Researching Somerset, Worcester, & Other Eastern Shore Counties: It’s a New Ball Game as Free Websites Provide Digital Copies of Wills, Maps, Newspapers, and Photos

In this rapidly expanding world of online information, lots of helpful data is often just a few keystrokes away.  The amount is exploding exponentially as a number of for-profit digital publishers such as Ancestry and GenealogyBank have taken the lead in making vast amounts of material available instantly.  Beyond these excellent data aggregators, there are some free, open source repositories which are helpful too.  Since they’re not as well-known, we thought we’d mention a few here in case you’re struggling with fee-based research overload.

Maryland Newspapers – The Early State Records Online repository at the Maryland Archives website has started creating digital images from the newspaper project microfilm done in the early 1980s.  If you visit the site, you’ll see listings from Baltimore, Cambridge, Elkton, Centreville, Easton, Chestertown, and elsewhere.  Right now the Cambridge Chronicle is available from 1830 to 1947, the Queenstown News (1888 – 1903), the Kent County News (1965), the Easton Gazette (1854 – 1871), and the Centreville Observer (1871 – 1918), as well as a number of other Maryland papers.  This is not a searchable database.  Users scan through it, reading the pages just as one does when using microfilm.  Still it’s nice to have it available at your fingertips and more content and enhancements will be added as time goes on.  Also on this site are many other state records, such as the minutes of the legislature, the Maryland Laws, and lots more.

The Cambridge Chronicle from 1840

A screengrab of the Queenstown News from 1900

1890 Will of Levin Woolford of Somerset County

Family Search – This vast online repository is a  valuable resource for genealogical researcher.  It actively gathers, preserves, and shares genealogical records worldwide and patrons my freely access resources and services online.  While there are many exciting databases there one is particularly helpful for local studies and that involves probate records.  FamilySearch is currently digitizing the records of the Maryland Register of Wills and that work is going in a number of counties.  Right now, you may surf over and access digitized copies of Eastern Shore probate records from Kent (1669 – 1933); Somerset Co. (1685 – 1942); Talbot (1668 – 1862) and Worcester (1775 – 1850).   There are lots of other resources, including census and death records, worth checking out so be sure to visit this valuable online resource.

The Maryland Digital Cultural Heritage Program – This site is a collaborative, statewide digitization program headquartered at the Enoch Pratt Free Library Resource Center in Baltimore.  Its goal is to partner with Maryland libraries, archives, historical societies and museums to digitize and provide free online access to materials relating to Maryland.  Since the program began in 2002, the collection has grown to over 5,000 items, such as maps, manuscripts, photographs, artwork, books and other media.

1935 WPA Project in Snow Hill from the Md. Digital LIbrary

Library of Congress, American Memory – A portion of the vast resources of the Library of Congress has been digitized and there’ll you find photos, maps, ephemera, advertising, and so much more.  One we often use involves the Great Depression Era photographs of old structures, as they were documented for the Historic American Building Survey.  You’ll find plenty to keep you busy there so just check it out.

Depression era photo of Genesar in Berlin, MD, courtesy of the Library of Congress

There are many more and we’ll provide a post on additional free resources later.

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