The Maryland State Archives building is not easily noticed on Rowe Boulevard. It’s setback from the road with a low profile behind a stand of trees. Inside, Maryland’s historical records since 1634 are maintained with organized precision.
This accumulation of hundreds of years of documentation is open to the public. An appointment may be made (but is not required) to visit the Archives, however, a photo ID is mandatory. Check the webpage for information such as days and hours of operation, finding records, and primary sources available to learn more about Maryland history.
Chris Haley, Director, Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland, has worked at the Maryland State Archives since 1993, and familiarized me with the history and general functions of the department:
What are the records?
“The State Archives serves as the central depository for government records of permanent value. Its holdings date from Maryland’s founding in 1634, and include colonial and state executive, legislative, and judicial records; county probate, land, and court records; church records; business records; state publications and reports; and special collections of private papers, maps, photographs, and newspapers.”
Who uses this service?
It’s not surprising that sitting studiously at desks, computers, and between bookshelves at the Maryland State Archives are family historians, scholars, students, and title searchers. However, it’s interesting to learn that the majority of people accessing the preserved information are looking to locate primary source records and documents to resolve issues in their everyday lives. Such documents may include birth, death, and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, and court records related to an infraction in the past that may be holding up a job application or the ability to receive benefits.
If a court case is being researched, it’s best to start at the specific County courthouse to obtain a case number. The State Archives is charged with maintaining these permanent records which are submitted there by the counties.
Family historians are well aware of the many parts of the puzzle involved in the research accomplished to uncover their ancestors. Archivists assist patrons each day and appreciate their journeys.
Visiting the Public
As part of Mr. Haley’s job, he gives talks and presentations around the State to all age audiences. To preschoolers, he emphasizes the fact that their birth certificates are already on file at the Archives and with older children he mentions the census as another type of record where they are identified.
Mr. Haley recalled a presentation when speaking to an adult group. In his talk, he mentioned the names of older ancestors in a particular family in that county. To their surprise, two attendees in the audience discovered that they were related.
The Maryland State Archives presents exhibits commemorating anniversaries of significant people and events, reflecting records in the collection. Currently, there are documents, memorabilia, and newspaper articles related to the 1969 Moon Walk.
There are also special collections of photos that have been donated by individuals. Wonderful examples of these old photos are on display around the building and capture the history of Maryland by showing people engaged in activities of the day. For example, some are related to education, family generations, and life on the water.
New Online Document Access
A service recently initiated allows access to some documents online. Refer to the webpage for details on specific topics including digital resources, a guide to family history research, researching online databases, and how to order copies.
Do You Love History?
Volunteers are always needed and there are numerous opportunities for everyone from students through seniors. Shifts of 4 hours are usually required to help with tasks such as research, assisting the public, imaging services, and reference work. Volunteers may be assigned to perform certain types of duties from home.
So if whether you’re looking for a way to research perhaps your family heritage, records from famous natives, or just want a fun way to spend the day immersed in history, be sure to check out the Maryland State Archives on your next visit or day off around town!