The Archivist's Bulldog

Vol. 11 No. 18, Newsletter of the Maryland State Archives, October 14, 1997

by Heather Ravanbakhsh

Colonial Birth Records and Parish Registers

In 1654, Maryland's General Assembly passed An Act Concerning a Register of Births Marriages & Burialls:

Although the General Assembly modified this law several times between 1654 and 1695, the essential part of it remained the same. The law required inhabitants of the province to bring notice of all births to the clerk of their county court. The clerk would then record the birth date, the child's name, the father's name, and sometimes the mother's name in a register. Arranged chronologically, the registers were self-indexed to make searching for a particular name easier. Only a few of these old registers are extant today:

In 1695, the General Assembly passed a law called An Additional Act to the Act of Religion (Chapter 1, Acts 1695) which transferred the responsibility of registering births to the Clerks of the Protestant Episcopal Vestry:

For a short time, the clerks of the county courts continued to register births concurrently with the clerks of the vestry. By the early 1700s, the registration of all births, regardless of a person's denomination, was the sole responsibilty of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Because of this law, the main source of birth records from the colonial period through the late ninteenth century is church records. Although the Protestant Episcopal Church was the government sanctioned church in Maryland during the colonial period, churches of other denominations (such as Catholic, Quaker, Methodist, and Lutheran) existed as well. Like the Protestant Episcopal churches, these churches recorded the births or baptisms occuring among their members. The 1695 law lost its effect in 1776 when Maryland enacted its first constitution. Most churches, however, continued the practice of registering births through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

The Maryland State Archives holds church records for many churches in Maryland. Please see the Religous Records Project on our web site for a list of church records available at the Archives. Another good resource is Edna A. Kanely's book Directory of Church Records in Maryland published by Family Line Publications. This book lists Maryland churches, the records that exist for them, and the institutions that hold the records. It is important to note that the records for some churches have been lost or destroyed over time. Also, not every Marylander was associated with a church, and therefore the births and baptisms in his or her family may never have been recorded at all.

The Maryland State Archives holds card indexes to the early civil birth records described above and to some church records:

County Circuit Court Birth Records, 1865-1884

The next attempt by the Maryland General Assembly to make the registration of births a civil matter occurred in 1865 with the passage of An Act to provide for the Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths (Chapter 130, Acts of 1865). This law required that all births be registered at the county circuit court. According to the law, the court clerks were to record "the date of the births, the place of birth, the name of the child, the names of the parents, the occupation of the father, the residence of the parents, and the date of the record." (Chapter 130, Acts of 1865). The clerks also usually recorded the sex and race of the child. Occasionally an entry will include the parent's names, but not the name of the child. The entries were arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname and then chronologically.

A number of birth registers were begun by the court clerks, but compliance with the law was poor. Very few citizens of Maryland took the trouble to register births with the circuit court, so present day researchers must still rely on church records for this time. Listed below are the circuit court birth registers held at the Archives, although many of them contain only scattered entries. Please note that the Anne Arundel County register contains births prior to 1865 that citizens wanted recorded. Both the Anne Arundel County and the Prince George's County birth registers are indexed by the card index MARYLAND INDEXES (Birth Record, Index)[MSA S1403].

by Angela Anthony

An Immigrant Odyssey: The Maryland Greek-American Experience is an exhibition featured at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, through November 23, 1997. The photographs and related objects on display highlight the family, social, religious, and business lives of Greek immigrants and their families.

Due to centuries of religious persecution by the Ottoman Turks, unfair taxation, and crop failures, nearly two hundred thousand Greeks, from 1890-1920, immigrated to America. In Maryland, ninety-five percent of these immigrants were males who intended to work hard in the new country, earn their small fortunes, and then return to Greece. Needless to say, many remained in the state and established small businesses such as confectioneries and lunch rooms. To this day many Marylanders of Greek American decent have achieved prominence as politicians, both locally and nationally, professionals, and grand entrepreneurs.

These immigrants were able to both retain their traditional values and adopt their new American lifestyle. It was the church and family that bonded this immigrant community together. In America the Orthodox Church provided a refuge for the Greeks, who like other Southern and Eastern Europeans, suffered bias well into the mid-twentieth century.

Prior to my employment at the Archives as a reference archivist, I was Assistant Curator of the Prints and Photographs Department at the Historical Society. The Curator of the Department, Robert W. Schoeberlein, and I put together the Immigrant Odyssey Exhibit which includes a portion of my master's degree research project: The Relief Efforts of the Monumental City: Baltimore's Support for the Greeks During the Greek War of Independence, 1823-1829. In addition, my parents lent several photographs which feature Greek families from early twentieth century Cumberland.

by Arian Ravanbakhsh

The major theme of this conference in Harrisburg, PA, can be summed up in four words: "Microfilm is not dead". The Midwest States Micrographics Conference is a loosely organized group of records managers, archivists, and other interested professionals from the "Big 10" region. Attending this year's event were archivists and record managers from a total of 18 states, including Kansas and Alabama, as well as the province of Ontario.

