Icon Beginner's Guide to Research at the Maryland State Archives

Beginners Guide to Research at the Maryland State Archives

The Maryland State Archives is the repository for all permanent records from municipal, county, and state government. Also included in the Archives' holdings are church records, newspapers, maps, manuscripts, and photographs. These types of records comprise our Special Collections. The purpose of this site is to provide an inventory of the Archives' holdings and to aid our patrons in their use.

Understanding the organization of our Guide to Government Records is the key to pursuing successful research at the Archives. The organization of these finding aids is closely related to the way the Archives identifies its records.  Each group (series) of records is first identified by the agency that created it. Next, each series of records is given a title based on its content. Each series of records is then assigned a "series number," based on its order of receipt at the Archives. The Archives groups all State agency records together, separate from the records of county agencies.

Prior to conducting research at the Archives, the researcher should identify a particular question he or she would like answered.  The next step is to identify the types of records (and any existing indices) that would be likely to help the researcher find an answer. The Archives provides a number of online resources to help the researcher in this task. Our Reference & Research homepage provides a topical list of our most popular record series and research subjects. An alternative method is to visit our Guide to Government Records. For more details about entries in the Guide, see Introduction to Guide to Government Records. See also Understanding Maryland Records.

The Archives relies on state and county agencies for the delivery of their records and the creation of indices. Therefore, the Archives does not possess all extant indices or records, as some remain at the agency of origin, or are not scheduled for permanent retention.

Special Collections at the Archives consist of non-government materials donated by private individuals or organizations. The Special Collections page contains a list of the basic categories of records in our Special Collections, the most popular being church records and newspapers. The researcher can also search the Special Collections guide by keyword to find collections related to specific topics or persons. Unlike most genealogical libraries, the Archives does not have vertical surname files, but we do have a selection of family histories that have been donated to us by researchers. Those titles can be searched by using the Archives' Library search engine.

Questions regarding Archives collections and services should be directed to the Reference Services Department at: ref@mdsa.net. You can learn more, especially if you are Planning a Visit.

Return to the Reference & Research page.


This information resource of the Maryland State Archives is presented here for fair use in the public domain. When this material is used, in whole or in part, proper citation and credit must be attributed to the Maryland State Archives. PLEASE NOTE: Rights assessment for associated source material is the responsibility of the user.

Tell Us What You Think About the Maryland State Archives Website!

350 Rowe Boulevard, Annapolis, MD 21401 | MD toll free (800) 235-4045 or (410) 260-6400
Fax: (410) 974-2525 | Email: msa.helpdesk@maryland.gov | Directions & Hours