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Maryland: Local History & Genealogy Resource Guide

Courthouse Records

County level research is essential in the pursuit of family and local history. The list below highlights the most common county courthouse records used by genealogists, but there are many more record sets available. Use the guides below and explore the specific resources for the counties of interest to assure that you locate all pertinent documents.

When requesting courthouse records, inquire about both docket books and paper files. Often both types of material exist for each record. While the two formats may merely repeat the data, one may be easier to read than the other. And, in many cases, there are further details, unique notations, over-sized pages such as maps, and so on, that are filed in only the docket book or in only the paper file. Seeing both will provide a more complete review of the record.

Timeline for County Courthouse Records

Birth Records
  • Refer to the Vital Records section of this guide.
Civil Lawsuits
  • Maintained by the Maryland court system. See the Criminal Court entry.
Coroner Inquests
  • Generally maintained by: Office of the Medical Examiner

Note: If the cause of death is suspicious or unknown, the Medical Examiner's office is responsible for conducting an inquest.

Criminal Court
  • Generally maintained by: The Maryland court system.

Note: The Maryland court system has four levels: two trial courts and two appellate courts.

The Maryland State Archives has all the original records of the Provincial, General, and Chancery courts. The state archives also has many of the original records and indexes of the county, circuit, and district courts and the Court of Appeals, often into the twentieth century. Some of the Provincial Court records have been published in the Archives of Maryland. The Maryland State Archives also has a collection of miscellaneous court papers for the years 1729 to 1904. The collection contains naturalizations, county court cases, manumissions, mortgages, depositions, bonds, voting, and other records.

Death Records
  • Refer to the Vital Records section of this guide.
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of the Circuit Court
Divorce Records
  • Refer to the Vital Records section of this guide.
Marriage Records
  • Refer to the Vital Records section of this guide.
  • Maintained by the Maryland court system. See the Criminal Court entry.
  • Generally maintained by: Clerk of the Circuit Court
Will and Probate
  • Generally maintained by: Register of Wills

Online Resources for Courthouse Records

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Using Ancestry Library Edition for Maryland

Begin your search through Ancestry's vast collections, by viewing the list designated as Maryland records External.

Using FamilySearch for Maryland

FamilySearch provides useful state and county wikis that make excellent starting points for research. The Maryland Wiki External includes links to each of its 23 counties and Baltimore counties.

FamilySearch has digitized many of its microfilms containing county courthouse records. Not all records have been indexed yet, so search engine results may NOT show you the full range of FamilySearch data. You must browse the FamilySearch catalog Externallistings for each county to view the full set of records available. The vast amount of accessible original records is well worth your time to explore.

There is no fee to use FamilySearch, but you must create a personal account to access the databases and digital records.

Published Courthouse Records

Below are selected print publications for statewide courthouse records. The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

To locate additional published materials,go to the Print Resources section of this guide for search tips on locating published county courthouse records, abstracts, and indexes that may aide you in locating original records at the county level.