Provincial Land Records (Pre-Revolutionary War)
Understanding Maryland Land Records - MSA Guide
The Land Office
When King Charles I granted the Charter of Maryland to Cecil Calvert on June 20, 1632, he gave him ownership of all land within certain boundaries. Article XVIII of The Charter gave Lord Baltimore full authority to "assign, Alien, grante, demise, or enfeoff" any parcels [of the Province} to any persons willing to purchase the same. Down to the time of the Revolutionary War, all land grants in Maryland came from the Lords Baltimore, and after the death of Frederick, the 6th Lord Baltimore, from his son, Henry Harford, the Proprietor. It was the custom to date legal documents by the Regnal Year of the British Monarch, and this phraseology gave rise to the unfounded myth that Marylanders had "land grants from the King." Between 1634 and 1680, the Calverts encouraged settlers by promising to grant each settler so many acres (usually 50 acres) for himself and for each other person he or she brought into the Province. In 1680 this "head right" system was abolished, but Charles Calvert, 3rd Lord Baltimore, created the Land Office.
The Patent Process
At the provincial level were the records of transfers of land (warrants, certificates of survey, and patents) from The Proprietor (Lord Baltimore and his successors) to private individuals. Since all land in Maryland had been given by the King to Lord Baltimore, an individual who wanted a grant of land would have to apply to Lord Baltimore, or to Lord Baltimore's Land Office. Until 1680, the records might read that whereas "John Doe" was due so many acres of land, because he had brought himself, and/or family and or servants into the Province, an order (Warrant) was issued to the county surveyor to lay out so many acres of land and to create a document known as a Certificate of Survey.
Step 1: Obtaining a Warrant. A warrant would be issued which directed that a survey be done of the property.
Step 2: Having the Land Surveyed. The surveyor would return with a report of his survey. A Certificate of Survey would be entered in Lord Baltimore’s land records. The certificates of survey, describing tracts of land give the actual dimensions, or metes and bounds of the survey, and are usually accompanied by a scale drawing of the survey. Boundary trees and rocks, and bodies of water, may be indicated.
Step 3: Patenting the Land. Patents are documents granting ownership rights to some previously unpatented property. It has the nature of a deed and contains a description of the property and conditions of tenure, usually a certain amount due from the patent holder to Lord Baltimore each year. The patent would be recorded in Lord Baltimore’s land books, and a copy would be given to the patent holder.
[The above information taken from the Maryland State Archives Guide to Government Records]
Patent (Land) Records
- Maryland Patent Index - MSA S1426. Use this MSA Page to lookup the name of the patent holder, and view the index card(s) for that patent holder. There may be notation of both warrants and patents. Note the liber (book), and folio (page) for each record. Then view the liber (book) you need below.
- Maryland Patent Records - NSA SE23. Use this MSA Page to find and view any liber (book) found on the index card. Find the row with the liber number or name that corresponds to the one found on the index card. Click on "Links" at the right. Then click on "View a Multipage PDF on the left. Scroll to the folio (page) listed on the index card. Page numbers are handwritten at the top of each page (do not use the PDF page number).
- Patent Records (1645-1946) - Transcribed summary of St. Mary's County patents arranged by owner and tract.
Proprietary Manor Leaseholds
- 1700 - 1768: Hardcopy Book, Gauis M. Brumbaugh, V2.
Provincial Rent Rolls & Debt Books
Rent rolls and debt books were records in which Lord Baltimore's agents kept track of the quit rents due him by county. The rent rolls listed each tract of patented land, the name of the person for whom it was surveyed, the name of the current possessor(s), the acreage, the quit rent, and sometimes subsequent deed transactions. Inheritances were not noted, but when a new rent roll book was begun, the new possessor of the land was listed. Debt books, which began in 1753, were prepared annually for each county. They listed each land owner and then the tracts of land and the quit rent due on each.
- Index to Debt Books (1753-1774) MSA 1430_18/19. Use CTRL-F to search for owner names or land names. Be careful of variant spellings. Number under each year is the page number on which the record will appear in that year's debt book.
- Debt Books of St Mary's County - Transcribed debt books 1753-1758. Lists owner, tract name, and acreage. Index in back.