Background of Maryland Vital Records
Burials, births, and marriages were required by law to be recorded in Maryland as of 1640. Three days prior to a marriage, banns had to be posted. However, most of those records are no longer extant. The Maryland State Archives is home to an index of those that have survived. All resident births, deaths, and marriages were required to be recorded by the Anglican Church when it became the colony’s official church, which was in 1692. However, African Americans were not included in those recordings. Pre-revolution parish registers exist for each county that was created before 1770. Several of those records do include listings of African American people.
Starting in 1865, county circuit court clerks were supposed to record deaths and births. However, not all counties complied with that rule. In 1875, Baltimore began recording deaths and births. Maryland’s counties didn’t all uniformly record them until 1898. In 1972, cities and counties stopped recording deaths and births. Instead, a state recording system was put into place. The Maryland State Archives has a microfilmed collection of birth index that covers Baltimore City from 1875 to 1978 and the state of Maryland for 1898 to 1998. Death records for the state from 1898 to 1987 with indexes for the years of 1898 to 1968 can also be found there. The Maryland State Archives is also home to death records for the City of Baltimore from1875 to 1987 with indexes available for 1875 through 1971. There are restrictions on accessing the records themselves, but the indexes are available to the public. The restriction for death records is 20 years. For birth records, the restriction is 100 years. Deaths through 1987 and births through 1924 can be certified by the state archives. The state archives also holds records for county civil marriages that span the years of 1914 to 1950. However, indexes are only available through 1930.
The Division of Vital Records holds the following collections of records: Maryland Births from April 1898 with City of Baltimore Births from January 1875, Maryland Deaths Occurring Less Than Twenty Years Ago, Maryland Marriages from June 1951 are Also Available from the Division of Vital Records
The Maryland State Archives records are much easier to access than the records found at the Division of Vital Records, which have certain restrictions attached to them. The Maryland State Archives may have early marriage records from the 1770s through 1919 on file. However, some of those records may still be held in the circuit court clerk’s office in the county where the license originated. There are also microfilmed indexes of many of those records available at the archives, including an index of marriages for the city and county of Baltimore from 1777 to 1851, as well as indexes from 1650 to 1695 and 1777 to 1886 for the following counties: Anne Arundel, Caroline, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Prince George’s, Somerset
Some Pre-statehood records also exist for certain counties. Indexes of some of them are held on microfilm at the Maryland State Archives. Available indexes include the following: Kent, Somerset, Charles, and Talbot from the 1600s, Anne Arundel County Births (1804 to 1877) and Deaths (1865 to 1880), Calvert County Births (1898 to 1923) and Deaths (1898 to 1916), Kent Births from 1865 to 1873, Annapolis Deaths from 1898 to 1916
Marriages that were implied based on probate, land, and court records from 1674 to 1851 have also been indexed. That index is available at the Maryland State Archives, along with indexes of church, Bible, and cemetery records, which can substitute for missing vital records, in some cases. Newman’s Maryland Revolutionary Records lists marriage information found in pension files from the Revolutionary War.
No divorces were granted prior to the Revolutionary War. However, there were a few separations. From the end of the Revolutionary War to 1842, the state legislature was responsible for granting divorces. Information about those divorces can be found in Mary Keysor Meyer, Divorces and Names Changed in Maryland by Act of the Legislature, 1634–1854 (1970; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1972). Circuit court clerk offices hold records from later divorces. However, some copies of those records are available at the Maryland State Archives, along with records of adoptions granted before June 1, 1947.
- Maryland Marriages (1634–1820), 3 vols (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1975–93) – gathered from church and estate as well as public records.
- Maryland Eastern Shore Vital Records and Supplement, 6 vols. (Silver Spring and Westminster: Family Line Publications, 1982– 2001) – covers births, marriages, and deaths (1648–1825) from church and court records.