The eight hundred and thirteenth volume of the Archives of Maryland Online
was originally created between 1840-1863. The Archives of Maryland edition was published in
2009 by the Maryland State Archives.
In 1805 the General Assembly passed a law to identify free African Americans and to control the
availability of freedom papers. As the lawmakers explained: "great mischiefs have arisen from
slaves coming into possession of certificates of free Negroes, by running away and passing as free
under the faith of such certificates" (1805 Laws of Maryland Chapter 66). The law required African
Americans who were born free to record proof of their freedom in the county court. The court
would then issue them a certificate of freedom. If the black person had been manumitted, the court
clerk or register of wills would look up the manumitting document before issuing a certificate of
A typical certificate not only indicates how the black became free, but also lists physical
characteristics that could be used to establish identity. These include height, eye color,
complexion, and hair color and texture.
Editors note: Erroneous page numbering gives the appearance of missing pages, however, the
volume seems complete. The index though does not contain all of the names found in the volume.
HOWARD DISTRICT COURT (Certificates of Freedom)
HOWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Certificates of Freedom)