History & Facts of Maryland Counties

Maryland County records can vary vastly from county to county in either quality and also quantity. Some have been very carefully preserved while others have been significantly mistreated and overlooked. A certain amount of Maryland records have purely disappeared. For genealogists carrying out research in Maryland you will find no effective substitute to have an on-site search of county court house records.

Maryland is divided into 24 counties and county-equivalents. Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders with the exception of Baltimore (which is an independent city) . Many of the counties in Maryland were named for relatives of the Barons Baltimore who were the proprietors of the Maryland colony from its founding in 1634 through 1771.

The City of Baltimore generally possesses the same powers and responsibilities as the counties within the state. It is an entity nearly surrounded by but separate from the County of Baltimore, which has its county seat in Towson

Maryland Counties

Maryland is made up of 23 counties and the City of Baltimore, which is not located in any specific county. Records relating to estates and land transfers can be found in county courthouses. Copies can also be found at the Maryland State Archives, in most cases. The Maryland State Archives also holds copies of vital records. Their files are constantly being added to and updated.

County Date Formed Parent County County Seat
Anne Arundel 1789 Washington County. Cumberland
Allegany 1650 St. Mary's County. Annapolis
Baltimore 1659 Formed from unorganized territory Towson
Baltimore City 1851 Founded in 1729. Detached in 1851 from Baltimore County Baltimore City
Calvert 1654 Formed as Patuxent County from unorganized territory. Renamed Calvert County in 1658 Prince Frederick
Cecil 1773 Dorchester and Queen Anne's Counties Denton
Charles 1837 Baltimore and Frederick Counties Westminster
Caroline 1672 Baltimore and Kent Counties Elkton
Carroll 1658 From unorganized territory La Plata
Dorchester 1668 From unorganized territory Cambridge
Frederick 1748 Prince George's County Frederick
Garrett 1872 Allegany County Oakland
Harford 1773 Baltimore County Bel Air
Howard 1851 Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties Ellicott City
Kent 1642 From unorganized territory Chestertown
Montgomery 1776 Frederick County Rockville
Prince George's 1696 Calvert and Charles Counties Upper Marlboro
Queen Anne's 1706 Talbot County Centreville
St. Mary 1637 From unorganized territory. Was named Potomac County between 1654 and 1658. Leonardtown
Somerset 1666 From unorganized territory. Princess Anne
Talbot 1662 Kent County Easton
Washington 1776 Frederick County Hagerstown
Wicomico 1867 Somerset and Worcester Counties Salisbury
Worcester 1742 Somerset County Snow Hill

Maryland Extinct Counties

Maryland seems to have counties that no longer are in existence. They were created by the state, provincial, or territorial authorities. A lot of these counties were created and disbanded within the 19th century; county borders have modified little since 1900 in the vast most of states. These counties need to be checked out when you are performing family history and genealogy research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was eliminated or merged with a different county.

  • Charles County: Formed in 1650 from part of Saint Mary's County. Abolished in 1654. Referred to as Old Charles County
  • Durham County: formed in 1669 from part of Somerset County and nonorganized territory. Abolished in 1672 and incorporated in Worcester County
  • Worcester County: formed in 1672 from part of Durham County and nonorganized territory. Lost in 1685 when Delaware Colony was established.

Maryland Counties with Burned Courthouses

The destruction to Maryland courthouses tremendously has a effect on family historians in every way. Not only are these kinds of historic structures torn from each of our lifetimes, so are the files they stored: marriage, wills, probate, land records, and others. Once destroyed they are destroyed permanently. Although they have been put on mircofilm, computers and film burn as well. The most tragic aspect of this is the reason that virtually all of our courthouses are destroyed from arsonist. However, you cannot assume all records were destroyed. A number of Maryland counties have endured a loss of records due to courthouse fires, floods, and theft.

  • Allegany County Courthouse - A courthouse fire in 1893 destroyed marriage records for 1791-1847 and naturalizations for 1892-1893.
  • Anne Arundel County Courthouse - The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1704, with the loss of all but three court record volumes. Deeds before 1699 were lost, but there are five volumes of re-recorded deeds.
  • Calvert County Courthouse - Most records were destroyed when the courthouse burned in 1882, but some deeds dating back to 1840 were re-recorded. Abstracts of deeds sent to Annapolis beginning in 1784 and provincial court deeds/land office records also make up for some of the destroyed records.
  • Carroll County Courthouse - Most early papers of the county court have been lost.
  • Cecil County Courthouse - Many early court records have disappeared.
  • Dorchester County Courthouse - There are gaps in the court records. Some were probably lost in a fire in 1852.
  • Frederick County Courthouse - There were two major fires, but no major loss of records.
  • Harford County Courthouse - Some records were destroyed in a fire in 1858.
  • Howard County Courthouse - The county was formed in 1838 as Howard District of Anne Arundel Co., but did not gain full county status until 1850.
  • Kent County Courthouse - A courthouse fire in 1720 destroyed some records.
  • Montgomery County Courthouse - A southern section of the county was set off in 1788 to form the District of Columbia.
  • Saint Marys County Courthouse - The courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1831. Some deeds were re-recorded back to 1781, and abstracts of deeds sent to Annapolis beginning in 1784 also make up for some of the records that were destroyed.
  • Somerset County Courthouse - The courthouse burned in 1831, but the records were saved.
  • Talbot County Courthouse - Many court records have been lost.
  • Washington County Courthouse - Some records were lost in a courthouse fire in 1871.
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