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Birth Records

How to Order Birth Records

The Maryland State Archives may ONLY provide birth records from before 1925.  Birth records after 1924 are ONLY available from the Maryland Division of Vital Records, Reisterstown Road Plaza, 6550 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, MD 21215 - 2299, 410-764-3038. 

Birth Records are restricted for 100 years, or until death of the named individual. There are no restrictions on ordering birth records over 100 years old.

Colonial Birth Records
Parish Registers
County Circuit Court
(1865-1884)
Baltimore City
(1875-1972)
County
(1898-1972)
State
(1972-1978)

How to find Birth Records


Colonial Birth Records and Parish Registers

In 1654, Maryland's General Assembly passed An Act Concerning a Register of Births Marriages & Burialls:

"The Names of all that shall be borne. . . within the Province shall be Exhibited to the Clarke of Every Court who shall keep a Iust Register thereof who shall be allowed five pounds of Tobacco as a ffee due to him for Every such Regist'r. made and kept" (Chapter 16, Acts of 1654).

Although the General Assembly modified this law several times between 1654 and 1695, the essential part of it remained the same. The law required inhabitants of the province to bring notice of all births to the clerk of their county court. The clerk would then record the birth date, the child's name, the father's name, and sometimes the mother's name in a register. Arranged chronologically, the registers were self-indexed to make searching for a particular name easier. Only a few of these old registers are extant today:

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm
Charles County Court (Births, Deaths, and Marriages) 1654-1706 MSA C653 N/A
Charles County Court (Births, Deaths, and Marriages) 1654-1693 N/A MSA CM1234
Somerset County Court (Births, Deaths, and Marriages) 1649-1720 MSA C1739 MSA CM956
Talbot County Court (Births, Deaths, and Marriages) 1657-1691 MSA C1840 MSA CM1009

The Maryland State Archives holds card indexes to the early civil birth records described above and to some church records:

(Bible and Tombstone Records, Index)
MARYLAND INDEXES var.d., Index 32 MSA S1406

(Church Records, Birth and Baptism Index)
MARYLAND INDEXES 1663-1967 various dates for 13 churches, Index 28 MSA S1401

(Birth Records, Index)
MARYLAND INDEXES, 1649-1720, 1804-1877, 1898-1923, Index 30, incomplete MSA S1403

In 1695, the General Assembly passed a law called An Additional Act to the Act of Religion (Chapter 1, Acts 1695) which transferred the responsibility of registering births to the Clerks of the Protestant Episcopal Vestry:

". . . every clerk of each respective vestry within this Province shall . . .provide a good Substantiall and dureable Booke whose leaves shall be parchment wherein he shall register in a fair Legible hand the names Sir names & places of habitation or aboad together with the Respective dates of the day, month & year of our Lord of the Birth. . . ."

For a short time, the clerks of the county courts continued to register births concurrently with the clerks of the vestry. By the early 1700s, the registration of all births, regardless of a person's denomination, was the sole responsibility of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Because of this law, the main source of birth records from the colonial period through the late nineteenth century is church records. Although the Protestant Episcopal Church was the government sanctioned church in Maryland during the colonial period, churches of other denominations (such as Catholic, Quaker, Methodist, and Lutheran) existed as well. Like the Protestant Episcopal churches, these churches recorded the births or baptisms occurring among their members. The 1695 law lost its effect in 1776 when Maryland enacted its first constitution. Most churches, however, continued the practice of registering births through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

The Maryland State Archives holds church records for many churches in Maryland. Please see Special Collections for a list of church records available at the Archives. Another good resource is Edna A. Kanely's book Directory of Church Records in Maryland published by Family Line Publications. This book lists Maryland churches, the records that exist for them, and the institutions that hold the records. It is important to note that the records for some churches have been lost or destroyed over time. Also, not every Marylander was associated with a church, and therefore the births and baptisms in his or her family may never have been recorded at all.

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County Circuit Court Birth Records 1865-1884

The next attempt by the Maryland General Assembly to make the registration of births a civil matter occurred in 1865 with the passage of An Act to provide for the Registration of Births, Marriages, and Deaths (Chapter 130, Acts of 1865). This law required that all births be registered at the county circuit court. According to the law, the court clerks were to record "the date of the births, the place of birth, the name of the child, the names of the parents, the occupation of the father, the residence of the parents, and the date of the record." (Chapter 130, Acts of 1865). The clerks also usually recorded the sex and race of the child. Occasionally an entry will include the parent's names, but not the name of the child. The entries were arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname and then chronologically.

