52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Week 21: Maryland State Archives

I visited the Maryland State Archives for a client this week, in search of an elusive marriage record that the client’s family had sought for more than 60 years. I did my homework beforehand and knew exactly what to ask for when I showed up. The archives website provided all the information I needed to prepare ahead of time.

From the homepage, I clicked on Reference and Research in the left-hand sidebar. In the How to Find Specific Records section, I clicked on the link for Marriage Records.

There is an enormous amount of historical background available on this page! Be sure to read the information on how and when the state and counties started tracking marriages — it will make your search that much more fruitful if you are armed with this knowledge.

Since I knew the exact date and county of the marriage record I sought, I found the appropriate date range (Marriage Records 1776-1886) and then clicked on the links for the appropriate county (in this case, Talbot).

Here’s an example “Pull Slip” for one of the records I needed to search. I printed these pull slips out and took them with me to the archives. It was hard for me to tell from the information given in what format the records would be, so I was able to go over the pull slips with one of the archives staff. Some of the records were available online (some password protected and some not; the archives staff make the password available upon request).

In this particular case, I found two records referring to the marriage in question. One was a hand-written copy of the index and licenses transcribed from the original in the year 1861. I was able to view scans of this index online at the Archives and printed out the pertinent pages for my client. The other record contained the original pages from the county marriage license files, preserved and stored at the Archives. I was able to page through the book and take photos of the pages my client needed.

It was useful for my client to have both versions of the record. Why? She had found the marriage license indexed on Ancestry.com, but one of the surnames was spelled completely different. The client felt certain it was the right record because the other name, the date and the location all were correct. It appears the Ancestry.com record was indexed based on the 1861 hand-written copy, where we could see that a spelling error was introduced after comparing it to the original record, which showed the correct spelling of the name.

My email to the client after my trip to the archives elicited a “Yippee!” and “That’s it!!!!!  This is the proof my mother was seeking in 1950!!!!” (What a priceless feeling!)

If you are seeking similar records from a Marylander ancestor, I highly recommend exploring their site to see if you too can find the tools there to break down your brickwall. There are folks like me who can go to the archives for you to search for records (advisable if you need someone to do a bit of extra hunting because of missing or misinformation, as in the case above) or you can order them yourself.

I’ve posted previously on how to order death records from the MSA. If you live in Maryland, I highly recommend stopping by the archives and getting acquainted with all they have to offer. Be sure to use their web site first to make your trip a productive one!

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