Maryland Department Collection and State Library Resources

Genealogical Research in the Maryland Department


Before You Begin Your Library Research

Before coming to the library, try to identify facts, such as the spelling of names, relationships and dates. Talk to your relatives to see if there is any information you can use, perhaps in family bibles or previously researched family history.

You will want to know the following before you contact the library:

  • Which time period do I need to search?
  • What county or counties does my family come from?
  • What have I already found, or which documents do I already have?

Genealogical Resources in the Maryland Department Collection

Statewide Books
This portion of the collection includes books that cover the entire state of Maryland. For the most part, these books are one of three types: Indexes, Bibliographies and Directories.

  • Indexes: alphabetical list of names, subjects, etc., with references to the places you can find related information.  Researchers will find general indexes, indexes of vital records, wills, court and land records, church and cemetery records, as well as records from a specific institution, and more.
  • Bibliographies: listings of other books or articles that may be helpful in finding genealogical information. Many genealogy magazines and journals contain bibliographies of useful sources.
  • Directories: refer you to other locations that may have information on the person or institutions you are trying to find.

Individual family histories
Though not generally collected, there are a few hundred family histories in the Maryland Department. Most of these works are non-circulating; however, photocopying is permitted from all sources.

County Specific Books
Though the Maryland Department attempts to obtain resources from all Maryland counties, you should be aware that there is a variance in the amount of information from county to county.

The following are some of the county-based genealogical resources in the Maryland Department:

  • County histories: especially useful in finding surnames and family homes
  • City directories: help you locate a person, family or business for a specific year or a span of years. Directories may also provide the occupation of people as well as listings for government agencies, churches and synagogues, and charitable institutions.
  • Telephone directories from across the state
  • Criss-cross directories, also known as reverse telephone directories, list residents by street address rather than alphabetically by name
  • Indexes of marriage and death announcements in newspapers, including obituaries dating back to the early 18th century
  • Listings of interments from local cemeteries
  • Land patents
  • Yearbooks from high schools and colleges

Special Indexes
Many of the indexes in the Department contain genealogical information, and there are others that supplement this type of work very well. Index cards

  • Indexes to the decennial censuses for Maryland from 1790 through 1870
  • Index to the Maryland Historical Magazine, 1906-2009 (1979-2009 only available online)
  • Index (Soundex) to Passenger Arrivals at the Port of Baltimore, 1820-1952
  • Index (Soundex) to Passenger Lists of Vessels arriving at Baltimore (City Passenger Lists), 1833-1866
  • Index to Naturalization Petitions in U.S. Circuit and District Court of Maryland, 1797-1951
  • Internal Revenue Assessment Lists for Maryland, 1862-1866
  • Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers (Union and Confederate) Who Served in Organizations from the State of Maryland, 1861-1865
  • Index to the Baltimore Sun, 1891-1959, 1983-1989
  • Index to the Evening Sun, 1910-1955
  • Maryland Picture File: analytics to illustrations of persons and places found in books and periodicals in the collection
  • Ephemera Collection: database which provides access to a collection of miscellany which may include, but is not limited to posters, letters, photographs, menus, programs and other items

Newspapers are a rich source of information when conducting family research. You can find obituaries or death notices, marriage and birth announcements, information on social and political events, legal notices, ship arrivals and departures, and disasters that identify individuals or ancestors. Even advertisements can provide valuable information on businesses that were run by family members. The Maryland Department receives 23 current subscriptions to papers from around the state, and holds some historic newspapers as well.  However, most historic newspapers in the Pratt collection can be found in the Library’s Periodicals Department.

Biography, Query and Vertical Files
A researcher should not overlook these files, which contain hundreds of thousands of cards that will direct you to sources in various formats, both in the Maryland Department and in other departments of the Library.

  • Query File: contains entries on places, events, institutions, businesses and, in some cases, people
  • Biography File: includes references to persons and families only

Maps can provide valuable clues when tracking ancestors. In Baltimore, 19th century street maps are used to identify ward numbers necessary in locating census enumerations. County maps show election districts for the same purpose. Maps can also show neighborhoods, businesses and the distance from an address to a place of work or worship. The Maryland Department's map collection includes over 2000 maps dating from 1630 to the present.

There were a number of atlases published for many Maryland counties in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which identify landowners and the approximate boundaries of their property, in addition to showing election districts.

Sanborn fire insurance maps show characteristics like house numbers, names of businesses and water and sewer lines. They are available in the Department on microfilm, or through the Library’s databases, and cover volumes produced from 1890 - the early 1980s for all of Maryland.

Online Resources

Genealogy/Family History Resources at the Enoch Pratt Free Library
This page provides a description of services and resources, as well as guidelines and policies, available in several departments at the Central Library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, including the Maryland Department. 

State Library Resource Center Web Guides
The Central Library/State Library Resource Center Web Guides are created by subject specialists to direct users to informative websites on a variety of topics. Extensive genealogical information will be found in the Biography & Genealogy, and the Maryland & Baltimore categories.

The Library subscribes to many useful databases, that you can access with a Pratt Library card. Those useful to genealogists include:

How can Maryland Department staff help with my genealogical research?

As the State Library Resource Center, specialists are available to conduct basic genealogy training for library systems, organizations, and the public. Maryland Department librarians are eager to assist the public or other librarians with the materials mentioned above. The staff are happy to help. Come in anytime the Central Library is open -- no appointment necessary.

Ask Us

If you are interested in more help or have questions, please e-mail us through our Ask-A-Librarian service, call (410) 396-5468, or you can write to us at:

    Maryland Department
    Enoch Pratt Free Library
    State Library Resource Center
    400 Cathedral Street
    Baltimore, MD 21201