The Provincial Land Office of Maryland was responsible for distributing land from 1634 to 1777 on behalf of the Lord Proprietor. The Lord Proprietor’s rent rolls and debt books–the means by which the Lord Proprietor kept track of the rents due him–both commence in 1715 (though some are no longer extant). The surviving rent rolls consist of entries for each tract of land patented, the name of the person for whom the land was originally surveyed, the present owner, acreage, and rent. Alienations, or subsequent sales and leases of the piece of land, are also included. The debt books’ great value is that they enable the researcher to track land ownership over various years in cases of intestate estates, land inherited by women, and land that is not specified in a will.
This volume–the first in Vernon L. Skinner’s series of transcriptions devoted to Anne Arundel County, Maryland, debt books–covers Calvert Papers: 1750; Liber 1: 1753, 1754, 1755, 1756; Liber 2A: 1757; Liber 2: 1758, 1759. The contents of the debt books are presented in tabular form: liber and folio citation, with any pertinent date; name of the person paying the taxes; and name of the tract of land and amount of acreage. Among the interesting facts emerging from the Anne Arundel County debt books is the fact that the county had erected a free school by 1750, by which time the towns of Annapolis and London Town were established communities. At mid-century much of the county’s land was still owned by the British Crown, and the debt books refer to several Anne Arundel families as “papist.” Various Anne Arundel land owners actually resided in the other Maryland counties, as well as places in Virginia, the Carolinas, and London, England.