Icon Death Records

Death Records

How to order death records

Colonial
Death Records
Parish
Registers
County Circuit Court
1865-1884
Baltimore City
1875-1972
County Records
1898-1972
State Records
1972-2001

How to find Death Records

Death Record Indices at the Maryland State Archives
Miscellaneous Vital Records References from Archives' Collections


Colonial Death 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 . . . burried 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 burials to the clerk of their county court. The clerk would then record the name of the deceased and the date of death 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 available 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

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 burials 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 . . . Buriall. . . ."

For a short time, the clerks of the county courts continued to register burials concurrently with the clerks of the vestry. By the early 1700s, the registration of all burials, regardless of a person's denomination, was the sole responsibility of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Because of this law, the main source of death or burial records for the colonial period 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 deaths and burials 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 burials through the nineteenth and into the twentieth century.

The Maryland State Archives holds church records for many churches in Maryland. Please see the Religious Records Project 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 extant records, 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 deaths and burials in his or her family may never have been recorded at all.

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

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

(Church Records, Death and Burial Index)
MARYLAND INDEXES 1686-1958 various dates for 13 churches, Index 29 MSA S1402

(Death Record, Index)
MARYLAND INDEXES, 1648-1720, 1865-1880, 1898-1918, incomplete, Index 31 MSA S1404

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County Circuit Court Death Records 1865-1884

The next attempt by the Maryland General Assembly to make the registration of deaths 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 deaths be registered at the county circuit court. According to the law, the court clerks were to record "the date of the death, the name of the deceased, the sex, the color, the condition, (whether single, widowed or married,) the age, the residence, the occupation, the place of death, the place of birth, the names and place of residence of the parents, the disease or cause of death, the place of burial and the date of record." (Chapter 130, Acts of 1865). The records were arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the surname and then chronologically.

A number of death registers were begun by the court clerks, but compliance with the law was poor. Very few Marylanders bothered to register burials with the circuit court, so present day researchers must still rely on church records for this time period. The Archives holds the following death record registers for the counties listed below, although many of them contain only scattered entries.

Record Series Name Paper
ALLEGANY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1882 MSA T2007
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1880 MSA C61
CAROLINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1884 MSA C499
CHARLES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1866 MSA T2151
FREDERICK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1881 MSA C778
HOWARD COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1878 MSA C971
KENT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1871 MSA C1049
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1866 MSA C1196
ST. MARY'S COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1867 MSA C1576
WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Death Record) 1865-1867 MSA C1945

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Baltimore City Death Records 1875-1972

In 1874 Baltimore City's Mayor and City Council passed an ordinance for the registration of deaths in the city. The ordinance required that the Commissioner of Health record the "full name of the deceased, color, sex, age, married or single, occupation, birthplace, date of death, cause of death, when a minor, the name of the father and mother, ward, street and number of house, date of burial, date of certificate, date of registration" (No. 86, Ordinances of 1874). The early certificates also include the names of the attending physician and the informant, as well as date and place of burial. In 1903, the city revised the form to include the date of birth and the place of residence of the deceased. In 1919, the form was again revised to include the name of the deceased's spouse. For a brief period of time, from 1914 to 1919 Baltimore also maintained a separate group of death certificates for patients who died in hospitals. The Baltimore City death records are arranged in numerical order by certificate number, making them roughly chronological. However, to conduct an efficient search, a researcher should use the death index to obtain a certificate number, rather than searching through the certificates one by one. It is a vowel index, arranged by the first letter and first vowel of the individuals' surname. Each entry gives the decedent's name, the date of death, and the certificate number.

Although the State Board of Health began regulating death registration for the 23 counties in 1898, Baltimore City continued to maintain its own records until 1972. At some point the city microfilmed the death certificates, and unfortunately the original certificates for the years 1875 to 1949 were destroyed after the microfilming. The only extant copies of these certificates are now the microfilm copies. The Maryland State Archives holds the Baltimore City death records in the following series:

Beginning in 1950 Baltimore City Death Certificates were indexed  phonetically, a system whereby the initial of the last name is followed by three numbers representing the first three consonants after the initial.  This is known as the Soundex System, and the National Archives' Soundex Machine enables a researcher to convert a name to its soundex equivalent quickly.

Index Series Name Paper Microfilm   Electronic
BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record, Index) 1880-1942, 1950-1972 MSA C3 Through 1968 only. MSA CM1133 MSA CE42
BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record, Index) 1875-1880, 1943-1949 N/A N/A mdvitalrec.net

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm Electronic 
BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record) 1874-1949 N/A MSA CM1132 N/A
BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record) 1950-1972 MSA C2108 MSA CM1132 MSA CE502
BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record, BC Hospitals) 1914-1919 N/A MSA CM1140 N/A

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County Death Records 1898-1972

In 1898, the General Assembly passed a law regarding the registration of deaths in the 23 counties. 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 . . .deaths; 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). This law initiated the recording of deaths in the 23 counties. It did not affect the city of Baltimore, however, because Baltimore's Health Department had been registering deaths since 1875. Initially, 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 trying to increase compliance with the law, and some deaths went unrecorded. For further information on the history of this agency please see the agency histories for:

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

The 1898 law also dictated that "the record of a death shall state the date and place of its occurrence, name, age, sex, color, condition, birth place, cause of death, duration of illness; the names, residence and color of parents, and the name and address of the attending physician." By 1911, the death records also included occupation, birth date, place of burial, and the name of the informant. In 1931 the Bureau of Vital Statistics added the residence of the deceased and the name of the spouse, if any. From 1898 to 1923 and from 1931 to 1985 the certificates are arranged chronologically by year and month, then alphabetically by county within each month, and then alphabetically by surname within each county. The records from 1924 to 1930 are arranged first by year, then by county, and then alphabetically by surname. Both arrangements make it possible to find a death record if the name, county, month and year of death are known. However, the Archives does have indexes in which to look up the date and place of death if that information is uncertain.

