Frequently Asked Questions
An archivist provides access to original records while preserving them for future generations.
There are many types of archivists. For example, reference archivists work with you to help you find the record you need. Appraisal archivists help determine what records have permanent value to society. Conservators take care of fragile or damaged records, and also slow down deterioration of paper documents. Digital archivists help preserve electronic records, which are the most fragile records of all. Catalogers describe records to make them easier to find and help an archives know what we have even after knowledgeable people retire.
The Maryland State Archives holds a large number of modern court records, such as divorces, name changes, and criminal records, but the dates we hold from each county court vary depending on what each county has transferred to us. Email us in advance to determine if we hold your record. If we do hold the record, then visit our Order Forms website.
Please note that Maryland governor Larry Hogan has now issued a stay-at-home order for all non-essential services and personnel. This means that This means that Archives staff have very limited access to the facilities which house our paper records, and so turn-around time may be increased.
The Maryland State Archives cannot provide any birth certificates after the year 1924, so for birth certificates after that year, please contact the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene:
Division of Vital Records 410-764-3038 / 410-764-3036
Birth certificates are restricted for 100 years. If you need a copy of a birth certificate earlier than 1924 but less than 100 years old, please use the Birth Certificate Mail-in Order Form on our Order Forms website to provide us with proof of death, such as a death certificate or an entry from the Social Security Death Index. If the person is still living, then they will need to request the certificate themselves, or you must provide a Power of Attorney if you are representing them.
The Archives will remain closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Please use the information below to plan for future visits once the Archives reopens.
We provide public access to records, but to make sure that they survive for use by future generations, you cannot bring anything into the Search Room that might be used to conceal a document while leaving. This includes bound pads of paper, folders, and notebooks. Although laptops are allowed, we may ask you to open your laptop upon leaving. Here are some other common items which are not allowed in the Search Room so that we may better protect the documents:
- Ink pens
- Binders, folders, and large bound notebooks
- All bags, including purses, briefcases, laptop cases, backpacks, and tote bags
- Hand-held scanners. We provide a free photo stand as well as paid scanning services.
- Overcoats and raincoats
- Children under age 15 are not permitted in the Search Room without permission from an archivist.
- Food and drink
- Pencils (also provided at the Circulation Desk)
- Loose papers
- Laptops, without case
- Cell phones, silenced
- Video and still cameras, with flash off
- Camera tripods
We do have some topic files and books on specific individuals and families, but this is an exception to the rule. Unlike Ancestry.com and Google, the Maryland State Archives does not have a website that will let you conduct a name search of our records. However, we do have indexes for specific record types that can be of help in discovering more details on a person's life. Please contact us with a description of the time frame and county in which your ancestor lived (the more information, the better), and our archivists will be happy to suggest some helpful record groups to search.
Current funding constraints, along with the sheer volume of our holdings, mean that we must prioritize the scanning of the most commonly-used record groups, such as births, deaths,and marriages. Our highest priority is the scanning of indexes to the records.
You also can access certain records online from home.The Archives of Maryland Online (AOMOL) provides searchable, online access to legislative and judicial records throughout Maryland’s history, as well as some military records, city directories, slavery records, and more. You can also access Maryland land records from modern day to the colonial period, using the Maryland Land Records website and the Plats website. The Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland and the Historical Photographs of Maryland provide further access to specific record types online.
An index is an alphabetical list of names that helps you find a specific document. For example, we may need to use an index to find the case number for a divorce decree, the certificate number for a death record, or the book number and page number for a will. If you don’t know the exact year a record was filed, then an index can be helpful, too. Most indexes are specific to one Maryland county, so knowing in what county an event took place will make your search much easier.
The $1 fee only applies to self-service copies made in person from the scans available on our Search Room computers when the Archives is open. The higher fee for mail orders covers the staff time necessary for researching and copying the document, as well as for the official certification of the document, which our policies require for all mail orders. For current order rates, please go to our Order Forms website.
Since the Maryland State Archives is only partially funded by tax dollars, we charge a fee for the work required to provide copies per state government code § 9-1009 (d)(1). However, if a record is already scanned, then we can provide plain copies at $1.00 per page when you visit our Search Room in person when the Archives is open. Records ordered in person cost less than those ordered by mail. For more information, please go to our Order Forms Website. Remember, you may photograph records at no charge if you visit in person, when the Archives is open.
The Maryland State Archives does not participate in library loan programs. We do offer a research service for specific documents for a fee of $35.00 per document, and usually can provide a copy of a microfilm reel on a CD for a fee of $60.00 per reel, or by e-delivery as a link to a PDF you can download from your home computer. Some restrictions apply to copying Special Collection microfilm. To place an order, please go to our Order Forms website.
Many of our photographic collections are not cataloged to that level of detail. Searching for photographs of a specific street or town can help you find a photograph that happens to include that building, but you may need to look through many photographs. Only a few historically significant houses have been photographed specifically.
You also can search Maryland Historical Trust’s Inventory of Historic Properties, which includes information on districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects of known or potential value to the prehistory and history of the State of Maryland.
The Baltimore City Archives tends to hold records related specifically to Baltimore City government, while birth, marriage, court, and death records are held by the Maryland State Archives. The Maryland State Archives specializes in government records for the entire state of Maryland, including state agency, county, and some municipal government records
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