Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives
Vol. 15, No. 5
March 12, 2001
by Chris Haley 

The audience awaited a major African American genealogical announcement regarding the Freedman's Bank records. The charcoal brown cd/cassette player clicked on and those assembled in the packed National Press Club on Monday, February 26, were surrounded by the rolling music of thrashing waves and the ceaseless pounding of cool rain. The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints arranged the press conference to publicize the completion of an 11 year project to digitize and make available on CD over 480,000 documents. The Freedman's Bank deposit records of former slaves and Black military veterans contain information
"documenting three generations of slavery which gives their descendants, an estimated eight to 10 million African Americans, precious clues to their past." The Church of Jesus Christ engaged the assistance of approximately 550 inmates of the Utah State Prison, South Point Correctional Facility, who volunteered their time to extract, link, and automate the records from microfilm. 

Among those in attendance at the press conference were Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, DC
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, various media representatives and invited guests. The announcement was linked via satellite to the Latter Day Saint's facility in Salt Lake City. 

It was the Reverend Wintley Phipps who brought the stereo for his vocal accompaniment. He rose to the podium and stated that because Blacks weren't usually given access to the best keyboards "any

Negro spiritual can be played by just hitting the black keys." Over the weary sea sounds, he soared forth a powerful rendition of the European spiritual, Amazing Grace. "This is the sound [African Americans] would have heard while being transported on slave ships to America." 

Congresswoman Lee was presented with an impressive wooden framed memorial plaque in honor of the occasion and her status as a leading African American member of Congress. She spoke of the need "to be spiritually grounded" and heralded this event as "a genealogical day that we walk for freedom…." Native Washingtonian, Delegate  Norton, was also tremendously moved at the content of the Freedman's Bank CD. Beaming, she disclosed to the audience, " I am a fourth
generation Washingtonian…. I looked into the CD and found my great great grandfather, Richard Holmes!" She was especially impressed that the records included details as specific as "…He was very dark." Holmes recalled that there are many Richards in her family tree and they are, indeed, dark. "There was a time when even our own people had to come to terms with that, but I think we're doing better now." 

Represented by his son at the Salt Lake City conference, Alex Haley's contribution to genealogical history was mentioned by various speakers. Representing the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation and the Maryland State Archives, I congratulated the Church of Latter Day Saints on their accomplishment and expressed a wish to share a spiritual hug from the direct descendant of Kunta Kinte to the direct descendant of Richard Holmes. All smiled and applauded as this bond was made. 

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The Freedman's Bank headquarters was located in Washington, D.C. and existed from 1865 through 1874. The bank was created to provide financial services for African American's drafted during the Civil War. The records contained information about the depositor's personal description as well as family names. Names of slave owners and  plantations were sometimes listed. Frederick Douglass was elected president of the bank in 1874, but his presence was not enough to save the institution from collapse due to mismanagement and fraud. African Americans had deposited over $57 million dollars in Freedman's Bank. Reginald Washington of the National Archives stated that of the approximately 61,000 depositors eligible to receive account dividends, less than 30,000 applied, and of those, 62% received less than they were due. 

Information and examples of the Freedman's Bank Records are available at

by Pat Melville 

Calvert County (Grand Jury Reports) in series C441 exist at the Archives for the years 1886 and 1930-1942. The 1886 file contains the detailed report of a committee to examine the financial records of the county commissioners. The later files consist of shorter and more general reports. 

The committee to examine financial records of the county government was appointed on May 7 and filed its report on July 1. Its efforts were hampered by the short time period allotted for the audit and the lack of records prior to June 1882. A fire in March 1882 had destroyed several buildings in Prince Frederick, including the courthouse and all the records housed there. In June more files were lost when fire struck the Episcopal rectory being used for temporary county offices. Even so the jurors found irregularities, negligence, and poor record keeping. Some tax collection accounts could not be reconciled, and many vouchers could not be matched with disbursement ledger entries. Details were outlined in copies of financial statements appended to the report. 

The grand jury committee reviewed the administration of the pension and road funds, and found waste in both. "The County should feel a pride in helping its indigent poor, but not place, as a burden upon the taxpayers, those on the pension list who are able and competent to earn their own living."  The report recommended that the county commissioners strike all names from the pension list and thereafter enroll people only upon a petition from at least ten "credible taxpayers of the

Without a county road law to guide them, the jurors decided to forego a full investigation of road accounts, but did note exorbitant amounts being spent on some road projects. The county

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On its web site the Maryland State Archives is publicizing dates and places of history/family history events that are brought to our attention. There is no charge for societies to post their upcoming events. The calendar is linked from the Genealogical Workshops page

To submit items for the calendar, send an 
E-mail to Bob Barnes at

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commissioners had paid $15 to repair a bridge that cost $8 to build. (Even in the 19th century, one wonders what kind of bridge could be built for such a low sum.) At another time the board authorized $400 for annual maintenance on a road, when the same contract in 1873 had cost only $96. Other examples involved individual commissioners, including one who received a contract to build a bridge for $167, even though a lower bid of $150 had been submitted. In May 1886 another commissioner, without authorization from the full board, arranged for the removal of a newly constructed bridge across a stream on the road from Smithville to Lyons Creek Wharf and had it placed over a small stream six miles away. The action "was done to satisfy a little personal spite." 

The report cited other instances of abuse and patronage, including the rejection of a low bid of $60 to build a horse rack in front of the courthouse in favor of one for $90. The final product was unsatisfactory because the contractor used inferior material and poor workmanship. 

The 20th century grand jury reports pertain to criminal matters and physical conditions of the jail and courthouse. The number of indictments returned by the Calvert County grand juries remained fairly constant between 1930 and 1942, with an average of ten per year. In 1934 the jurors commented on failures to observe license laws pertaining to soda fountains and building contractors, and to collect the dog tax. The 1935 report noted the prevalence of slot machines throughout the county and recommended that the Sheriff exercise his duty and confiscate all the 

machines. Gambling devices were still present in 1942, but the jury lacked sufficient evidence to charge any individuals. 

In 1938 the jurors examined traffic violations. They urged enforcement of violations under the motor vehicle law, especially reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, and of parking regulations in Prince Frederick. One recommendation called for the appointment of a special officer to patrol the streets of Prince Frederick on Saturdays to preserve order and regulate traffic. 

In counties throughout Maryland, it was difficult to convince officials to devote resources toward the maintenance of the local jail. Calvert County was no exception. The grand jury reports repeatedly outlined the same maintenance problems, such as, unsanitary conditions and lack of screens or bars on the windows. The 1937 report contained a recommendation for an inspection of the jail by the county health officer in order to force the issue of filthy conditions. Such frustration seemed even more evident the next year:  "We find it useless however to recommend any betterment of conditions relative to the jail, as such recommendations made by former Grand Jurors have been completely ignored." The county commissioners must have provided for some improvements, because thereafter the jurors commended the sheriff and jailer for their efforts in keeping the jail clean and sanitary. 

Finally, the war effort in 1942 provoked the Calvert County grand jury to "recommend that the officers and magistrates of this county fall in line with those in a number of counties in the state, and see that there is no more idleness or unemployment. In short, 'Work or Fight'." 


As one means of recognizing the efforts of its many volunteers, the Archives will be offering a free ticket to each genealogical workshop. The first drawing was held recently and the winner is Lillian Wright who will attend the upcoming genealogical workshop on African American Genealogy on Saturday, March 31.  Congratulations, Lillian! 


    (Estate Papers) 1963-1992 [MSA T2633] 

    (Bond Record) 1891-1966 [MSA T3226] 
    (Equity Record) 1829-1910 [MSA T3227] 
    (Land Records) 1831-1924 [MSA T3224] 
    (Mortgage Releases) 1895-1966 [MSA T3225] 

    (Student Record) 1988-1998 [MSA TM94] Restricted 

    (Bills) 1991-1992 [MSA TM300] 

    (Land Records, Grantee Index) 1945-1965 [MSA TM599] 
    (Land Records, Grantor Index) 1945-1965 [MSA TM600] 
    (Miscellaneous Court Papers) 1815-1905 [MSA T3273] 

    (Divorce Decrees) var.d. [MSA TM335] 
    (Marriage Application Record) 1984-1991 [MSA TM597] 

    (Estate Papers) 1996-1997 [MSA T2351]