Maryland State Archives
(Probate Records, Colonial, Index)
Index 1, MSA S1393

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     The indexes to probate records are divided into two categories, Prerogative Court records and County records. Two sets of probate records were maintained during the period preceding the implementation of the first Maryland State Constitution in 1777. Until then, probate business was conducted at the capital by the central agency which, for most of the Colonial period, was known as the Prerogative Court.

The presiding officer of the Court was the Commissary General. A Deputy Commissary was appointed for each county. When any probate record was brought into the office of a Deputy Commissary, he recorded the instrument in his own county books. Periodically he would send the papers filed in his office to the Prerogative Court where the instruments were again recorded.

The records of Anne Arundel County were not kept separate from the records of the Prerogative Court. Therefore, the records of the Prerogative Court (excepting Anne Arundel County probate records and the Proceedings of the Prerogative Court) were duplicated by the records of the Deputy Commissaries in the counties. Instruments may sometimes be found in one set of records which do not appear in the other. These omissions were caused by accident, custodial neglect, or other causes.

The Prerogative Court was abolished in 1777. Since that time probate matters have been handled at the county level by the Register of Wills and Orphans' Court. No central probate recording office has functioned since the adoption of the first State Constitution.

Prerogative Court Probate Records exist for the sixteen counties formed prior to 1777 in Maryland: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Cecil, Charles, Dorchester, Frederick, Harford, Kent, Prince George's, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's, Somerset, Talbot, and Worcester. The other seven counties and Baltimore City were formed later from one or more of the above-listed counties. Probate Records from these latter jurisdictions are to be found in the records from that jurisdiction.

The names indexed are those of decedents, except for Accounts, where there are listings for the executors and administrators (designated by an asterisk).

There are volume indexes to all of these records kept in the stacks which may be consulted if a name does not appear in the card index, and most individual volumes also have indexes within them.

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Maryland State Archives