Maryland History

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Brief History

The following important events in the history of Maryland affected political jurisdictions, record keeping, and family movements.

1632 The King of England granted a charter for a colony where British Roman Catholics could settle in North America between Virginia and what would become Pennsylvania.[1] The charter was granted to Cecilius Calvert, (Lord Baltimore).

1632-1691, and 1715-1776 Maryland was a proprietary colony. The Calvert family proprietors (and Governor's Council) issued land grants to entice settlers to the colony before 1680. Starting in 1680 they changed to a headrights system. For more details see the Maryland Land and Property page.

1634: The ships Ark and Dove brought about 200 Catholic and a few Protestant English settlers to the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, where St. Mary's County was established.[2]

1634-: Virginia leaders refused to recognize the Maryland charter and continued to sell-off Maryland land on the Delmarva Peninsula. This resulted in decades of border conflicts and uncertain land and tax claims, and attempts by Virginians to incite Indians against Maryland.

1649 Maryland passed the Religious Toleration Act to protect Catholics and immigrating Puritans from each other and create an environment to attract more immigrants.[3] Eight years of religious wars followed anyway.

Maryland was also one of the key destinations of tens of thousands of transported British convicts.[4] Prior to 1776 three-fourths of immigrants were convicts, slaves, indentured servants, or became indentured servants to pay for their passage to America. For information about convicts and indentured servants see the works of Peter Wilson Coldham indexed in, a subscription web site.
Maryland's disputed border with Pennsylvania 1682-1767.

1682 Pennsylvania began to assert ownership of what became Delaware and northern parts of Maryland. The Maryland citizens resisted including the murder of a pushy Pennsylvania tax collector. These border conflicts would not be fully resolved until the drawing of the Mason-Dixon line between 1763 and 1767.

1691-1715 Maryland becomes a Crown colony.

1706: Baltimore port was founded. It soon became a major port and commercial center.

1740s Germans from Pennsylvania started moving into central Maryland's Frederick County until it was the second most populous county.

1763-1767: The Maryland-Pennsylvania boundary was established by the surveying of the Mason-Dixon Line.

1776: Maryland adopted a Declaration of Rights and a state constitution.

1788 ( April 28) Maryland officially became a state in the Union by ratifying the Constitution.

1791: Maryland ceded sixty square miles for the District of Columbia.

1802: The property qualification for voting in local elections was removed.

As tobacco and later cotton farming grew in the South (including Maryland) so did the African slave trade. After 1808, when importation of slaves was banned, the internal slave trade resulted in many slaves from Maryland being moved to more western states like Tennessee and Kentucky. At the start of the Civil War the slave trade was the second largest money making enterprise in Maryland.

1812-1815: The War of 1812 involved many Maryland residents, and some battles were fought in Maryland.

1818: The National Road section was completed from Cumberland, Maryland to Wheeling, (West) Virginia on the Ohio River.

1818-1850: Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal was built along the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland mainly by Irish workers.

1834-1853: Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), the oldest common carrier railroad in America, in 1834 reached Harper's Ferry, (West) Virginia. In 1853 it was extended to Wheeling (West) Virginia on the Ohio River.

1850s: Miners from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, and Wales immigrated to work western Maryland's coal deposits. The Nativist "Know Nothing" Party was formed to resist this wave of immigration.

1850s: Former slaves like Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglas escaped from and through Maryland across the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania or Delaware. Quakers and others who lived in these states helped runaways on the "Underground Railroad," a series of safe-houses leading farther north into Canada. The Underground Railroad helped runaways avoid being re-enslaved as a result of fugitive slave laws.
The bloodiest 24 hours in Western Hemisphere history were fought in the Civil War, 17 Sep 1862, at Antietam Creek, Maryland.

By the start of the Civil War 49 percent of African Americans in Maryland were already free.

1851: Baltimore City became an independent city and started keeping court, land, and probate records separately from the county.

1861-1865 Maryland soldiers fought on both sides during the Civil War, but the state of Maryland stayed in the Union.

1864: Remaining slaves in Maryland were emancipated.

1865-1875: African Americans, often former slaves from the South, flooded into the District of Columbia and Baltimore looking for work at the end of the Civil War.

1904: Great Baltimore Fire left 35,000 without jobs.

State Histories Useful to Genealogists

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful.

But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the lauditory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. Some examples for the State of Maryland are:

Chapelle, Suzanne Ellery Greene, ed. Maryland, A History of Its People. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986. (Family History Library book 975.2 H2mj)

Scharf, John Thomas. History of Maryland . . . Three Volumes. 1879. Reprint, Hatboro, Pennsylvania: Tradition Press, 1967. (Family History Library book 975.2 H2sj). Volumes one and two have been indexed (Family History Library book 975.2 H2s index). The index covers the years 1600 to 1812.

Walsh, Richard, and William Lloyd Fox, eds. Maryland: A History, 1632-1974. Reprint, 1974. Baltimore, Maryland: Maryland Historical Society, 1974. (Family History Library book 975.2 H2wr)

  • History of Maryland from its First Settlement in 1633 to the Restoration in 1660: with a copious introduction and notes and illustrations; John Leeds Bozman, pub. 1837, Baltimore. This work is available at Google Books.
  • A Sketch of the History of Maryland; John L. Bozman, pub. 1811, Baltimore
  • History of Maryland; J. Thomas Scharf, pub. 1879, Hatboro, Pennsylvania
  • History of Maryland; James McSherry, pub. 1849, Baltimore
  • Maryland: A History 1632-1974; Richard Walsh and William Lloyd Fox, (editors), pub. 1974, Baltimore
  • History of the Maryland Synod; Rev. Prof. Abdel Ross, WEntz, Ph.D., pub. 1920, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists histories under:





  1. James McSherry, History of Maryland from Its First Settlement in 1634 to the Year 1848 (Balitmore: John Murphy, 1849), 22-25. Digitized in 2006 by Google Book at (accessed 12 February 2009).
  2. McSherry, 25-33.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Maryland Toleration Act," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 17, 2009).
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Maryland—History," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed February 17, 2009).