A number of birth registers were begun by the court clerks, but compliance with the law was poor. Very few citizens of Maryland took the trouble to register births with the circuit court, so present day researchers must still rely on church records for this time. Listed below are the circuit court birth registers held at the Archives, although many of them contain only scattered entries.

Please note that the Anne Arundel County register contains births prior to 1865 that citizens wanted recorded. Both the Anne Arundel County and the Prince George's County birth registers are indexed by the card index MARYLAND INDEXES (Birth Record, Index), 1649-1923, Index 30 MSA S1403.

Record Series Name Paper
Anne Arundel County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1804-1877 MSA C39
Baltimore County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1883 MSA C283
Caroline County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1884 MSA C474
Cecil County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1891 MSA C593
Charles County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1877 MSA T2144
Frederick County Circuit Court (Birth Certificates) 1865-1873 MSA C759
Kent County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1873 MSA C1027
Montgomery County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1899 MSA C1116
Prince George's County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1867 MSA C1167
Queen Anne's County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1881 MSA C1358
Somerset County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1894 MSA C1738
St. Mary's County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1867 MSA C1534
Washington County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1867 MSA C1935
Worcester County Circuit Court (Birth Record) 1865-1889 MSA C1998

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Baltimore City Birth Records 1875-1972

In 1874 Baltimore City's Mayor and City Council passed an ordinance for the registration of births in the city (No. 86, Ordinances of 1874). Even after 1898 when the state Board of Health began regulating birth registration for the 23 counties, Baltimore City continued to maintain its own records until 1972.

The earliest certificates resulting from the ordinance contained the sex, race, and number (birth order) of the child, date and place of birth, names and birthplaces of the parents, occupation of the father, and the name and address of the medical attendant. In 1903 the city's Bureau of Vital Statistics revised the form to add a line for the child's name. However, the certificates do not routinely include the name of the child until 1911. Another revision of the form took place in 1910, adding the residence, race, age and occupation of each parent and the number of children previously born to the mother. In 1949, confidential medical information was added to the form.

The certificates are arranged numerically by certificate number, making them roughly chronological. To perform an efficient search, a researcher should check the birth index first to obtain a certificate number. The only exception to this arrangement occurs for the year 1972. Those records are arranged chronologically by month and then alphabetically by the child's name. The Baltimore City birth index covers 1875 through 1941. It is a vowel index, arranged by the first letter and first vowel of the parents' surname. Each entry gives the parents names (occasionally the mother's maiden name), the date of birth, and the certificate number. The child is not named. Although the index is open to the public, please note that the birth certificates themselves are restricted for 100 years after the date of birth.

The Maryland State Archives holds the Baltimore City birth records in the following series:

Index Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Index) 1875-1941 MSA C2 MSA CM1134
Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Index, Copy) 1918-1941 MSA C8 N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Birth Record, BC, Index) 1890-1972 MSA T1344 N/A

Record Series Name

Paper Microfilm
Department of Health and Mental Hygience, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record, BC) 1875-1896, 1911-1924, 1960 MSA T310 N/A
Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record) 1875-1972 N/A MSA CM1135
Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record) 1890-1911 MSA C6 N/A
Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Delayed) 1876-1925 MSA C2145 N/A

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County Birth Records 1898-1972

In 1898, the General Assembly passed a law that initiated the registration of births in the 23 counties (Chapter 312, Acts of 1898). The law declared that "the secretary of the State Board of Health shall be the State Registrar of Vital Statistics for Maryland; he shall. . . prepare the necessary methods, books, and forms for accurate registration of births. . .; and shall supply the local registrars, health officers, ministers, physicians, undertakers, midwives and other persons. . . the proper blanks, forms and books of record" (Chapter 312, Acts of 1898). The law did not affect the city of Baltimore, because its Health Department had been registering births since 1875.

