Worcester County, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was cut from Somerset County in 1742. (Like its parent county, Worcester County, Maryland, later also lost land to Sussex County (at one time part of Pennsylvania), Delaware, in 1766. This is the first of three volumes on Worcester County that are part of the ongoing series Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, by Vernon L. Skinner. (The counties already abstracted for the series include Somerset County, Frederick County, Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, and Charles County.)
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 in this series is 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. From the Worcester debt books entries, several interesting facts have emerged: The county had a Free School established by 1768; and Baltimore Town (not to be confused with the future city on Maryland’s western shore), Newport, Salisbury Town, and Snow Hill Town were established communities, with numerous lots occupied. The leading landowners in Worcester County for this period were the Purnell and Truitt families. Some county landowners were cited as inhabiting the following jurisdictions: Dorchester County, Somerset County, Annapolis, Sussex County (DE), Indian River, Indian Town, Broad Creek, Whorekill, Cork, Philadelphia, Accomac County (VA), Prince William County (VA), Virginia, Pennsylvania, Carolina, New York, and London, England.