Guide to History/Family History Research in Maryland
The last decade has seen an explosion of sources available to the researcher. New records are being evaluated as to their usefulness to historians. New books are being published, making abstracts of these records available to people who live too far away from the library or archives to visit easily. In the last 3 or 4 years, many new sources have been made available on the Internet. However, both the beginning and experienced researcher may feel overwhelmed by the multitude of new products available in the historical research "candy store."
This guide attempts to provide help to the researcher by suggesting orderly procedures to attack problems, by creating links to online sources, and by referring to some of the helpful books available. The compiler of this Guide must note the work of two pioneers in the area of compiling guides to research in Maryland: Eleanor Passano & Mary K Meyer. Over the years, their attempts to catalog and describe the resources in Maryland have made the researcher's task much easier.
THE FIRST STEPS TO TAKE
- Survey the field to see what has already been done. Whether researching the history of a house, a military unit, a family, or a town, it is essential to see if the subject has already been researched. The holdings of libraries and archives, many of which are now on-line, should be consulted as should book reviews in journals and publishers' catalogs (many of which are now also on line).
- Contact as many living relatives as possible. Find out what they know or suspect. Ask them to be as specific as possible as to names, dates, and places. When anyone tells you anything, write down who told you, and the date the conversation was held.
- Search for any family papers. They might be in the attic, the basement, or a safe-deposit box. Family Bibles, letters, diaries, insurance policies: any documents left by family members may be helpful.
- Plan trips to libraries or archives. There are a number of research facilities you may wish to visit. For government records in Maryland, the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis is the place to go. Other libraries have family and private records.
- Before visiting any libraries or archives, analyze exactly what objectives need to be achieved. Listed below are some topics of interest to many researchers. Each topic contains a link to a page with some suggested sources.
- For each problem, keep a research calendar. At the top of the page state your objective and then list every place you looked, whether you found anything or not. Include the date you searched.
COMMON TOPICS AND HOW TO RESEARCH THEM
See also Understanding Maryland Records
Try the Topical Index for specific research related topics.