At first, compliance with the law on the local level was incomplete. As the State Board of Health gradually increased its control over the local boards, registration became more reliable. Researchers should keep in mind, however, that as late as 1914 the Board of Health was still working to increase compliance with the law, and some births went unrecorded.

The 1898 law dictated that "the record of a birth shall state the date and place of its occurrence, name in full, sex and color, and the number of the child, whether living or still born, and the names, color, occupation, birth place and residence of parents, name and address of the physician, midwife or attendant at the birth" (Chapter 312, Acts of 1898). In 1970, the only change to county birth certificates took place when confidential medical information was added. The certificates are arranged chronologically by year and month, then alphabetically by the name of the county, and finally alphabetically by the name of the child. Because of this arrangement, one can find a birth certificate by knowing the name of the child or the child's parents, and the month, year, and county of birth.

The Archives also has indexing from 1875 through 1950. The early index (1875-1919) is arranged alphabetically by the surname of the child (or by the parents' surname if the child's name is not given). The index provides the child's name (if given), the names of the parents, the date of birth, and the county. The later index (1920-1950) is in Soundex order by the surname of the child; within the Soundex classification it is alphabetical by the father's first name. When no father's name is given, the card is filed at the beginning of the Soundex class. Children of unmarried couples are listed twice, under the names of both parents. This later index provides the names of the child and the parents, the date and county of birth, and the child's race and birth order. Although these indexes are open to the public, please note that the birth certificates themselves are restricted for 100 years after the date of birth.

The Maryland State Archives holds the following birth records for the 23 counties:

Index Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

Board of Health (Birth Record, Counties, Index) 1898-1909 MSA S1035 MSA SM199
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record, Counties, Index) 1898-1919 MSA T1332 N/A
Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Counties, Index) 1910-1919 MSA S1045 N/A
Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Counties, Index) 1910-1950
The Maryland State Archives has no indexes for the dates 1951-1972
N/A MSA SM27
Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Counties, Delayed, Index) 1860-1921 N/A MSA SM29
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Birth Index, Alternative Hospital List) 1947-1972 MSA T2358 N/A

Record Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record, Counties) 1898-1924 MSA T1886 N/A
Deparment of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics (Birth Record, Counties) 1914-1951 N/A MSA SM35
Department of Health, Division of Vital Records and Statistics (Birth Record, Counties) 1951-1969 N/A MSA SM32
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record, Counties) 1969-1972 N/A MSA SM36
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Birth Record, Counties, Corrected) 1923 MSA T1823 N/A

Record Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

Department of Health and Mental Hygiene AL Health Department (Birth Record) 1901-1948 MSA T2229 N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE BC HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Birth Record, Copy) 1982-1998 MSA T2625 N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE CH HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Birth Record) 1898-1999 MSA T3248 N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE FR HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Birth Record) 1942-2000 MSA T3802 N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE QA HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Birth Record) 1895-1986 MSA T1862 N/A

Index Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

TALBOT COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record, Index) 1898-1917 MSA T2465 N/A

Record Series Name

Paper

Microfilm

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1898-1931 MSA T1805 N/A
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1924 MSA C40 N/A
BALTIMORE COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1905-1908 MSA C2084 N/A
CALVERT COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1898-1923 MSA C452 N/A
CECIL COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1898-1927 MSA C594 N/A
TALBOT COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record, Index) 1898-1917 MSA T2465 N/A
WASHINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Birth Record) 1898-1926 MSA C2078 N/A

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State Birth Records (City and County) 1973-1978

On July 1, 1972 the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records took over the responsibility of registering Baltimore City births from the Baltimore City Health Department, Bureau of Vital Statistics. The separate series maintained by the two agencies became a single series of records covering both Baltimore City and the 23 counties:

Series Name Microfilm
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Division of Vital Records (Birth Record) 1973-1978 MSA SM37

The certificates include the name and sex of the child; date and place of birth; name, birthplace, race, age, residence, and occupation of each parent; number of children previously born to the mother; name and address of the medical attendant; and confidential medical information. The are arranged like the earlier certificates: chronologically by year and month, then alphabetically by jurisdiction, and finally alphabetically by the name of the child. The index for these birth records is in electronic format and is accessible only through the Division of Vital Records.

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For further information on the history of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene please see the agency histories for:

Board of Health
Department of Health
Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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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.

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