The Maryland State Archives holds the following death records for the 23 counties for the following dates. Please note that the Maryland State Archives does not hold an index for the dates 1968-1972.

Index Series Name Paper Microfilm Electronic
BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record, Counties, Index) 1898-1910 MSA S1177 MSA SM25 MSA SE58
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record, Counties, Index) 1910-1951 MSA S1176 MSA SM25 MSA SE58
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS AND STATISTICS (Death Record, Index, Counties) 1945-1968 N/A N/A MSA SE8
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS AND STATISTICS (Death Record, Counties, Index) 1951-1968 MSA S1260

N/A

N/A
 DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS AND STATISTICS (Death Record, Counties, Index) 1951, July-December N/A MSA SM26 N/A

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm  Electronic
BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record, Counties) 1898-1910, April
There are very few certificates in this series bearing date 1801 to 1898, April most of which were recorded retroactively or are errors where, for example, an 1801 date is intended to be 1901.
MSA S1178 MSA SM156 MSA SE42
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, BUREAU OF VITAL STATISTICS (Death Record, Counties) 1910, May-1951, June MSA S1179 MSA SM30 MSA SE43
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS AND STATISTICS (Death Record, Counties) 1951, July-1969, June MSA S1268 MSA SM31 MSA SE44
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, AND MENTAL HYGIENE DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Death Record, Counties) 1969, July-1972, December  MSA S1488 MSA SM38 MSA SE45

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm  Electronic
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1899-1930 MSA C62 N/A N/A
BALTIMORE COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1902-1931 MSA C322 N/A N/A
CALVERT COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1932  MSA C453 N/A N/A
CECIL COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1931 MSA C607 N/A N/A
FREDERICK COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1915  MSA C779  N/A N/A
HOWARD COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1903  MSA C972 N/A N/A
MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1947 MSA C1123 N/A N/A
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1919-1975 MSA C1289 N/A N/A
SOMERSET COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1912-1931 MSA C1760 N/A N/A
TALBOT COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1930-1969 MSA C1859 MSA CM986 N/A
WASHINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1926 MSA C2079  N/A  N/A
WORCESTER COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record) 1898-1906 MSA C2006  N/A  N/A

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm  Electronic
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE AL HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Deaths Due to Cancer) 1912-1959 MSA T2929 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE AL HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Death Record) 1891-1977 MSA T2942 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE BC HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Death Record, Copy) 1994-1995 MSA T2960 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE CH HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Death Record) 1898-1930 MSA T3247 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE QA HEALTH DEPARTMENT (Death Record) 1895-1986 MSA T1863 N/A N/A

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State Death Records (City and County) 1972-2001

On July 1, 1972 the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Division of Vital Records took over the responsibility of registering Baltimore City deaths 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. These death records give the name, sex, race, age, marital status, birthplace, and occupation of the deceased; the date, place, and cause of death; names and birthplaces of parents; name of spouse, if any; names of attending physician and informant; and the date and place of burial. These records exist in the original paper and digital format , they have not been microfilmed. There is no paper, microfilm or digital index at the Archives. However, some Reference staff, with the authorization of The Division of Vital Records,  have remote access to the Division of Vital Records Death Record Index for years 1973-2001. Any request to search the index requires the decedents name, date of death and preferably the county in which they died.   

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm  Electronic
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Death Record, BC) 1972-1973 N/A MSA SM28  N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Death Record) 1973-1979 MSA S310 N/A  MSA SE46
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Death Record) 1973-1982 MSA S310 or MSA T1890 MSA SM39  MSA SE46
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE, DIVISION OF VITAL RECORDS (Death Record) 1980-2001 MSA T1890 N/A  MSA SE46

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Miscellaneous Death Records

Death records have also been created by a number of municipalities and hospitals.  Due to legal restrictions on medical records, some of these record series may be restricted from access.

Record Series Name Paper Microfilm  Electronic
ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Death Record) 1899-1918 MSA M67 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE CROWNSVILLE HOSPITAL CENTER (Death and Discharge Record) 1911-1971 MSA T2513 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE CUMBERLAND BOARD OF HEALTH (Death Record)
1912-1948
MSA T2928 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE GREAT OAKS CENTER (Death Record) 1990-1993 MSA T4592 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE GREAT OAKS CENTER (Death, Discharge Log) MSA T4591 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE ROSEWOOD CENTER (Admission, Discharge and Death Log) MSA T4581 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE ROSEWOOD CENTER (Death Record) 2002-2003 MSA T4329 N/A N/A
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE WALTER P. CARTER CENTER (Death Record) MSA T4624 N/A N/A
SECRETARY OF THE SENATE (Death Record) 1865 MSA S1103 N/A N/A

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