Maryland Minorities

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It is important to learn the ethnic origin and racial history of your ancestors.  The historical background can help you identify where your ancesstors lived and when they lived there, where they migrated, and types of records they might be listed in. Often neighborhoods published their own newspapers, had thier own cemeteries, businesses and churches.

Search for members of minority groups in the same records you would search for anyone else.  Then search for additional records of a particular minority. Families often chose to lived in neighborhoods where others of their ethnic and racial origins lived.  

Baltimore Maryland is a major port, with passenger list for the years 1820-1921;

Maryland has had a diverse ethnically since it's founding. 

Some of the ethnic groups in Maryland include: American Indians, African American, Asian, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Germans, Hispanic, Irish, Italians, Japanese, Jewish, Latin Americans, Lithuanians, Pacific Islanders, Polish, Scandinavians, Scottish,  Ukranians, Hispanic and Welsh

American Indians


Post Civil War (1870-Present)

After the Civil War, African-Americans appear in the other types of records described in this outline. Use those records first. In addition, there may be other records in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under MINORITIES. A Subject or Keyword Search may also be helpful under: AFRICAN-AMERICAN. The sources listed below may also help you find records of African-American ancestors.

Marriage Records.

Some of the African-American marriage records from about 1864 to 1875 are listed as cohabitation certificates or acknowledgments of cohabitation. They were sometimes filed with other marriage records. They were sometimes kept separately. Look for these records in the Place Search of the catalog under VITAL RECORDS, PUBLIC RECORDS, or SLAVERY AND BONDAGE.

Freedman's Savings and Trust Company.

To help former slaves manage their money, several men created the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company. This financial institution functioned between 1865 and 1874. Within each city the records are organized by account number.

Freedman's Savings and Trust Company (Washington, D.C.).

Registers of Signatures of Depositors in Branches of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, 1865-1874. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1969. (Baltimore, Maryland records on Family History Library film 928583 and Washington, D.C. records on films 928574-75.) These records may provide the name of the former master, the name of the plantation, birth date, birthplace, occupation, address or city where the person was living, and the names of parents, children, spouses, and siblings. If the depositor served with the U.S. colored troops, the company he served with may also be listed.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands.

This agency of the federal government was created March 3, 1865, to help former slaves in the transition from slave life to freedom. It functioned until the end of 1871. These records may provide names, relationships, places where the person lived, occupations, and other information. The Bureau has two types of records: commissioner records and field office records. The field office records are the most useful, but they have never been microfilmed. You must go to the National Archives to use them. The Family History Library has many commissioner records. However, these records are difficult to use.

For a good explanation of these records, see pages 68-91 of:

Byers, Paula K. The African American Genealogical Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Inc., 1995. (Family History Library Book 973 F27afg.)

The Subject Search of the Family History Library Catalog lists some Bureau records under FREEDMEN. In the Place Search, look for Bureau records under:




Bureau records may also be listed in the Place Search for a specific county or town in Maryland under: MINORITIES, PUBLIC RECORDS, and VITAL RECORDS. Some Bureau records for Maryland are found under the District of Columbia.

Pre-Civil War

Records of "Free People of Color". Ten percent of all the African-Americans living in the South were free. To research records of free African-Americans during this period, use the other record types described in this outline. Also look for additional sources that name "free people of color."

Records of Slaves. The first step in researching slave records is to find the slave owner and his family. Historical research shows that 85% of the former slaves did not take their former master’s surname. This means you probably will not find the slave owner from your ancestor's surname. Other difficulties may also limit the success of finding the name of the slave owner.

To do research, follow the lives of the slave owner’s family as a guide to places and events that affected the slave. Because a slave was not regarded as a person but as property of the slave owner, look for slaves in records that list property. The slaves are listed under the name of the slave owner. The slave owner's tax records may name each slave and give his or her monetary value. The slave owner's church records may list the names of his slaves. The slave owner's will and estate records may indicate how his property and slaves were distributed at his death. Some slave owners freed their slaves in their will. Also check to see if the slave owner ever freed his slaves by manumission or gave them a certificate of freedom.

Many state and local laws governed slaves and slavery. Check city, county, and state court indexes because court records mention slaves by name. For a better understanding of Maryland slavery laws, see:

Finkelman, Paul. State Slavery Statutes: Guide to the Microfiche Collection. Frederick, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1989. (Family History Library book 975 F23s.) Pages 168–207 pertain to Maryland and cover the years 1789–1865.

Plantation Records. Use the sources described above before trying to use plantation records. While plantation records are a valuable source for slave research, there are many road blocks to a successful search. Many slaves never lived on a plantation. Determining which plantation a slave lived on is often difficult or impossible. Many plantation records no longer exist. Many slave owners owned more than one plantation. Some plantation records carefully identified each slave by name, while others did not. Without a central repository for plantation records, finding the records you need can be a difficult task.

Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War. To make plantation records more accessible for research, University Publications of America has begun a major microfilming project. This company has been microfilming plantation records from repositories around the country. Kenneth M. Stampp has produced special guides for each series of films. These records are sometimes called the Stampp Collection. The guides provide valuable information about the records.

Records for a Maryland plantation may not be in a Maryland repository. Someone living many states away may have donated the records to a repository elsewhere. To determine if the plantation records you need are a part of this project, you must carefully study the guide for each series of films. To find these guides, look in the Author Search of the microfiche version of the catalog under Stampp, Kenneth M. Currently, the Family History Library has series "A" through "N." Series "I" is a special set of slave records of Ante-Bellum Southern Industries. These records include slaves who were owned by major companies instead of a slave owner. To find the guide for the plantation records available at the Maryland Historical Society, see:

Stampp, Kenneth M., ed. A Guide to Records of Ante- Bellum Southern Plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War: Series D, Selections from the Maryland Historical Society. Frederick, Maryland: University Publications of America, 1985–. (Family History Library book 975 H2sm ser. D) The Family History Library has microfilms of the records described in the guide (on 14 Family History Library films beginning with film 1534260).

Asian                        Czeck                    Dutch           English        French

German                    Hispanice              Irish             Italian          Jewish             

Latin American       Pacific Islanders                        Polish          Scandinavians

Scotish                     Welsh

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