The image above is from the Inventory of Historic Properties, which is a part of the Maryland Historical Trust. (UPDATE, 9/21/2018: the website has changed in appearance)
My cousin Jahrod shared this website with me and it is a goldmine: it contains digitized original applications from historic places in Maryland.
Maryland Historic Inventories
At the site, you can search by county, address, property or do a simple text search. Since I have two major ancestral counties in Maryland, I was in heaven.
The beauty of these files is that many of them have pictures of the properties, which may not be standing today. Some even have pictures of the interior of the homes.
There is also genealogical information in many cases.
Many of the applications have a chain of title for the properties listed, maps showing specific locations, as well as a historical background.
The quality of each application varies according to who completed it and how much information was available. Some were sparse, and some ran more than 50 pages.
Upper Hill and the Waters
The jewel for Jahrod and I was that the entire community of “Upper Hill” in Somerset County (where our ancestors lived) was designated a historic site!
Using these files, it was possible to recreate the entire neighborhood from the early 1870s through the turn of the century.
These files contain a stunning amount of information for genealogists.
Most of these inventory applications were completed in the 1970s. One application mentioned my ancestor the Rev. Daniel James Waters.
He apparently still owned land in Somerset County when he died intestate in Delaware in 1899. This was a huge find for me, as it helped to connect him back to his home community. As a Methodist minister, he lived all over the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
The community of Upper Hill was near an area in the early 19th century called Freetown. This is likely a nod to the fact that the area was populated mostly by freed blacks. Many of these families carried the surname Waters.
The white Waters family was a large, multi-generational slaveowning family. A few members were Quakers and freed slaves in the late 1700s.
This database included several of the houses of the slaveowning Waters family. Lucky for me! Several are still standing.
I did a short walk around the web trying to see if a resource like this exists for other states.
Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio and Arkansas are just a few of the states that seem to have similar databases online.
Here are some links you can explore at your leisure:
**The National Register for Historic Places (NRHP) has started to digitize their over 80,000 files which obviously are for US Properties. Their site also contains a terrific link to other states’ inventories that may be online (GREAT list)!
**Virginia has a 72 page PDF file of its list of properties and the files themselves are available to view at the Library of Virginia. (Update 2020: Virginia’s state files are now available in this database)
**North Carolina has a webpage detailing their surveys, and it looks like some are available online.
**South Carolina lists the properties, but they don’t appear to be available online.
**Georgia appears to have a PDF file of their properties, with some digitized.
Every resource we can find about our families and their communities counts. As I mentioned above, they are terrific for providing information about slaveowners and their homes.
For me, the Maryland files gave me significant leads for several ancestors. They also provided plenty of good historical information for the narratives I write about these families.
Please email me if you search and are able to find something significant in these records. I’d love to hear how useful they’ve been to other genealogists.
I am an engineer by day, but my true passion lies in genealogy. I have been a researcher, writer, lecturer and teacher for over twenty years. This blog is where I share family history methods, resources, tips and advice, with an emphasis on slave research, slavery and its aftermath. This lifelong quest has helped me to better know my family’s past. I’ve taken back– reclaimed– some of that lost memory, especially that of my enslaved ancestors. I hope you’ll sign up to receive my posts—if you do, you’ll get a free PDF with some of my favorite tips! And please do share posts that interest you.