The welcoming remarks by Brent Glass, Director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) show that issues in Maryland are not unique. For instance, the PA records center is out of room. To solve this problem, the records center is leasing 180,000 cubic feet of space with shelving, 12 to 16 feet high. Also, a number of other records have been transferred to the Archives. However, it is anticipated that at its current rate of accessions, the archives facility will fill its remaining space within 3 years. Plans are already underway to renovate both facilities. The PHMC also operates the state micrographics facility. In FY 1997, they produced 1.5 million images of COM (Computer Output Microfilm) and completed another 10 million images of source document filming. Note that they are operating 24 hours a day. By next June, they will add CD-Rom production to the list of services that they provide to their client agencies.

A majority of the vendors who spoke at the conference emphasized the important role that microfilm plays in any digital system. No electronic system is fully safe. For example, a number of speakers referred to recent problems in the banking industry. Several large banks that had gone completely "electronic" have recently lost great quantities of data as a result of system failures. This had lead to the return to microfilm as a human legible, stable medium for preservation. In some cases, this has resulted in these same companies repurchasing microfilm cameras that they had previously disposed of. Each speaker noted that in one way or another, these "hybrid" systems comprised of both film and electronic components were beginning to capture some market share.

The last event of the conference was the opportunity to tour the Pennsylvania State Archives. Their facility was built in the 1960s and in the words of Frank Suran, Archives Director, is "a primer on what not to do when designing an archives." The public research area is small, with room for only 15 patrons at one time. However, the microfilm section is separate and contains 20+readers and reader-printers. The record storage area is in the form of a twenty story tower, with records on levels 3-20. Each level is relatively small, with total storage equaling 80,000 to 100,000 cubic feet. Some of the records seen on the tour included the original charter to William Penn and several 17th and early 18th century treaties with native Indian tribes where the chiefs signed using hieroglyphs. Filming is done on site, but the processing is done at the records center in another part of Harrisburg. The archives has two old Kodak MR-D cameras to film documents and is looking towards purchasing a new digital/planetary camera to move forward.


Welcome to new our Archival Assistant in Reference Services, Theresa Stansbury and a number of new volunteers: William Caughlin in Special Collections; Melody Haymire, a returning summer intern, in Reference; Peggy Leonard in the Library; Patrick Marron in the Maryland Manual; and Hai Sun, in Information Services. We also said goodbye to Archival Assistant, John Johnson, who has gone to work at the Sunpapers.

by Kevin Swanson

DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES ,GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SERVICES (Sensitive Species Project Review Areas, Georeferenced Vector Files) [MSA T2893]
DISTRICT COURT 1, BC (Civil Docket) 1990 [MSA T1441]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Proceedings of House and Senate) 1997 [MSA T910]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Bills and Resolutions) 1997 [MSA T1755]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Synopses) 1997 [MSA T1756]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Committee Hearing Schedules) 1997 [MSA T1757]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Status Report) 1997 [MSA T2878]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (Calendar and Trip File) 1988-1995 [MSA T2873]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (Appointments and Rules) 1992-1994 [MSA T2875]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (Senator Fowler's Scholarship File) 1992-1994 [MSA T2876]
GENERAL ASSEMBLY, PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE (Correspondence) 1987-1996 [MSA T2877]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Inventories) 1856-1864 [MSA T1263]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Administration Accounts) 1882-1925 [MSA T1266]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Orphans Court Proceedings) 1923-1973 [MSA T1267]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Administration Bonds) 1898-1914 [MSA T1268]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Distributions) 1872-1923 [MSA T1271]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Guardian Accounts) 1857-1868 [MSA T1274]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Small Estate Record) 1945-1977 [MSA T2879]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Petitions and Applications) 1952-1967 [MSA T2880]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills, Index) 1688-1971 [MSA T2881]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Claims Docket) 1862-1969 [MSA T2882]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Administration Accounts and Distributions) 1925-1972 [MSA T2883]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Indentures) 1853-1907 [MSA T2884]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Administration Proceedings) 1967-1996 [MSA T2885]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Land Records) 1866-1895 [MSA T2886]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Orphans Court Docket) 1943-1981 [MSA T2887]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Estate Papers) 1866-1919 [MSA T2888]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills, Original) 1896-1975 [MSA T2889]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Land Record Papers) 1867-1894 [MSA T2890]
CAROLINE COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Guardianship Papers) 1785-1974 [MSA T2891]

Founded 1987

Edward C. Papenfuse, State Archivist
Patricia V. Melville, Editor
Mimi Calver, Assistant Editor
Lynne MacAdam,Production Editor
Rita Molter, Circulation

The Maryland State Archives is an independent agency in the Office of Governor Parris N. Glendening and is advised by the Hall of Records Commission. The Chairman of the Hall of Records Commission is the Honorable Louis L. Goldstein, Comptroller, and the Vice Chairman is the Honorable Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The Archivists' Bulldog is issued bi-monthly to publicize records collections, finding aids, and other activities of the Archives and its staff. Subscription cost is $25 per year, and the proceeds go to the State Archives Fund. To subscribe, please send your name, address, and remittance to: the Maryland State Archives, 350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1686. Phone: MD toll free: (800) 235 4045; or (410) 260-6400. FAX: (410) 974 3895. E-mail: The Editor welcomes editorial comments and contributions from the public.

The Archives maintains a Website on the Internet at: