Introduction to New Early Settlers of Maryland

During the first years of his Province of Maryland, 1633-1681, Lord Baltimore rewarded people who transported themselves or others with rights to land, usually called headrights. For most of the period, the reward was a right to 50 acres of land per person transported. To enter and exercise his rights, a person had to give the names of those, including himself, whom he had transported. Therefore, the records of these transactions include the names of the settlers.

From these records, lists of settlers have been made since early in the nineteenth century. But only in 1968 was one published. This was Gust Skordas's The Early Settlers of Maryland, immediately a cornerstone of genealogy. In 1997 A Supplement corrected and enlarged The Early Settlers. Now The New Early Settlers of Maryland, a complete revision, replaces Skordas's work.

In 1975 Russell Menard wrote that the "best estimate" of immigration to Maryland between 1634 and 1681 is 32,000 (Economy and Society in Early Colonial Maryland, 1975, pp. 175-6). The New Early Settlers  has about 34,000 entries, which, allowing for duplications, is close to Menard's estimate.

Four points need to be made about the records.

First, having rights to land, the reward for transporting oneself or others, was not the same as possessing it. Between proving these rights and possessing the land were three steps, represented by three papers: a warrant for a survey; a surveyor's certificate of his survey; and a patent to the land surveyed. As each of these steps cost money, many settlers who were hard-pressed to pay for things they needed immediately, such as tools and live-stock, assigned - that is, sold - their rights.[  1  ] In the records of these transactions - probates (proofs) and assignments of rights, demands of warrants, certificates of survey, and patents - are the names of the settlers.

Second, the probates and most assignments are of rights for transporting people. The names of people transported are in the records primarily as a means of identifying the rights. Indeed, rights often are said to be "called" or "titled" by people's names; for instance, in Patents 11:571 & 579; 10:324 & 335; 7:80 & 565; & 4:29.

Some names denoted people as well as rights. Among them are those of people who themselves were assigned along with rights. Such assignments, records of which are rare, are clearly distinguished from assignments of rights alone. For instance, on 11 May 1668 John Tully assigned to Daniel Jennifer both Richard Watson and the rights for Watson's transportation (Patents 11:337); on 20 October 1662 Job Walton assigned to Thomas Marken, a maid servant, Mary Carter, for four years with all rights of land belonging to her (Patents 5:538); on 1 March 1659 Thomas Byan assigned Jane Montague to John Elles to serve for four years (Patents 8:498); and on l7 January 1659 William Chapline assigned to William Pyther an indenture whereby Edward Parrish was to serve him for seven years, on 21 January 1656 Pyther assigned it to Richard Gott, and on 20 September 1659 Gott assigned it to Alexander Gordon, his son-in-law (Patents 4:206). Other names that continued to denote people are those of people who completed terms of service or were issued warrants or certificates or granted patents. Tracing these names is tracing the settlers themselves.

But those are the exceptions. The names of most settlers immediately became names of rights and lived in the records independent of the settlers. Tracing names as rights go from person to person or are used for acquiring land is tracing rights only. Indeed, as many settlers died soon after arriving, some of the names circulating must have been of the dead.

Third, assignments of rights caused contradiction among records. Those that were recorded - evidently, many were not - constitute an important part of the records. Rights often were assigned several times, as in Patents 5:535 & 8:48; 11:171; and 5:118. Often many years passed between their probate and their use for land, as in Patents 10:362, 372, & 380. Speculators bought them by the dozens and assigned them a few at a time or used them to patent large tracts, as in Patents 10:558-571.

This circulation of rights explains the main contradiction assignments caused. Often a settler appears both to have transported himself and to have been transported by somebody else. If his name is common, the quick explanation is that here are two people with the same name. The less common the name, the less plausible that explanation and the greater the need for another. One name not merely uncommon but unique is that of Andrew White, leader of the Jesuits who came on the Ark. For him there are two entries, one saying that he transported himself, the other saying that he was transported. The first refers to Patents AB&H:65 and 1:37, in both of which Mr. Ferdinando Pulton (a Jesuit) demands land for the transportation of Andrew White and a number of other persons, assigned to him by Andrew White. That is, White assigned to Pulton the rights for transporting himself and the others. The second refers to Patents 1:19 and 166, in both of which Thomas Copley, Esq. (a Jesuit), who transported himself in 1637, demands land for the transportation, in 1633, of Andrew White and the same persons listed in Pulton's demand. Though there is no record of these rights going from Pulton to Copley, they obviously did. Hence the other explanation is that, as rights were assigned from person to person, identities of transporters appeared to change.

To put it another way, often records of transportation that imply that A transported B mean only that A had the right to land due for transporting B. For instance, on 19 November 1672 Robert Bryant proved rights for transporting Richard Hacker, his wife, four children (all named), John Burges, Samuel White, and John Reynolds, himself, and Honour, his wife (Patents 17:396); but on 27 July 1672 Richard Hacker entered rights for transporting the same people, except the last three (Patents 16:635). Again, on 2 June 1669 Augustine Herman entered rights for transporting John Cornelius, Anniken Engels, his wife, Gertruyd, their daughter, and Cornelius and Hendrick, their sons (Patents 12:243); but on 21 October 1668 John Cornelius assigned to John Pole of Baltimore Co. the rights due to him for transporting the same people (Patents 12:270). In neither case is there record of an assignment, but in each there must have been one.

To confuse matters further, sometimes rights were entered for service and assigned as for transportation. Edward Chandler did so on 4 January 1669 (Patents 12:389), Trag Otrasis on 11 December 1665 (Patents 9:189, 268), and Henry Frith on 9 April 1667 (Patents 10:466). On 20 December 1669 seven rights, some for service, some for transportation, were assigned as for transportation (Patents 12:386-7). And often, especially in patents, rights are used without being attributed either to service or to transportation. The clerks' job was to see that rights were properly credited not to determine how they were acquired.

Fourth, except family members, most settlers transported by others were bound to serve their transporters, usually for four or five years. That is, they were servants and in the records are often so called. But the label "servant" was no stigma. In the seventeenth century it had meanings different from those of today. It denoted a person of low class and menial occupation. The settlers closest to the modern idea of servants were those shipped by the dozen. They are listed some times as "servants," some times as "persons," and some times as both. For instance, in Patents 15:380, 433, 443, 446, 453, 454, & 455; & Patents18:84, 160, & 167. But "servant" denoted as well people up and down the social scale and in various situations. A duke was his king's servant, a baron his duke's servant, and a lover his mistress's servant  In these records "servant" seems often to mean nothing more than transportee. On 12 October 1652, when William Chaplin demanded land, Alice Bancroft was his servant, but in his patent of l8 November 1658 she was his wife's daughter (Patents AB&H:273; Q:210). On 15 December 1669, immediately after entering rights for transporting himself and Thomasin, his wife, John Barnard assigned rights for transporting himself and "one servant woman" (Patents 12:380). And in an assignment of 10 July 1656 the first name in the list of "servants [Ralph Williams] brought into this Province" is "Ralph Williams" (Patents 5:410).

As the term "servant" was ambiguous, so the status of servants was changeable. For one thing, sometimes terms of service were much shorter than four years; for instance, in Patents 5:467 & Patents 6:19, 86, 96, 106, 107, 129, 131, 132, & 165-6. For another, sometimes settlers were servants and masters at nearly the same time. For instance, Wm. Stibbs, who on 4 August 1663 assigned to Thomas Bradley rights to 100 acres due "to me and my servant Joseph Ash for our times of service in ye province according to the custom of the country" (Patents 5:414); Thomas Bowdle, who on 5 April 1669 demanded rights for service to William Parker at the same time as John Love demanded rights for service to him (Patents 12:201); and Thomas Percy, who on 6 April 1669 demanded rights for service to Richard Preston at the same time as John Smith demanded land for service to him (Patents 12:203).

The New Early Settlers uses the label "servant" only to identify people whose last names are not given and to distinguish servants from other members of households.

With these four points and "Using The New Early Settlers" in mind, readers are prepared, at least in part, to find and understand records of their settlers.

1  Lois Green Carr impressed this point on me. Also she identified the Jesuits noted in the text above.