Finding ancestors in Baltimore with FindMyPast with map pin for Baltimore and monument

Summer Road Trip: How To Discover Your Ancestors in Baltimore!

Discover your Baltimore ancestors in this virtual summer road trip through FindMyPast‘s U.S. record collections!

We are halfway through our Summer Road Trip through the U. S. records at FindMyPast! If you missed our stops in Cincinnati and in New York, no problem. You can catch up here:

Now on to Baltimore, Maryland!!!!

Baltimore's Inner Harbor skyline at sunset.
The Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland

The first settlers to Baltimore arrived with Lord Baltimore in March 1634, founded to provide a haven for England’s Roman Catholic minority. Interestingly, the religion remained in the minority with less than 10% of the population​. In 1649 the “Act Concerning Religion” was passed and granted religious liberty to all Trinitarian Christians.

Throughout the colonial period, Maryland remained a plantation-based economy. Significant numbers of immigrants were indentured servants and enslaved persons.

The Maryland state line was in a long running dispute with Pennsylvania before finally in 1790, the current boundaries were established. This has implications for your genealogy research. Consider you may need to explore the records in Pennsylvania for your ancestors.

During the American Civil War, Maryland remained in the Union despite still being an active slave state. At the start of the war 49% of African Americans in the state were free. In 1864 a new state Constitution abolished slavery. In 1867 it was extended with suffrage to non-white males.

Researching Ancestors in Baltimore City

Up until 1851, Baltimore the city was part of Baltimore County. In 1851 Baltimore became an independent city and started keeping court, land and probate records separately from the county.​

Genealogy Tip: Make sure you keep the date 1851 in mind as you search for Baltimore ancestors and their records.

Birth, marriage and death records began quite early for Maryland.

  • Birth: 1640, statewide 1898​; Baltimore City 1875
  • Marriage: 1640, statewide 1777​
  • Death: 1640, statewide 1898

With these early dates, keep in mind compliance was not necessarily achieved until much later. Perform a thorough search, but recognize that not finding an early record does not mean you missed it.

Historic map of Baltimore, Maryland date 1804.
City of Baltimore [Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division]

Baltimore Records at FindMyPast

Were your Baltimore ancestors Catholic? If so, you must utilize the Baltimore parish records at FindMyPast!

  1. Baltimore Catholic Parish Baptisms
  2. Baltimore Catholic Parish Marriages
  3. Baltimore Catholic Parish Burials​
  4. Baltimore Catholic Congregational Records​
  5. Baltimore Roman Catholic Parish Registers Browse – Do not shy away from “browse only” collections. Narrow down your search by location and date, then start reading – page by page. This takes time, but you will gain considerable knowledge about the community and its members.

Other Repositories for Maryland Genealogy Research

Maryland has some fantastic repositories for genealogy research outside of Baltimore. Put the following on your list to check out. Don’t forget to check their online collections!

While You Are There….

While we are in Baltimore, we do not want to miss chance to get out of the records and explore the city a bit. Both for a research break AND as a way to understand the city and community where the ancestors lived.

Remember – Social history is important to your research! Learn more in Use Social History in Genealogy Research – Telling Your Ancestors’ Stories

Black and white photo of the Elk Parade in Baltimore, MD
Elk Parade, Baltimore, MD [Library of Congress, Harris & Ewing photograph collection]

Here is a sampling of “Don’t Miss” places I want to visit both virtually and in person. 😊

  • Fort McHenry National Monument – Tour virtually or in person the site of the Battle of Baltimore (1814) during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was so inspired by the defense of the fort, he penned the words to our national anthem The Star Spangled Banner.
  • Maryland Center for History and Culture – Dedicated to the history of Maryland and its people.
  • Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum – Explore the lives of Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers as they founded and operated the first African American shipyard.
  • Reginald F. Lewis Museum – Explore African American culture and history through both online and in person tours at this Smithsonian affiliate museum.
  • Irish Railroad Workers Museum – With both virtual and in person options, those with Irish railroad workers in the family tree want to add this one to the “must visit” list.
  • Jewish Museum of Maryland – Researching your Jewish ancestors? Absolutely include this museum in your places to visit. Learn more about the stories, culture and life of Baltimore’s Jewish population.
  • B&O Railroad Museum – Railroad workers in your family tree? Learn all about America’s first commercial railroad!
  • The Inner Harbor and the USS Constellation – Explore America’s Flagship and when you need a bite to eat, explore the the many shops and restaurants in The Inner Harbor.

Have Baltimore ancestors? Share your stories in the comments below!

On to the next stop in our Summer Road Trip……🚗

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  • Judy

    Looking forward to exploring your ideas that I haven’t previously used. I was born & have lived most of my life in Baltimore. Two of my ancestor lines, Parks (my mother’s paternal line) & Parrish (my father’s maternal line), were here from the late 1600s and most have remained here. My other two major lines, Albright (my mother’s maternal line) & Wollet (my father’s paternal line), started in Pennsylvania and came to Baltimore. I am descended from Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War patriots.

    I belong to the Baltimore County Genealogical Society and I’m currently assisting with their Baltimore City Death certificate transcriptions. I belong to the Maryland Center for History and Culture (formerly the Maryland Historical Society), mostly to attend their seminars. I have also attended the Maryland State Library Center’s (SLRC, sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library), numerous workshops (pre-COVID) and ZOOM seminars (post-COVID).

  • Joanne

    Don’t forget the Maryland Historical Society as a great resource, and it’s located in Baltimore. Baltimore was home to many German immigrants in the 1800s. Due to anti-immigrant sentiment, the Know Nothings drove many out of town. Babe Ruth’s parents stuck around, and he was born at his grandparents’ house, which is now a museum. Check it out before going to an Orioles game.

    • LisaL

      Thanks for the reminder, Joanne! I’ll add those to the list. I’ve actually been to that museum on Babe Ruth and an Orioles’ game. Both were fantastic!

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