestors' denomination and follow the instructions there to access these sources.

Wiki Articles for Records of Major Religious Denominations

Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]

You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:

  • name, including middle name and maiden name
  • names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
  • exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
  • names and approximate birthdates of children
  • all known places of residence
  • occupations
  • military service details

Dark thin font green pin Version 4.pngCarefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.

References[edit | edit source]