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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday June 16 2010, page C5

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Maryland Archives Online

The Maryland Archives website is so exciting to contemplate it makes me wish I had ancestors in Maryland. But alas, I do not. This site was suggested by readers Bob Vint and Mary Lee Haas.

The Maryland Archives "currently provides access to over 471,000 historical documents that form the constitutional, legal, legislative, judicial, and administrative basis of Maryland's government." Visit and you will find links to all types of records and indexes going back to the very beginnings of Maryland settlement. Don't overlook the link to the "Archives Web Publications" and the "Help" link to make your search easier.

Mary Lee Haas is researching her 3rd great grandfather Stephen Beans. She found a reference in Chancery Court for a land dispute naming him in 1817. When she mentioned it to me, I asked if she had obtained a complete copy of the case records as they often contain genealogical information not found anywhere else. She had not, so she revisited the website to learn how to obtain a copy.

As is often the case, since her first success the site had changed. She persevered, however, and finally relocated the reference at The site's "Guide to Family History Research in Maryland" suggests contacting a private researcher from a list on the site for copies.

The first researcher contacted replied she no longer did research at the Maryland Archives. The second replied he was retiring but gave her the name of an employee at the Archives. She found many of the researchers only do expensive, major projects.

She did find and print an order form on the site, but today that link, "How to place an order and select order forms" is broken. The form Mary Lee used asked for the case information (the online source, Date: 1817/11/26, 595: Stephen Beans vs. Jonathan Albertson. CE. Contract to purchase Brick Hill Plantation, Accession No.: 17,898-595-1/2 MSA S512-1-628 Location: 1/35/5/) and requested a $10 fee.

In less than three weeks she received a box filled with 11" x 17" copies, a total of 48 pages of 19th century handwritten text. After a quick look, she decided to transcribe the entire document in order to understand what she had found. Her husband read the text aloud as she typed it into the computer.

After she studied the transcription she created a timeline to make analysis easier. What a find! This Chancery Court record involved a family dispute over a land purchase and lasted for six years.

It revealed the earliest date Stephen Beans resided in Maryland, the last name of his wife, her nickname, and the name of his brother-in-law. Mary Lee also learned her Beans family had lived in Bucks County, Penn. for 10 years prior to moving to Maryland, and earlier in Montgomery County, Penn. This one court record has solved one of her long-standing family problems, "Where did the Beans come from?"

If you also have Pennsylvania ancestry, you will be interested in the grassroots effort underway toward online access to that state's death certificates more than 50 years old and hopefully also to births more than 100 years old. Check out or just Google PA-HR access and join the movement to urge the state to take action now to simplify family research.

You will also find links here to vital records currently online for nearly 30 other states even including a few Pennsylvania counties that have digitized their own records. Perhaps you'll find a location you are interested in has jumped on the bandwagon started by Arizona, the first state to offer online vital records about eight years ago.

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