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Chancery Court Index

Frederick County, Maryland

1761-1850


This is a complete index of the Chancery Records concerning Frederick County and all areas included in it at the given time. Sometimes land tracts in other Maryland counties are found. These records are not wills, but records of court hearings. Therefore, if your ancestor did not have a will, record of him may be found here. If he did have a will, it usually is included here along with any related land records; however, these records usually provide much more information than what is usually found in a will.

In the earliest times, it appears property automatically went to the eldest son upon his father’s death and, in many cases, there were no wills, administrations, land records or equity which would reveal the family members. As time passed, it became more desirable to divide the property equally among the surviving children or their heirs and to provide for the widow a life estate of 1/3 of the property, which became her “dower”. About 1765, an “Act of Assembly” was passed in Maryland to insure this would be done. In so doing, the eldest child (son or daughter) was given the opportunity to take possession of the property and pay each sibling their share within a certain amount of time. The property would be assessed to determine it’s value. If the children were minors (under the age of 21), a guardian would be appointed to represent them concerning their settlement of the property, many times being a close relative. If there were no children, the property would then go to the parents, if alive; if not, then to the brothers and sisters in order of their birth in the same pattern just mentioned.

There were many land disputes over acreage due to the establishment of the Mason-Dixon line in 1765, as both Pennsylvania and Maryland had claim to border lands. Consequently, Maryland lost this strip of land (across now Southern PA) causing, in some cases, a great decrease in land acreage. Because of this, much of the land had to be resurveyed before being resold to establish correct acreage. In many cases, court ruling was required.

I consider these records as “hidden treasures”, because they have not been published previously, or microfilmed, and are merely loose papers in folders. Although there is a “docket“ index, it includes only the names in the petition (which may be creditors and not as connected to the family). Without a complete index or abstract, all of the people included in the record may never be revealed. Sometimes, three generations of a family might be revealed, including spouses of married daughters or unknown maiden names. Many times, locations of family members, who have moved away, are revealed. It seems each record is a story, some with little to tell, while others are plentiful and can be quite interesting. Maybe there will be a story here for your ancestors!

Some of these records have already been abstracted and, in those cases, links are provided. In addition, Maryland State Archive references are provided for each record. Here's hoping you find a treasure!



Chancery Index at MidMdRoots

website by Dorinda Davis Shepley
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Last revised: December 15, 2006