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Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland
Volume 415, Page 34   View pdf image (33K)
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the Land Office causing a great stir again. 52 So, although rent rolls
and debt books came more and more to be classified among the
Proprietor's revenue records— in 1760 the Proprietor wrote that he
"thinks it proper that the Rent Roll Keepers place should belong to
the Office of the Receivers General"53—the connection between the
revenue system and operations of the Land Office was nevertheless
so close as to make it almost impossible to separate the two com-
pletely from each other. Thus it seems that while it is safe to call
rent rolls and debt books private in contrast to patents and war-
rants it is not permissible to exclude them as non-Land Office

The rent rolls and debt books are the books in which the Lord
Proprietor kept track of the rents due him. Each piece of land
granted to a person was subject to a yearly rent according to the
terms in the patent. The original owner might die and his son
inherit; in such a case the son then paid the rent. If a man sold
his land the new owner was then to pay the rent. In any case the
Lord Proprietor was to continue receiving his annual rent on every
tract of land granted. A rent roll consists of entries of each tract
of land patented plus the name of the person for whom it was
originally surveyed, the present owner and the acreage and rent.
Alienations, or subsequent sales and leases of the piece of land, are
also included A debt book consists of a list of persons owning
land with the names and rents of each tract he owns all listed in one
place under his name. In other words debt-book entries are by
the name of the. owner whereas rent-roll entries are by the name of
tracts of land. They plainly represent a more efficient method of
collecting rents—a corollary and later refinement of rent rolls.
Since debt books do not appear until a hundred years after the
rent rolls and are more or less just a modification of them, this series
will necessarily receive subordinate treatment. Rent rolls and debt
books as we have them are always made out by counties but it is to be
assumed that in the very earliest days a common rent roll was
kept for all tracts of land.

The first rent roll of the series dates from the year 1659 but, as
has just been suggested, there were probably earlier ones in one
form or another. Keeping wills, patents and court proceedings all
in the same volume was all very well, but to depend on such a

52 Lower House Journal, November 22, 1771; Mereness, pp. 71-75.
53 Arch. Md., IX, 404.


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Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland
Volume 415, Page 34   View pdf image (33K)
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