Somerset County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was an original county formed in 1666. Somerset was also the parent of Worcester County, Maryland, established in 1742; and it later also lost land to Sussex County (at one time part of Pennsylvania), Delaware, in 1766. This is the first volume in the series Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland. Somerset County, by Vernon L. Skinner.
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 the 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.
The information is presented here 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. From the Somerset debt books entries, several interesting facts are evident: Somerset County had a Free School established by 1753; and Princess Ann and White Haven were established communities, with numerous lots occupied. The 1734 debt book not only cites the hundred that the taxpayer is living in, it also cites the hundred in which the land is located. The leading Somerset landowners were: Rev. Alexander Adams, Madam Mary Hampton, Col. Robert King, Capt. Henry Lowes, James Martin, and William Whittington.