The Prerogative Court was the focal point for probate for colonial Maryland. A judge and various clerks staffed the court. All matters of probate went directly to the Prerogative Court, which was located in the colonial capital. Eventually administration of probate was delegated to the several county courts; however, many documents related to probate continued to be filed at the Prerogative Court and not in the corresponding county.
The work at hand consists of abstracts of Prerogative Court of Maryland records for the period 1658 to 1674. Mr. Skinner has combed through administration bond, will, inventory, administration account, and final balance entries to produce this collection. The abstracts are arranged in chronological order by court session, and in every instance they give the names of the principals (testators, heirs, witnesses, administrators, and so forth). In many cases we also learn the details of bequests, names of slaves, appraisers, and more. In all, Mr. Skinner identifies some 6,000 17th-century Marylanders whose existence and activities would otherwise remain hidden in some rich but very obscure records.